Got kids, will festival: how to rock out as a family this summer
Doune the Rabbit Hole and Kelburn Garden Party welcome families alongside party animals
This article is from 2015.
Got your sunscreen, wellies, glowsticks and … nappies? With more people than ever taking their children along to music festivals, David Pollock investigates how summer revelry became a kid-friendly zone
‘People are becoming more aware that a festival doesn’t have to be somewhere that isn’t child friendly,’ says Jamie Murray, director of Doune the Rabbit Hole festival, which happens on the Cardross Estate near Stirling every August. ‘They now know that these places can be okay to take your child to, although I’m not sure what’s brought this about.’
An observation of the breadth of Scottish music festivals over the last two decades might suggest that it’s simply a generational thing. The 18 to 25 year olds who were behaving in a manner incompatible with family-friendliness at T in the Park in the 90s have all grown up and had children of their own. And for those who still find music plays a big part in their lives, the right to enjoy it doesn’t have to end with starting a family.
Child-friendly festivals are a growing industry – boutique festivals, which have expanded since the early 2000s, are often synonymous with ‘family festivals’ – and there could well be more room in it yet. The core audience for these events is broadly, but certainly not exclusively, people in their 30s and 40s. They’re serious music lovers whose bravery – or, some might (wrongly) say, idiocy – leads them to discover that it’s no more hassle than taking kids on a camping trip, and probably a lot more fun.
These festivals know where their appeal lies, and they listen to their audience. Camping is segregated, so the worst disruption you’ll generally get from the neighbours is when their youngest starts crying at 3am because the sun’s come up. Kids’ activities, including workshops, play areas and group games, aren’t just provided as an afterthought, but planned in as carefully as the band schedule. Facilities are kept clean and your needs are considered. Doune the Rabbit Hole, for example, make it a condition that all their food pitches sell a £1 kids portion.
‘We have the Lullaby Collective in the campsite who have a little space where they read bedtime stories and offer bathtime facilities,’ says Dave Boyle, director of Kelburn Garden Party, which is set in the forested grounds of Kelburn Castle. ‘We’re lucky, we’re a family tourist attraction throughout the year, so our aim is to make the whole site a playground for adults and children. It’s a different atmosphere, locals will come on day tickets so the site will be really buzzing at midday [and] one o’clock, whereas most big festivals have barely started by then.’
You’ll still suffer the typical perils of taking children anywhere overnight – simple things like remembering sunscreen, wellies and enough pairs of nappies and dry clothes – but once there, you’ll find everyone’s in the same boat and you’ll end up making friends with other families. The biggest concession, in fact, is over what music you get to hear. Take a look at the bill of any family-friendly festival and it’s a broad church. But don’t bother circling more than a couple of favourite artists because you still have to look after the children. It’s key to consider it a family weekend with plenty of random but good quality music thrown in, rather than your own special treat; that way lies frustration.
‘It makes a huge difference to the atmosphere to have kids running around,’ says Murray. ‘We started the festival in 2010 after going to the Green Man festival in Wales, and we noticed there that the atmosphere was totally different because there were children there. I think adults do behave more responsibly with children around, and it makes everything feel nicer and kinder. It’s only a pop-up community, but it’s a community nonetheless.’
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