Festivals

Nozstock 2018 review; a testimony of family fun.

 We were quite excited about going to a festival- with way more kit than we had for our year-long round the world trip. 

We were quite excited about going to a festival- with way more kit than we had for our year-long round the world trip. 

Arriving at the festival site with bright sunshine and our anthem of the Summer blaring in the car, the weekend laid before us full of promise.  There were no traffic queues on arrival, no wristband queues and with just two minutes walk to the campsite from the car park, we were winning. 

 

We showed our allocated ‘family camping’ wristbands (for security) and gained access to the family camping field. We were greeted by a group of children playing football- others were hanging off the home-made wooden playground. A small queue of parents formed at the airstream coffee hut; this seemed like a perfectly acceptable home for the next three days. 

 

 Our home at Noz.

Our home at Noz.

Pitching up there was a bit of confusion as some people told us that there was no more space to camp. Ignoring them, we found a spot next to some friendly looking families and went to check with a steward. 

 

Of course! Common sense prevailed and the friendly steward told me to ignore everyone and camp where we liked. We pitched up in time to avoid the storm and felt very sorry for the people arriving in torrential rain after a seven week drought… 

 

We cooked up our sausages, made friends with our neighbours, dressed up in sequins and headed out to explore. 

 Near the entrance to the Kids area- waiting to get involved. 

Near the entrance to the Kids area- waiting to get involved. 

 The acoustics inside the 'jukebox' were really good, which encouraged everyone to have a sing. 

The acoustics inside the 'jukebox' were really good, which encouraged everyone to have a sing. 

The sense that you get when you first step into the arena is one of a playground- a place to play for adults and children alike. We loved that a heavy metal band was playing on one stage, folk and Jungle on the others. Circus equipment was scattered on the floor in the market for anyone to play with, the ever popular Sweet Shop (our boys emptied their wallets here) and a ‘human jukebox’ was available for anyone to get involved with- which was hilarious, by the way. 

 

 We spent most of our time by the circus stall, watching as the boys became really good at hula hooping. Us adults were rubbish at it, but we got to sit down and chat to the lovely people on the stalls. Also: cider.

We spent most of our time by the circus stall, watching as the boys became really good at hula hooping. Us adults were rubbish at it, but we got to sit down and chat to the lovely people on the stalls. Also: cider.

We wound our way through the undulating site, searching the corners for new, hidden gems. We made our way past the stages towards the Coppice and the Elephants graveyard stopping (several times!) to climb the wooden lookout ‘Bowsers Tower’ which had been built to be burnt down for the grand finale on Sunday night. 

 

The amount of nooks and crannies made it an endless place to explore. Some we loved, some not so much but there was always something else to find. 

 

We finished off the first night dancing our socks off to Chase & Status- I made a new Best Friend Forever and can’t remember the last time I danced like that. It felt good for the soul.

 

You see, amongst all the activities, what made Nozstock so good was that by the end, we felt like we had got to know so many people who felt like friends. How is this possible? 

 

Amongst a crowd of 5000 people Nozstock is small. This means that there is a sense of community and you see the same friendly faces over and over again.

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The following day our only plan was to check out the kids area. This hive of activity offered respite from the relentless heat and offered countless opportunities for creativity… We made a clay pot, tie dyed a t-shirt and made friends with a clown. For our boys though, it was the hockey game that they loved; they are obsessed with balls so this was no surprise.

 

Soaking up the sunshine we spent some time at the Sunken Yard again, this time Finn, our youngest won a medal as the ‘Floss’ champion in a spontaneous Floss-off; our eldest embroiled in an endless game of volleyball (balls: see?!)

 The Floss-off GRAND FINAL... Who would win?!

The Floss-off GRAND FINAL... Who would win?!

 Finn with his prized medal for being Nozstock 2018 Sunken Yard Floss Champion.

Finn with his prized medal for being Nozstock 2018 Sunken Yard Floss Champion.

 Tie dye t-shirts were ace! 

Tie dye t-shirts were ace! 

Refilling our water bottles was easy at various points around the site- but in search of shade, The Cabinet of Lost Secrets was another place of sanctuary.

We stumbled in to ‘Play it again Dan’s sea shanty sing-along which was a big hit. Later we discovered that the place had transformed into a ‘Sweeny Todd’ style bar with an Arabic Sage who stood sentry at the piano and challenged you to play the ‘right’ note.

A door slid open and you entered a secret mirrored passageway complete with disco lights, which opened out to a secret stage hosting a six piece funk band. 

Bimbling about is our favourite festival activity- it’s amazing where your feet take you when you let them. 

 Chicken Shit Bingo: You buy a number, if the chicken shits on your number you win £50 and the rest of the money goes to charity. It's tense, it's quirky and it's all to play for. 

Chicken Shit Bingo: You buy a number, if the chicken shits on your number you win £50 and the rest of the money goes to charity. It's tense, it's quirky and it's all to play for. 

 HAPPY DANCING.

HAPPY DANCING.

After the obligatory Chicken Shit Bingo, we stumbled on folk outfit Mad Dog Mcrea. I had never heard of them before, but jumping around in the late afternoon sunshine, covered in face paint and ice cream was a bolt of pure happiness. When they finished with ‘Bare Necessities’ it epitomised our festival experience- a sunny sea of smiling, dancing people who were completely in the moment. 

 

Collapsing in an exhausted heap, we stocked up on sugar and dashed to the sunken yard. People were fire spinning around a huge hypnotic fire and it was a great way to chill out before a big dance to Grandmaster Flash.

 Chilling out at the Sunken Yard fire show. 

Chilling out at the Sunken Yard fire show. 

 We screen printed our own Nozstock t-shirts and have had to wear them everyday since. 

We screen printed our own Nozstock t-shirts and have had to wear them everyday since. 

On Sunday we woke up exhausted, covered in glitter and caked in dust- but we dug deep and took ourselves off to screen print our own souvenir t-shirts. Afterwards we found ourselves on a sofa in the cinema tent watching ‘Flash Gordon’ and cooling off with a snow cone before succumbing to the draw of the Sunken Yard again.

 

Soothing beats helped our tired limbs spring back to life and our other child won a much-coveted medal for Sumo wrestling. (between volleyball matches, obviously)

 

We refuelled on delicious Jerk Chicken, hot dogs and falafel and rounded off the day with Nozstock’s grand finale fire and firework show. We stopped off at Serial Killaz for a good old fashioned family dance to Drum and Bass before collapsing into bed. 

 Nozstock's grand finale firework show on the Sunday night. The ashes of our neighbour's recently deceased father were sent up in a rocket. Testimony to how much love there is for this family festival. 

Nozstock's grand finale firework show on the Sunday night. The ashes of our neighbour's recently deceased father were sent up in a rocket. Testimony to how much love there is for this family festival. 

 Where's Wally? So much decor to look at everywhere.. but also 19 Wallys to find throughout the site! We found 13 of them and was a great activity to pass time wandering around the site. 

Where's Wally? So much decor to look at everywhere.. but also 19 Wallys to find throughout the site! We found 13 of them and was a great activity to pass time wandering around the site. 

Monday morning was harsh- waking up tired, with a trashed tent is never much fun but I could have cried with relief when I saw that cars were allowed to drive into the campsite. 

 

We loaded up our dusty car, hugged our new friends goodbye and agreed to find each other again next year; same time, same place. After all, amongst the myriad of world-class activities, theatre and music, this year it really was the people that made it.

 

 

Thanks for having us, Nozstock and providing us with an array of dusty, sparkly, uplifting and life-affirming fun. See you next time. 

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Festival fun with kids- a Wheeler Guide.

We are about to embark on our first festival of the season- I am so excited about making plans. I’m not the only one who loves to make these lists, surely?!

When it comes to getting our camping kit together, happy memories leap off the tin plates and who doesn’t love a gadget? The kit to me is all part of the fun.

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Also, these days we want to be comfortable- once upon a time we probably just used our tent as a place to collapse into slumber.

Times and expectations have changed.  Seeing every band isn’t going to happen- trying to do too much can result in meltdown central so we pick our favourites and are prepared to make compromises. Take turns doing what each person in the family wants or tag team childcare with a partner/ friend is a good idea if you can. We can still do this, just in a different way. 

There might be times when you take the kids out into the fresh, night air- an evening of magic lying ahead of you.

Then the kids might vomit/ wee everywhere/ jump in a massive puddle which is actually cow poo- and you have to retreat back to your tent wondering why you bothered to try to have fun in the first place? All is not lost- put on your big girl pants and claw it back. If I can, you can. 

Festivals with children ARE different beasts, but being organised helps and flouting normal routines catapults everyone into holiday mode. Relax, let everyone get filthy and explore whilst staying safe: you will find that the magic can still happen as you see the place unfold through their eyes.

 

Safety and security:

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Losing a child is every parents’ worst nightmare. It probably won't happen though- and if it does there’s a few things you can do to help.

Firstly, introduce your child to a steward- show them what a high-vis looks like and tell them to find one of these kind people if they get lost. OR find another Mummy who will help. Either is good.

I take a permanent marker with me, and write both parents numbers on their arm- in case one phone is out of reception/ battery has died. In truth I have never needed to use this, as the one time I DID lose a child, the security/ steward team radioed their colleagues ahead and found the youngest in just a few terrifying minutes. Yes, it felt like hours.

Valuables: just be sensible. Don’t flash your ipad in the door of your tent etc. Pop it into the lock up if you have to bring it.

Ear defenders for the children are ESSENTIAL. Keep them in the wagon- you never know when a marching band/ banging Jungle set might kick off around you. If this does happen, you’ll shock yourself at how fast you can move…

Next is my favourite subject: KIT. What to bring?! kicking off my list, I am starting with the essentials:

Tent:

If you can get a tent you can stand up in, it makes things so much more comfortable- when was the last time you tried to put on jeans on one leg whilst wobbling on an air bed?

Our tent is canvas, which is heavy, but means it doesn’t get overly hot in the morning sun and it stays stable in wind.

You could always opt for a caravan or campervan- though as these fields tend to be further away we often opt for the tent. 

 

Children’s transport:

Whatever you choose to save those little legs, make sure it is all terrain as small wheels get clogged up easily.

 The year our mountain buggy broke: good friends acquied this wheelbarrow and built a shade for our eldest baby. He LOVED it and everyone wanted to meet the baby in a barrow....

The year our mountain buggy broke: good friends acquied this wheelbarrow and built a shade for our eldest baby. He LOVED it and everyone wanted to meet the baby in a barrow....

 The year of the red waggon. It looked great, but kept tipping over on uneven ground. Eek. 

The year of the red waggon. It looked great, but kept tipping over on uneven ground. Eek. 

We have used just about everything in our time- wheel barrow (Back breaking,) red waggon (for us this resulted in an emergency trip to the chiropractor on our return…)  mountain buggy (great) and cycle trailer (even better as the rain cover made it like a little wendy house)

 

All the above help you carry your kit and give your children a portable chill-out space. I used to fill the side pockets with sticker books and torches for the children to play with when they got bored between bands in the evenings.

 

If your child is young, slings are best in crowds- but if you do take a buggy out at night remember to decorate it with fairy lights and flags. People tend to crowd into a space if they don’t see something at head height! Make your buggy stand out so it doesn’t get fallen on. It happened to us several times before we embraced the bling.

 

Bedding:

Self inflating mattresses are essential in my book. Less trampoline- like so last well beyond the first night.  

Our children love their sleeping bags- us adults like a light duvet.

Don’t forget your pillows and blankets for cosying up around the campfire.

 

Clothes:

Wellies, over trousers and anoraks are essential for the whole family.

Bring layers to wear for the evening and clean clothes for each day. You’d be surprised how mucky you get having fun- face paints, sun screen, ice cream, and if it is a wet year, putting on muddy trousers  from the day before is really really horrible…

 

Kitchen stuff:

Gas stove- ours is in a carry case, which works great as we try to cook 1 pot meals anyway.

Cool box to keep food cool- beyond the first day everything will be thawed out.. so we use it to store open food away from ants and rodents.

Saucepan,

Frying pan

Kettle,

 Some of our festival food. (The cider is in the fridge btw)

Some of our festival food. (The cider is in the fridge btw)

Camping plates,

Mugs

Cutlery

1 sharp knife, tongs and spatula.

Kitchen towels

Washing up sponge & liquid

Black bin liner

Water carrier

Bucket/ washing up bowl

 The multiple uses of a bucket. BATHTIME!

The multiple uses of a bucket. BATHTIME!

Food:

Festival food can be expensive and unhealthy. We try to get as much fruit and veg into the kids as we can before letting them loose at the pizza van.

 

Jars of hot dog sausages

Bread rolls or tortilla wraps

Ketchup

Pasta & pesto

Tinned sweetcorn and peas

Oil

Eggs for scrambling

Baked beans

Cereal

UHT or powdered milk

Coffee for adults! (it’s a festival- you could pop a slug of brandy on there if you wanted. Go on, treat yourself.)

Fruit (nothing too fragile- apples and bananas are always a favourite)

Boxes of raisins and dried fruit

Fruit juice cartons- freeze these ahead of the event to use as ice packs in your cool box.

Breadsticks

Jerky

Flapjacks/ cereal bars

 A muddy Glastonbury; a happy boy. 

A muddy Glastonbury; a happy boy. 

Posh Crisps (for when the kids go to sleep…)

 

Other stuff

Torches (one each is easiest)

Pen knife

String/ cable ties/ Gaffer tape

Ear plugs for adults- ear defenders for children, see above.

Chairs

Picnic blanket

Permanent marker (for writing your phone number on your childrens’ arms. If you don’t like doing this, you can write with biro and paint over the top with a liquid/ spray plaster)

Fully charged power bank- you’ll be gutted if you can’t take pictures of all the fun you’re having.

 

Toiletries:

Sunscreen

Toothbrushes, toothpaste, flannel, soap, towel

Wet wipes- though we are trying to do without these this year after learning about their negative impact on the environment… wish us luck.

Hair brush

Hand sanitiser

Toilet roll

POTTY. Ok, a bucket with a lid on.….. it’s not just for the kids either- I don’t like a long walk in the middle of the night or getting up early to take the boys for their first wee of the day. Once I got over the embarrassment of taking my bucket to the loo in the morning, I never looked back. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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First aid kit; plasters, antiseptic wipes, calpol, piriton, dioralyte, paracetamol (for adult headaches just in case you get one)

 

FUN STUFF:

Now you’ve got the practicalities sorted, its time for the fun bits- none of which is STRICTLY essential, but may give you some fun ideas.

Fancy dress/ dressing up gear

Face paints

Temporary tattoos

Flag and telescopic flag pole. Put this by your tent so you/ the kids can find it easily in the crowded campsite.

Solar fairy lights- for the same reason.

Fake flowers/ bunting for decorating the camp/ buggy/ yourself.

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Glow sticks (for night times)

 

And last but by no means least, don’t forget the quiet games/ activities.  However much fun you are having, it can get overwhelming. Sensory overload IS A THING, so make sure you have a few activities for the tent. Drawing stuff, Uno, activity books and a few bits of lego usually does it for us. Also if you have space take a football. Last Nozstock, the children of the family field had a massive football match whilst the adults all kicked back with a nice (warm!?) beer… it was sweet joy to behold.

 

So now you’re set.  Remember though, whatever you forget someone onsite will probably be selling it, so don’t get too stressed out or bogged down by the ‘stuff’. Most of what you need is normal everyday things- don’t let the fact it is a ‘festival’ send you into a panic.

 

Hopefully with this list though, you should be all set. All you need now is to throw off the shackles of daily life, grab your dancing shoes and you’re good to go.

 

See you in a field somewhere, we’ll be to the right of the mixing desk, yeah?

 

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Nozstock 2018, we're coming for you.

After an 'extreme' Winter, we deserve this Summer... a butterfly of excitement emerges in our tummies and we realise that festival season is upon us. 

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I am lucky enough to be asked to be guest blogger this year at our favourite small festival: Nozstock, based in Herefordshire countryside and this year celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Nozstock has organically evolved into a thing of beauty and started out in the same way as all of the best ones. As a small party for friends and family that grew and grew….

Why do we love it?

Firstly it is small which is great if you are a family. You don't have to lug all your kit for miles across the site to set up camp and once done, you can go from family field ‘chill out’ to ‘action central’ in less than ten minutes. Due to the size and the ethos of the place- it is also incredibly friendly.

There is a wide mixture of people who come- teenage ravers to old(er) hippies and families- all of whom will become friends after a few days of dancing and getting covered in mud and glitter together. 

 Making clay pots in the craft tent. (Not sure they made it home though... ssh) 

Making clay pots in the craft tent. (Not sure they made it home though... ssh) 

Staying true to it's roots, Nozstock has an obvious lack of corporate advertising and bubbles of creativity burst all around the site, from the signage and décor to the street theatre.

Watch out for the band waiting in the bushes to sing you a song about your subject of choice.

Remember to go to town with fancy dress: after all, having fun is a business not to be taken lightly and the more you put in, the more you get out of it.

 Watching the main 'Orchard' stage

Watching the main 'Orchard' stage

The Kids area has a host of activities for families of all ages so there is always something to do in the daytime. This year, crafts and activity workshops are run by 'Spare Room Arts' so kids can make some special festival outfits, make kites, do a dance workshop or take part in storytelling. Alongside this, pop up poetry, British Sign Language lessons, circus skills and Yoga for all the family as well as a soft play and chill out area for when it all gets a bit much. But don't forget the music- this year the line up is as eclectic as ever.

I am looking forward to finally witnessing the whirling epic tunes of Goldfrapp, having a family skank to ska outfit The Selector and a good dance to Electric Swing Circus. Not to mention our family's favourite Chase & Status. We really do love a bit of Drum and Bass in our house so that's going to be our highlight for sure...

Which brings me to what I am MOST excited about: the things aren't on the programme.

At our last Noz, my eldest (who was 7) wanted to see the UV insects that were strung up in the trees in the Coppice at night. I wasn't averse to a bit of techno either so it was no hardship to take a walk there one evening.

At dusk it looked magical and as we wound our way through the small crowd we were gently ushered in to a place that was safest from anyone falling over him. After all, it was dark and he was short! Festival note: If people see a 'space' at head height they may try to push into it- another reason we always used to attach fairy lights to the buggy. 

 The coppice in the daytime was great for tree climbing amongst the wonderful insects. 

The coppice in the daytime was great for tree climbing amongst the wonderful insects. 

Once amongst the crowd, Archie cautiously watched others around him, how they moved was different to how he usually dances at home. He mimicked the others and smiles of encouragement reassured him as he felt himself drawn into the beat, keeping one eye on the luminous decor in wonder.

It felt cyclical, bringing my son to this mini rave, reconnecting with something I used to do before he came into the world. Archie felt that he was involved in some magical grown up world made up of warm smiles, UV insects and dancing to repetitive beats in the illicit Night Time. 

 Chicken Shit Bingo is as funny as it sounds. 

Chicken Shit Bingo is as funny as it sounds. 

Winding our way back again we stopped at the Garden Stage to hear a bit of Drum & Bass. Archie was a bit overwhelmed as people high-fived him: this small human was treated as a celebrity as he joined in gleefully with the collective stomp.  Soon though, it was time to collapse into bed- satisfied that he had a WHOLE story of adventure to tell his little brother when he (eventually) woke up the next day.

Can we always do that Mummy, every time we come to Nozstock? 
Course we can, love. It can be our 'thing.'

It's these unexpected treasures that make Nozstock so good: and it is full of surprises.

Like watching a man dressed as a rabbit, sing popular songs in the style of Chaz & Dave whilst rewarding participants with carrots. (Check out the 'Cabinet of Lost Secrets' for this beauty.)

Another thing to watch out for is 'Chicken Shit Bingo' where you pay for a number on a grid and if the chicken poos on your square you win FIFTY ENGLISH POUNDS. The atmosphere is electric- and it really is hysterical being amongst a group of people all cheering on a chicken to have a poo. 

 The children on the stage at a party in the Sunken Yard- after the paint fight. Can you tell? 

The children on the stage at a party in the Sunken Yard- after the paint fight. Can you tell? 

Finally, get involved in the paint fight and party at the sunken yard. You won't regret it. Unless you get covered in paint and forget to wash it off before the next morning of course.

We've seen a lot in our travels, but nothing beats stepping out of your everyday, throwing on your best festival clobber and dancing in a field with your family.

Nozstock we are SO ready for you. Maybe we’ll see you there  

 

 

 watching an acrobat in the silks one evening. 

watching an acrobat in the silks one evening. 

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