The last festival I went to was pre-kids. Back then, I could usually be found starting the day brushing my teeth with a can of leftover cider. But this time was a different experience.
After living in a strange bubble for the last year or so, Just So Festival 2021 was the perfect tonic and exactly what our little family of four needed.
While I’d heard great things about the family weekend and its organisers Wild Rumpus, I’d not managed to make it to the three-day event, which is located at the beautiful Rode Hall Estate in Cheshire. But our first time did not disappoint and we had the most wonderful few days, which were sprinkled with music, love, laughter, art and plenty of glitter.
Arriving bright and early on the Saturday, we quickly immersed ourselves in a tent of owls, foxes, frogs, stags, lions, bees and fish (all part of the annual fancy dress competition) as we joined a capoeira dance class. It was fantastic to see the effort that families had gone to, and we all felt a bit under-dressed in our raincoat and wellies as we gyrated our hips to The Jackson 5. Hopefully the glittery faces made up for our lack of costumes.
The programme for the weekend was packed with an array of events for all ages and, although we had already planned what we wanted to do, we ended up wandering around the festival ground (which is easy to navigate) and discovering countless side shows, entertainers and musical performances.
The Clonter Opera Theatre, StrongWomen Science (a fast-paced, family circus science show starring two female scientists-turned-circus-performers, exploding with astounding tricks and messy experiments) and puppet-maker extraordinaire, Judith Hope, all pulled in the crowds.
It was evident that, while performers were enjoying the captive audience, they were also incredibly happy to be back in front of a live audience again.
I am also a real sucker for details and the festival grounds were beautifully presented, including handwritten signs and atmospheric lighting. The entire space made us feel like we were transported to some sort of fairy-tale-meets-Alice in Wonderland magical kingdom, and a long way from lockdown life.
As a Mum with a young baby, all the little extra touches went down a treat, especially the nappy changing tent and free nappies. Both of my little ones enjoyed the family art sessions and were mesmerised by Peekaboo Poncho. I am a little bit obsessed by the moon and so the giant illuminated solar system area was spellbinding sight.
I have never participated in a colour fight before. What a crazy experience that was. If you’re looking to find your inner child, then this is certainly the experience to bring it out. It’s also loads of fun to have with your kids.
Over the course of the two days, we enjoyed lantern parades, woodland DJs, acrobatics, story time, baby yoga and meditation and plenty of yummy food and drink, which included tons of plant-based options and were a far cry from your usual festival greasy burger vans.
Cannon said: “It was incredible to welcome all of our Just So families back to the festival at the weekend. We’ve all been waiting for two years to celebrate together, and it was so worth it. Seeing families reunite after such a long time was our favourite part of the festival and one of the best feelings we’ve had since starting Just So 11 years ago.”
Bird added: “Things have been so tough for everyone over the past 18 months. We’ve all missed getting together with our families and loved ones and enjoying special moments together. We know that our Just So audiences have made lots of new memories this weekend that they’ll treasure for a lifetime.”
With a love of stories and childhood escapades at its heart, Just So Festival invites families, from bumps to great-grandparents, to step out of their everyday lives and head together into a wonderland of world-class literature, arts, theatre, dance, music, comedy and creative pursuits. It certainly did that for my family.
Even the great British weather couldn’t dampen spirits and it was wonderful to see families of all ages making up for lost time and create lasting memories. I look forward to what 2022 has to offer.
Main images: Colour fight at Just So Festival 2021. Credit: Andrew Allcock
Just So Festival will return for its 12th year from August 19-21, 2022. Early bird tickets go on sale August 27, 2021. For more information or to book tickets, visit the website.