We first took our two children to a festival when they were 4 years old. We decided, for their sake and ours, that this was a manageable age as they were old enough to appreciate the music and, for us, this age would be a little easier with the basics of food, toilets etc.
We had been to several music festivals just as a couple and the kids had always been sent off to aunts' and uncles' houses for the weekend. They loved this, and so did we! However, it had now got to the stage where they were asking so much about our weekend, about the bands we had watched and about where we had stayed, that we were beginning to feel a little guilty. Not just guilty, I suppose, but also that we wanted them to share this with us. We had a feeling that having them with us would make us enjoy it even more. I have to admit that I love it when I hear my kids singing a songs from my favourite bands and dancing around and enjoying music as much as I do. Subconsciously, I think that I feel like I am fulfilling some rite of passage as a parent; the stage where you make your children's music memories. My parents "blessed" me with memories of an eclectic mix of albums: Michael Jackson's Thriller, The Best of Lionel Richie, Paul McCartney and Wings' Greatest Hits, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, The Eagles' Hotel California, The Beatles' Help!, to name but a few. And, or course, back then, these were all on vinyl and I can remember every detail of every album cover. I can also amaze my friends with my slightly disturbing word for word memory of all the lyrics to all the songs. So, I can't help but look ahead and imagine my two children saying things like " do you remember how Mum and Dad were always playing Kings of Leon at home?" and impressing their friends by giving them an impromptu rendition of Sex on Fire.
With all this in mind, we wanted to create their first festival memories for them. We went to a great little local festival called The Vicar's Picnic, which had 90's Indie group, Cast, headlining. We had played all their songs at home for weeks before and the kids knew loads of the lyrics by the time we went and even knew which song they were most looking forward to hearing. They were so excited when we set off that day. We had decided not to camp this time, but instead to test the water and perhaps camp at the next festival. They immediately loved the atmosphere of it all. You could see them looking round and taking it all in, eyes agog. We sat on our picnic blanket and watched several local acts perform and this really introduced them nicely. They were soon up on their feet dancing and a little rain didn't put them off, either.
There was plenty of quality food and drink, with lots of options for kids. Then, we had to face the inevitable: the first trip to festival loos with kids! I had come well prepared: anti-bacterial wipes, toilet seat covers, toilet paper etc. Well, we survived. It wasn't too bad, actually. As this is a smaller festival, the loos had been kept clean and the twins had been well briefed to not touch anything! If you have previously been put off going to a festival because you don't think you would like the sanitary facilities, just to reassure you that the vast majority are fine. If the festival organisers are willing to dedicate enough money and effort, there is absolutely no reason why modern porta-loos should be dirty. I have only been to one, very big, festival where, unfortunately, the organisers had not felt the need to look after their festival-goers in this way.
By the time Cast came on, we were all having a fantastic time. The children were so excited to hear the songs they recognised and we hauled them up on our shoulders to watch and cheer - they were festival naturals! They honestly talked about their first festival experience for months. They told all their friends and family and we were even shown a drawing from school of a band on a stage and a crowd with their arms in the air! So, we would unreservedly recommend a music festival for little ones. It's a great experience for everyone. We've even since done it for a weekend, with camping, and I haven't even mentioned the fantastic kids' entertainment, but that's for another blog....