Being festival veterans it seemed like a natural progression to want to introduce Jesse to the wonders of a British summer music festival as early as possible. But had we underestimated the difficulties associated with taking a 1 year old? Moreover, would Nat at 34 weeks pregnant survive the trip to tell the tale?
Looking back, I’ll be honest, it seems almost foolhardy to combine those two rather important factors. But with the “he who dares Rodney…” words of a famous TV fool ringing in my ears, we embarked upon it as a great adventure. We had originally hoped to attend Glastonbury Festival as I had been with friends previously and knew that the Kidz Field was reputed to be the largest free* festival for kids in Europe (*obviously once you’ve forked out for the Glastonbury ticket itself). However, this time around we struck out in the ballot so started looking for alternative options. We then decided upon Kendal Calling, located in the Lake District, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary. It had a dedicated kids field, a cinema tent with dedicated kids screenings, a breakfast club and, according to lots of people who had been, had a great family friendly atmosphere despite not being a dedicated kids festival. Plus critters under 5 attend free of charge while children aged 6-10 are only charged the nominal fee of £20. Not bad for four days of music and entertainment.
We travelled down with our good friends who also have a young child (aged 2) and, strangely enough, were also expecting their second child a matter of weeks after us. After paying extra for the early Thursday entrance ticket, we got there nice and early, escaping virtually all traffic jams until we entered the site itself. Even then it was well managed enough to keep us moving along a steady, if slow pace. When we finally parked up the fun really began. With Nat so heavily pregnant I simply gave her the task of carrying herself and nothing else. I strapped the baby carrier to my chest and, after loading up the festival wagon (see post in review section) with the first load of gear and popping Jesse into the carrier we started the walk to camp. Now, anyone who has ever been to a festival will tell you that no matter how many times you rock up at a festival feeling all giddy with musical excitement, you always use the psychological coping method of conveniently forgetting about this bit. It’s a drain no matter which way you look at it. And this year proved to be a killer! The walk itself was about 20 minutes without gear and roughly 35/40 minutes with gear. To be fair the security and stewards were fantastic and, seeing we were laden with a 1 year old who wanted to escape the clutches of his carrier to explore this fantastic new world, and seeing that Nat was rather pregnant they ushered us through very quickly, doing just a minimum check over things which we was very grateful for. We also noticed something that was to become a feature of all of the stewards at Kendal Calling over the course of the weekend: they said hello and smiled at Jesse, some even asking him how he was. This may seem a very simple thing, but with thousands of people to process and look after it was a lovely touch and created a very good first impression indeed.
We made our way through the fields to the last camp we came to: the family camp. Although a little perplexed by this at first, I questioned the idea of making people with kids walk further than everybody else and the response made perfect sense. It would put off the more raucous element of the festival camping there as they generally come through the gates and drop their bags at the nearest possible patch of grass. Again, this was a good idea meaning The Shire (quiet camp) and adjoining family camp remained relatively calm and relaxed. Much to my delight the field was nearly empty thanks to our early-bird departure so we had the pick of spots. After putting the bell tent up in super-quick time so that Jesse and Nat could begin to relax I rewarded myself with a quick beer knowing I’d have at least another two journeys to make back to the car. Not ideal I know but pretty necessary if you’re camping with kids and have an enormous bell tent.
Once everything was finally set up and the kids had napped in the tent we went off to explore the festival site. Kendal Calling, although it’s grown considerably from its earlier years (it is now classed as a medium sized festival), still retains quite an intimate feel. The placement of the kids field was excellent as it was located in a quiet, enclosed spot but still within striking distance of the main stage which made keeping everybody happy much easier than we imagined. In fact, the whole site was just a good size to be pulling a festival wagon and 1 year old. Areas felt distinct and separate but were not a million miles from one another. The other thing that struck me was the number of other families with children there which helped us feel more at ease, despite attending so many festivals without kids previously.
We managed to bask in the sunshine and watch the tremendous James headline the Thursday evening and suddenly, much like every festival, the memories of multiple journeys lugging gear from the car to the campsite were banished to a far corner of my mind. The sunshine didn’t last though. Friday saw a fairly persistent pattern of rain fall all day – come on, you didn’t expect a British festival to be rain free did you? But, such was our organisation and pre-planning that it barely dampened spirits. Jesse, resembling someone from a HAZMAT disaster dressed in a bright yellow waterproof suit found that mud and splashing in puddles could bring immeasurable delights. The newly created quagmire was, however, making moving around with a wagon more difficult. That said, after seeing pushchairs becoming stuck fast, and lesser wagons struggle in some of the muddier sections, I was also immensely proud of our converted heavy duty garden trolley. Furthermore, it was after weather like this that we really began to appreciate buying the upgrade to the Club Class shower and toilet facilities. The showers were great and, as a guy, I never had to queue. During peak times, however, the female queue was rather significant which is a shame given the premium you pay for the privilege of Club Class. Despite this, the facilities themselves were excellent for a festival and it did feel amazing to have my little dose of Molton Brown in the morning as I walked past the ‘no shower, wet wipe wash only’ generation on my way back to the tent .
The sun returned on day three and returned with some force. It was glorious. However, all of this walking and sitting on the ground was taking its toll on our two pregnant wives. Luckily, being awesome husbands (no, really!) we had booked them in for a pregnancy massage at the onsite Garden of Eden. Here they offered all manner of treatments all set up in tranquil yurts in the woodland. It was a welcome break for the girls and the dads spent the morning watching kids films with the critters in the cinema tent, before returning to meet them via a pit-stop at the real ale tent. The Woodland Stage and area itself is a great place. Day and night it is filled with art installations, performing arts acts, the aforementioned Garden of Eden and a stage that just gets nicely busy during the day which made it a great place for us to experience festival life at a slightly slower pace. It also had lots of bench seating making it great for the kids and pregnant wives alike. It was also proof, along with the kids field and cinema tent, that modern festivals are much more than just music and offer a wide variety of brilliant experiences for everyone.
The music, however, is what draws people in and Kendal had a very good line up to celebrate their anniversary. Despite not being a huge fan myself, Jesse clapping along to Snoop Dog while perched on my shoulders is a memory that will never escape me. You are never too young to appreciate music and it seems Jesse certainly appreciated Snoop. Hits for me were the Augustines, the sublime Elbow, Embrace (who caused me and Nat to have a ‘moment’ as they played the song from our wedding first dance), The Levellers and, of course, local favourites the Everly Pregnant Brothers. They also host Tim Peaks Diner – a collaboration with Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess – which offers special acoustic and live performances in a very cool, intimate setting.
The kids field itself was very good, with great activities I just hope they expand it to give it a little more area in future to cope with the number of families that are drawn to their family friendly status. The Little Bugs disco was fantastic and filled not only with kids but also with some brilliantly dressed site staff who were warm and welcoming. They gave away free soft drinks for the little ones which was also a nice touch. The activity tents offered everything from Duplo to card making and also gave particularly toddlers a protective area away from either the sun or rain. The notice board at the front served to let people know what time the organised games were taking place and during the rain and ensuing mud they were forever replenishing the wood/bark chip pathway to make it easier for parents with wagons/pushchairs and little ones not as stable on their feet.
So we may, to some, have looked a little foolhardy in the beginning with our plans to take a 1 year old and heavily pregnant wife to Kendal Calling. But in true Del Boy “he who dares Rodney…” fashion we pulled it off. To give you an idea as to the extent to which we pulled it off, the two dads were given Saturday night off by the wives to sample all of the real ale and wine that we could get our hands on. The wives were happy campers and so were we! So would we do it again? You’re damn right we would. We’ve already booked our tickets to return again this year and this time the group has grown. Our personal group will be plus one after the arrival of our second beautiful baby Amelie, while the number of couples with children coming with us this year has also grown, and none of us can wait!
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