Glastonbury – 10 Things to Consider When Taking Children to a Festival

Glastonbury is many things to many different people. To the hippies in the Green Field, Glastonbury is a space for spiritual enlightenment. To the kids moshing around in the mud before the Pyramid stage, Glastonbury is a chance to get wasted and listen to bands. To my son, Glastonbury is a tractor-and-lorry convention. To me, Glastonbury is a challenge to my Dadness. The logistics involved in getting in and out of the festival with the minimum of delay, camping with three young children, and coming out of the experience with all limbs and offspring intact requires the kind of fortitude, foresight, judgement and brute physical strength that constitute Dadness.

alice-glastonbury-fairy-wings

I have camped at Glastonbury for two consecutive years with my three children and will do so again this year. I have some insights to share with other Dads who might consider attempting the festival with their children:

1) Camp high
As a performer, I camped backstage at the Park, on a high pitch overlooking the festival, close to the fence. The effort involved in hauling the gear uphill was offset by the relative peace and quiet of the spot throughout the festival. If I was going there as a common-or-garden Dad punter, I would aim far away and high.

2) Take a wheelbarrow or trolley

Hauling your gear from car to site is a difficult and unpleasant experience if you’ve got a big family tent and all the extra beds and sleeping bags that come with children. Glastonbury has metal reinforced pathways that are wide and hard enough to take a large trolley or barrow. The walk from car to campsite for me was about half an hour. I had to make two trips. I would struggle to carry my tent more than ten minutes on my back. Keep a tight rein on the amount of gear you are taking. Take some rope to secure your gear to the barrow and some string to tie all the sleeping bags and mats together.

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3) Cooking
I never used to cook at festivals but these days finances mean we have to bring all our food with us. So what to take? We live off a big home-cooked chicken pie and sausage rolls, large jars of homemade pesto with bags of pasta, and a bag of croissants. You can’t wash up easily at Glastonbury, and you don’t want to lug a coolbox there, so I avoid meat and food that requires anything more complex than heating a pan of water. Don’t stop off at Tescos on your way there, as then you will have to carry thin shopping bags across the festival.

4) Kids’ field
Bugaboo hell. None of the parents we travelled with enjoyed the kids’ field. First of all, who wants to sit around watching their children do stuff? Secondly, children aren’t going to learn to juggle in the hour or two you spend there. I’d rather see family experiences more integrated with the festival such as…

Doctor Who Matt Smith at Glastonbury with the girls of the House of Fairy Tales

5) House of Fairy Tales
Established by artists Deborah Curtis and Gavin Turk, the House of Fairy Tales is “a child-centred artist led project which draws on an extensive team of artists, performers, writers, educationalists, designers, musicians, film makers, dreamers and philosophers to create magical, parallel worlds where learning is play and play is directed learning.” The people at the House of Fairy Tales are one highlight of Glastonbury and my three children get thoroughly involved. Last year Doctor Who himself, Matt Smith, dropped by and was photographed with all the kids.The House of Fairy Tales is located in the Park area.

6) The Park
Established by Emily Eavis in 2007, the Park is ideal for Dads. The bar is not so packed, the stage is full of interesting and alternative acts (all the bands I want to see – in Glastonbury 2011, that’s James Blake, Tame Impala, John Grant), and you are well out of the maddening throng. Also the Free University of Glastonbury is in the Park area – I am talking about the history and meaning of camping there on Sunday at 1pm.

7) But what about the headliners?
I didn’t see any of the big acts. I’ve been in those crowds without kids. I couldn’t face them with small children. One of the consequences of taking kids with you is that you are excused Must Seeing the Must See events. I wouldn’t cross the road to watch Bono sing, never mind jostle for position amongst thousands of other people. Free yourself of festival fret – that feeling that something better is happening somewhere else and you must trudge off to see it.

8) You sound like a really dull man
I am speaking only from the Dad perspective here, from that portion within me concerned with the logistics of shifting a family around. But it’s a fair comment.

9) When should Dads arrive at Glastonbury, and when should they leave?
Judging arrival and departure is the real trick. Over the last few years, because of the recession and the poor rate of exchange with the euro, many people take Glastonbury as their holiday. This skews the usual traffic patterns, with lots of people arriving on a Wednesday. I aim to arrive around 11am on Thursday morning. and have never any problems and barely any delay. We leave on Sunday about 4-5pm and likewise there is no queue. To put that in perspective, my mate spent six hours in the car park on Monday. Six hours! Fortunately he did not have his children with him

10) Buggy?
We went for two backpacks in which to haul the children around, each packed up with wet and hot weather gear. Just don’t take a buggy that runs on casters, as I saw a lot of Dads digging the mud and grass out from the wheels. My reasoning is that a buggy will struggle in the really deep Glasto mud. The last two years have been dry. But it won’t always be so.

  8 comments for “Glastonbury – 10 Things to Consider When Taking Children to a Festival

  1. July 21, 2009 at 10:05 pm

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  3. Nick
    May 27, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Hi,

    I took my kids last year; Son aged 7 and Daughter aged 14. We had been to Glastonbury before but without the kids. I would recommend that parents take their kids at least once (they are not coming this year but may next year)

    Totally agree with the majority of your points apart from the Kids field and Headliners. I enjoyed watching my Son tightrope walk, get his face painted and ride a unicycle (kinda). The queue for the zip line in the kids field was a bit of a pain as he wanted to go on it a dozen times!>

    We took them to see a lot of the headline acts. We didn’t dive into the front apart from for my Son’s favorite act, The Prodigy. Getting right at the front with a 7yr old may seem like madness, bad parenting etc to some people, especially to watch the Prodigy, but it is a moment my son and I will share forever.

    He sat on my shoulders raving away, people around us gave us loads of space once they realised that he was young, they were impressed that he loved the Prodigy and was cheering and singing away like a loon. Other ravers gave him glowsticks and high 5’s throughout the entire set. When I got tired (long before him!) and started walking back through the cround towards the back of the Other Stage field people were high fiving him again and commenting on his raving.. he was beaming.

    I loved taking my Kids to Glastonbury, and they loved it too. Pack light, take ££££ and be prepared to provide lots of shoulder rides :)

  4. admin
    May 27, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Nick,
    You’re right. This year I will find time to show my eight year old daughter some of the headliners, while leaving the really little ones somewhere else for an hour or two.

  5. June 3, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Theres a lot of things to consider when taking kids to this festival, luckily the only thing i have to consider is which grandparents are going to babysit!

  6. June 8, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    I love this blog!
    Can I link to it on our website? It’s so refreshing to have a Dad perspective (not that it’s a great deal different from a Mum one)!
    Let me know,
    Romany x

  7. admin
    June 8, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Thanks Romany. Link as you see fit.

  8. abbey
    April 7, 2014 at 10:55 am

    What a great read. I have been to glastonbury twice without the children this year we are taking 14,12 and 4. We have decided to take a bike trailer/jogger.. for our 4 year old son. Anymore advice would be most welcome x

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