It is my birthday weekend. I am dressed as a fox, sparkling with glitter, with three very happy fox children. As we enter the grounds of the festival I catch sight of a fox, a stag and three tiny lions. We could only be at the Just So Festival
We discovered Just So Festival back in 2014 when our eldest daughter was two, and we had such an amazing time – we have not missed a year since. When The Just So team invited us to visit and review Just So Festival 2018, I knew it would be an amazing weekend. We were looking forward to a weekend full of magic, fun, crafts, music, imagination, and sparkle.
Just So Festival review
Just So Festival is an annual weekend-long camping festival aimed at children and their families. It is set in the grounds of the absolutely stunning Rode Hall Estate in Scholar Green in Cheshire.
The Just So Festival is an award-winning festival, created and produced by Wild Rumpus, a not-for-profit family arts organisation. In their own words they “produce extraordinary and incredible worlds, and invite families to step inside and help to create incredible stories and moments of wonder.” Their aim is to take families on a wonderful outdoor adventure.
So why is the Just So Festival special? and why do we go every year?
Here is why………
The Just So Festival is a family friendly festival dedicated to children and their families. It is a beautiful world of imagination, arts, music, dance and play and allows both adults and children to step outside of their daily lives for a short time and to jump into a world of fun and togetherness. Apart from when we headed to Timber Festival earlier on in the year (a festival also produced by Wild Rumpus), I have never experienced a festival quite like it. There is so much planned for the children and I love to see all the adults taking part, jumping in with two wellington boots and enjoying the dressing up, glitter, crafts, dance, and activities.
This is the first year we have taken part in the tribal tournament, where we chose to join #teamfox. My mom made the most incredible fox dresses for the girls and matching dungarees for our little man. Basically each family pick from owls, foxes, frogs, stags, lions, fish or bees. Over the weekend staff hand out gold pebbles for the amazing costumes, impressive challenges or behaviour. At the end of the weekend see who is crowned the winning tribe of 2018. There were some absolutely amazing costumes, and I have a fair few ideas now for next year’s shenanigans. We earned a respectable six pebbles over the weekend, but unfortunately the children would not part with the special golden jewels, preferring to take them home!
The festival would not be the same without a story around the campfire from the incredible Ian Douglas. He really is the story teller of all story tellers and we loved him at Timber Festival and loved him just a much at Just So. Ian Douglas was also joined by the marvellous storyteller Dieter Wadeson. There is something quite special about watching the children sitting listening to his wonderful stories, toasting marshmallows around the campfire, super excited because we are throwing out any routine and they get to stay up super late!
Top Tip – Take some marshmallows. You can purchase them from the festival itself but they are quite pricey, and supplies ran low quite quickly.
The attention to detail
The attention to detail at this festival is just incredible. Every year the organisers put so much thought and effort into adding a touch of magic to the site. Trees strewn with fairy lights and bunting flags, beautiful signposts dotted around, incredible installations wherever you turn and lanterns hanging in the trees – it is just absolutely magical.
If I have one tip for you, it is to get over to the High Seas and make your lanterns early. The girls headed over to the High Seas with the Mini Travellers tribe, and spent a considerable amount of time making willow and paper creations ready for the lantern parade on the Saturday night (particular thanks to Mr Mini Travellers!). Saying that, the lantern parade is spectacular. The festival site is lit up with hundreds of lanterns for an evening parade, led by the Voodoo Love Orchestra!
Pillow fights and mayhem
Think pillows, feathers and mayhem. The kids love the pillow fight. It is an opportunity to be wild, hurl that pillow, let the feathers fly, oh and make a snow/feather angel.
The Spellbound Forest
This was probably where we spent most of our time over the weekend. Not only was it home to the already mentioned campfire stories, but it was also home to the much loved barefoot walk (I think we did this about fifty times!), clay faces, campfire songs and Hammer and Chisel. The girls in particular loved decorating the trees with clay faces, spending time collecting pine cones for noses and twigs for hair. We didn’t get round to Hammer and Chisel at the Just So, but we loved it at Timber Festival. It was an amazing opportunity for children (helped by their parents) to create a unique woodland playground, using pallets, tyres, wood and ropes.
We love a festival, and I really feel that festivals bring people together. We have made some wonderful new friendships at Just So, and festivals are always better with friends, right? Having three little ones, I really appreciate having an extra few sets of eyes on the kids. It is amazing to know that there are friends around to help to keep an eye on the children (particularly when they all want to do different things) and it allows you to sit down, take a breather, and enjoy a coffee (or a gin). Children love to have their own little tribe and it really does make for a fabulous weekend for all.
The Flamingo Lounge
New for 2018, the Flamingo Lounge was one of our favourite places to hang out. Over the weekend there were some fabulous workshops including ballet, flat footing, circus swing and disco workshops. My particular favourite was ‘hanging out’ at the retro disco….okay, who am I kidding…I jumped straight in, busting some moves with the littles and reliving my youth. I absolutely loved the retro disco, as did my four year old.
Ideal for all ages
If you are wondering if the Just so Festival is suitable for your child, there really is something for everyone. Our middle daughter was just three months old when we headed to the Just So Festival. For the younger members of the festival tribes and our youngest recruit who is nearly two – Peekaboo had everything covered. From Harp Lullabies, baby yoga, mud play and baby book club. Our girls pretty much loved everything. But for the older kids there was the woodland cinema, games and a midnight feast. The organisers have thought of everything to keep the kids entertained.
As mentioned earlier, the The Just So Festival is produced by Wild Rumpus; a not-for-profit family arts organisation. Wild Rumpus have an aim to minimise the potential negative impacts we all have on the environment and to leave a positive contribution to the local community. Wild Rumpus have taken the Festival Vision: 2025 Pledge aiming to achieve a 50% reduction in festival-related annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. We found free drinking water from standpipes over the festival site and there were designated recycling bins dotted around. The bars offered reusable plastic cups and the organisers offered collection and drop off for festival volunteers from the local train station to encourage them to arrive by public transport. Finally we noticed a few stands and props that we had seen at Timber Festival – Wild Rumpus aim to build site decor and props to be re-used in future years and thus reducing waste.
The Woodland Library and those hammocks
We loved the woodland library and it was a lovely place for the kids to enjoy some much-needed peace, quiet and time out. Our eldest particularly loved to choose a book from the Woodland Library and put her feet up for a read. The woodland library with hammocks dotted about in the trees was such a simple concept, but one that the kids (and adults who needed a rest from pulling their festival trolley) absolutely loved.
Just so Festival – Our verdict
There is so much to see and do at the Just So Festival that I definitely would advise grabbing a programme for over the weekend. Saying that, we had a rough idea what we wanted to see and do, but we didn’t live by the programme. Sometimes the best activities were the ones we just stumbled across. Another year and another incredible festival to make my soul smile. We loved it!
Dress up, add the glitter, embrace the world of imagination and creativity and let your hair down. You won’t be disappointed and you will create some wonderful family memories.
Tickets for Just So Festival 2019 (16 – 18 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire) are on sale from Friday 24 August at justsofestival.org.uk. Under 3s free.
For more festival ideas – check out the family friendly Timber Festival
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We were invited as guests to the Just So Festival for the purpose of this review, however all thoughts and opinions are my own