Having children didn't stop Andy Kenworthy from taking the whole family to Splore Festival, and miraculously he managed to get some sleep
I have enjoyed going to music festivals with friends and their children regularly since about 1996. But actually taking my own brood came with a whole bunch of other considerations. There are loads of different ways to approach it. Some folks abandon their kids' schedules completely for festivals, let them eat whatever and party with them late into the night. Personally, I know that if my kids aren't going to turn into screaming demons they need to eat reasonably healthy food and have some semblance of routine. So I was interested to see how this would hold up at Splore, in Tapapakanga Regional Park.
Its breathtaking beach location is run by extremely nice people and Splore is rightly loved for an extremely pleasant atmosphere where people generally look out for each other. There is alcohol on sale in carefully controlled areas (a bit more is secreted past the searches each year) and I did catch a waft of marijuana smoke on the beach. But I have personally never seen too many "casualties" staggering around, or folks getting punchy over their choice of intoxicant.
And Splore always offers mouthwatering food without eye-watering prices, with plenty of curries, salads and seafood in among the chips and barbecues.
So I, my wife Fi, our 7-week-old Chloe and our 3-year-old boy Balin, broke out the sandwiches and erected our tent in the family camping section that offers a bit of peace away from the rest of the crowd. We didn't catch much music: we spent the rest of the day lounging in the sunshine at the festival's cafes and shopping in the funky clothing stalls. The Perky and Fiddle Show, two amusingly costumed ladies in wheelbarrows, rolled up and did their thing, and we were quite happy to take a tour of the swings and craft tent laid on for kids. Balin was most fascinated with a bunch of slack-line balancing guys in the trees, and Chloe was mostly asleep. So far, pretty good.
Dinner was a vege curry from Radha Krishna with a side order of venison pasty from Sarah's Cornish Pasties, followed up with a yoghurt smoothie and a paddle in the sea. After that Fi and Chloe wisely slipped home and left us boys to the camping. It was already Balin's bedtime, but there was no chance of him sleeping while the sun was still shining. So we had another pasty and a last look round until sunset. After a bedtime story, I snuck outside the tent and waited. He woke briefly at five but then didn't start being really noisy until a very humane 6.45am. We had our own cereal for breakfast, and then joined friends for coffee at their tents before heading back down to the beach for another swim and to meet up with Chloe and Fi again for the day.
We headed away on Saturday afternoon to a friend's wedding but pronounced our experiment a very enjoyable success. I would definitely consider festival camping again, maybe even for two nights. Or, since we live quite close to Tapapakanga, I would be tempted to take the kids for the day and then get a babysitter so that Fi and I can take in more of the late-night attractions and not have to act like adults. Worked for us a decade or two ago.
Some sage advice
Top tips for happy festie kids (and parents):
1 Get a gang of trusted parents together: you can share babysitting duties and each get more down time.
2 Check the site's layout: a stroller may work, but you might want some kind of backpack or sling for littlies where things are muddy and steep, or just too crowded.
3 Bring loads of sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and plenty of water for sunny days.
4 But wisely pack gumboots, rain gear and warm clothing for when it (inevitably) turns iffy. Those years of Glastonbury pictures of Kate Moss in gummies show it can be done in style.
5 Bring kids' size, good-quality ear defenders or earplugs: the music can be too loud for little people. You want them to still hear you when they grow into teenagers.
6 Write your mobile number on your kids' arms in indelible ink: it makes it easier to re-unite you if needed.
7 Don't lose sight of young children: being temporary and outdoor, festivals may have hidden hazards you would not find in established venues.
8 If you are taking your kids out in the dark, the more flashing lights and luminous things they have on their person, the harder they are to lose.
9 A packet of wet wipes and hand sanitiser makes the notorious portable loos less traumatic to use.
10 Bring a book, a torch and something nice to eat and drink in case you're the one nobly stuck outside a tent full of sleeping nippers.