Beautiful Days is without a doubt a top contender for best weekend of the year. This goes not just for my family, but for thousands of its loyal patrons.
Every year the Levellers host an amazing festival that I think is impossible to out do, and yet it continues to improve. We have been to six Beautiful Days now as it is so brilliant for families. Indeed it is good for every age group, and I would have just as good an experience (although different) with or without children.
The traffic management was brilliant on arrival at Beautiful Days and as a result, we sailed straight in. We stay in the accessible campsite (as my son has spina bifida). For the rest of the campers, there was a short walk of 5-20 minutes from the car parks.
There was a dedicated quiet family campsite, while the arena camping was good for anyone wanting to party a bit later. New for 2019 was the caravan field, alongside the established campervan field. Glamping options included bell tents, tipis and lockable yurts in The Garden, provided by Cloudhouses.
Children at Beautiful Days
Beautiful Days is just right for families like mine. Mum and Dad enjoyed the festival scene a couple of decades ago, and now also get to introduce their children to that world. All the children’s entertainment at Beautiful Days is expertly coordinated by Majical Youth. For 2019 they somehow managed to surpass the unsurpassable and provided the best children’s areas yet.
As a result of an increasing desire to reduce unnecessary waste, Majical Youth has moved over to real crafts. Instead of just cutting and gluing, Beautiful Days children have a gorgeous range of skills to learn.
This year the workshops in the kids area included leather working, beading, copper working, making glass pictures and mosaics, sewing and even screen printing. There was even a traditional foods stall in which children could make their own marzipan mice.
Less crafty children could study the arts of stand up comedy, ukulele playing, DJing and of course circus skills. Some children were busy making bottle rockets. I loved watching innocent bystanders trying to work out what had just landed on them.
One of the most noteworthy changes this year was the loss of the Bandstand. Because Beautiful Days couldn’t showcase less music, this was replaced by an extra stage in one of the main bars. As a result of this change, the theatre tent was relocated and enlarged.
This made space for an expanded crafts area at in the Redwoods camping field. There were demonstrations and workshops of crafts and skills such as lathing and other woodwork, as well as the working of willow, metal and leather. One tent offered free workshops for making mosaics, dream catchers, willow making and ink printing, and much more.
These had begun as adult workshops, but quickly evolved to encompass all ages as long as children were accompanied. It was a beautiful space encouraging fabulous levels of creativity.
New parents, babies and toddlers were well taken care of by the Blissed Out Babies Team. They offered a comfy and relaxed feeding area and plenty of fun for children. This was divided into stage appropriate activities. It was such a great place for young families to hang out. (Photos provided by the Blissed Out Babies group.)
New for Beautiful Days 2019 was the addition of the Inbetweeners tent. Majical Youth’s Izzy was indeed the perfect host for this area. What I loved was how fluid it was. They had started with a No Grown Ups rule, but then relaxed this as many children were uneasy about taking that step.
My son (Deian) loved the idea of this but was neither confident nor keen on any of the craft workshops. He had got into the mindset of simply saying, “No,” to all of Izzy’s suggestions. In the end, she introduced him to her colleague that was teaching DJing. They spent a while chatting together, and Deian booked himself in for a session the next day.
He loved it so much that he ended up doing four or five DJ workshop sessions over the weekend. When the DJ passed us on the way to find a spot for the Levellers on Sunday evening, he greeted Deian with a casual “DJ Deian,” and a fist pump – all very cool!
The Mayflower Project returned once more to provide teenagers with their own parent free space. Here teens could chill out and enjoy hair braiding, using henna on one another, board games, pool and much more. Everything in these tents was completely free – even the airbrush tattoos.
They really look after of each child in their care, making sure that there is something for everyone to do, unless they’d rather do nothing. Likewise, a child will not be left on their own unless they want to be. Mayflower have so much experience from offering their services at many of the best festivals for several years.
Fiery Jack’s Medieval Village
Fiery Jack is awesome! As a juggling jester and one of the best stilt walkers, he is an excellent entertainer in his own right. With his natural cheer and charm he is also a great front for his wonderful village, home to an extensive and beautiful emporium of original and handcrafted games of the past.
Over the weekend we lost hours playing snakes and ladders, tiddly winks, various versions of skittles, bar billiards, toad, quoits and so many more wonderful games. This year he had expanded his village with the addition of Beth’s Beadery and her beading workshop.
The Copper Wizard was also part of Jack’s entourage. Fiery Jack’s village is perfect for this or indeed any festival and a wonderful contrast to the hustle and bustle of the bars and stages.
The main theatre, larger in its new location included loads of shows for the whole family. Mr Bloom and his band were undoubtedly a highlight on the Friday. The tent is opened every day by Entertainingly Different with their wake up show, Rise and Shine. This is something of a tradition for many festival attendees at Beautiful Days.
We were lucky and organised enough to catch Kid Carpet’s very funny Super Mega Rockin’ Rock Show, which was indeed excellent. He had an animal band, which of course included a gorilla on drums! I loved the Shooting Stars effects – Kid Carpet launching handfuls of orange Ping-Pong balls into the audience.
One of my favourite aspects of the main Theatre Tent is the organisation. It’s unusual to have to queue for a seated show at a festival, and then be expected to stay until the end. Nevertheless, this works so well and adds to the whole theatre experience. It also means there are less distractions from the show on stage.
Majical Youth also provided two theatre tents in the childrens’ area. As these were targeted at the youngest audience, children were of course free to come and go as they pleased. Fiery Jack (see above) is a spectacular compere, as he is so engaging. Shows included comedy, clowning, dancing, a samba orchestra and more.
The unscheduled performances around the festival arena are certainly a feature that somehow improves year after year, despite always being astonishing. A popular favourite this year was the return of Close-Act Theatre. Their red Sauruses, STX drummers and Actred fan dancers were simply mesmerizing.
These were of course alongside Beautiful Days regulars such as Fluppets, including (possibly for the first time) Fluppets on stilts. I’m sorry that I didn’t spot any Glow Men but I know they were there.
As well as all these delights there were random fabulous oddities like Hump Free the Beautiful Days camel, giving rides to under 5s. We saw some trees (Treeants, Ents or Groot maybe) walking around on the Sunday, which I assume were part of the festival rather than particularly elaborate fancy dress costumes.
There was a wonderful festival moment when I think Chris (or maybe Roger) from Less Than Jake spotted a tree in the crowd. He then conducted a fancy dress circle pit (“Only those in costume!”) around the tree. We saw it from a distance and it was indeed beautiful to behold.
Alan Bruford once again travelled the short distance with his team from Wildwood Escot to their spot at the top of the hill. For these activities there was a nominal fee to cover materials, but the level of tuition is outstanding.
Children were taught skills including whittling, bread kneading, metal working, fire lighting, tile decorating, and also 2019, potion making. The setting is gorgeous up by the trees, and it is always extremely popular.
This is the stall we will always return to. My son who ‘hates art’ thoroughly enjoys creating his own unique designs in the Bandana Workshop. The bandana lady looks after everyone so well, and never forgets a design.
This year, my son selected shapes to create a transport theme. Meanwhile my daughter abandoned the use of tools, and spread the colours with her fingers, with the end result being a gorgeous rainbow with colours fading into each other.
The triangular bandanas were free to decorate, but we prefer the square ones, which are just £4. I loved bumping into the bandana lady near the stage for Skunk Anansie, and it was great having a bounce with her!
Trick Swap never fail to put on a magnificent display in their circus of fire. Every night at around 9pm they opened their show with fire performances from children who had been practising with them in the day. I love that they provide a safe environment for children to have a go at something so amazing.
My daughter was content just to watch this year, but relished the fact that before her, no child had ever attempted the fire hoop. She did it with them four years ago, and it is something we will never forget. The children doing the fire tricks this year were incredible.
Football – Kids vs Levellers
This hotly anticipated annual sporting event once again descended into glorious chaos, but so much fun was had by all involved!
There are just the right amount of rides at Beautiful Days, costing less than at most festivals at £1.50 – £2.00 per person. My son loved the ferris wheel and the banana boats.
Fancy Dress Parade
In previous years the fancy dress costume competition has always been just at the Bandstand. With no bandstand this year, the obvious option was for everyone in costume to join a ginormous parade around all of the kids’ area, even through Dirty Davey’s Bar! The 2019 theme was Fairy Tales, and the number of people that put so much thought and effort into their outfits was quite overwhelming.
The majority were beautiful recreations of Disney characters, along with traditional tales such as The Three Little Pigs. Another group came dressed as giant Fairy Liquid bottles with an important message about single use plastics not being part of a happy ever after.
My personal favourite however, was the family who all came as characters from Alice In Wonderland. The Levellers’ Mark Chadwick somehow made time to come and judge the contest. They were all winners though!
I would be hard pushed to think of a better band to host a festival than the Levellers, as they’ve played at most of them! At every Beautiful Days, they open with an acoustic set in the Big Top, and close it on the main stage with fireworks.
This year, for their Sunday show, they played the set with which they headlined Glastonbury, 25 years ago. I wonder how many of the 17,500 people at Beautiful Days this year were part of the 300,000 who had danced to that set in 1994. I expect quite a few relished the chance to remember it and tell selected Glastonbury stories to their children!
Best of the Rest
The family feel of Beautiful Days is aided by the array of acts that return year after year as the staples of the festival. This year I finally managed to watch The Bar-steward Sons of Val Doonican’s Sunday Service. They stay in their costume of high visibility woollies for the whole weekend. We loved playing Spot The Doonican! The show was great, and featured parodies of many songs, my favourite being their take on Travis’s Sing.
Les Fruitbat Carter seemed to be everywhere, performing with The Leylines, and of course Ferocious Dog (who were outstanding). Nick Parker, who had graduated to the main stage this year, also introduced Fruitbat before performing a cover of Carter USM’s Only Living Boy In New Cross. Wow! I actually thought it sounded better than the original. It was quite a magical moment for my husband (a diehard Carter fan), who happened to be walking past the stage to meet me, when this happened.
There were so many other highlights. Black Water County, who performed on the much smaller Bimble stage last year, played to a packed out Big Top. They were just brilliant. Less Than Jake worked really hard to win the crowd over, and were absolutely fantastic – so much fun!
Don’t Worry About A Thing
One very touching moment happened when the Hothouse Flowers came on stage. We could hear Ziggy Marley on the main stage singing his Dad’s Three Little Birds. The crowd in the Big Top were singing along. Liam (Hothouse Flowers vocalist) joined in, followed by the rest of the band. It was quite beautiful to witness the crowd starting the set, we felt a wonderful sense of unity as it felt like the whole festival was singing together.
Skunk Anansie (My favourites so they get their own heading!)
For me (and many others) one of the very best performances that I saw that weekend (or maybe any weekend) was from Skunk Anansie. The whole band were amazing, but Skin completely stole the show. She was mesmerizing from start to finish and had the audience completely hooked.
Normally she will get the crowd to crouch down in the build up to the chorus of Little Baby Swastika, but she let us off as it was so muddy. I think we all would have though! Skin crowd surfed for I Can Dream, and got down to dance in the audience later on. They even covered AC⚡DC’s Highway to Hell.
With their political stance, they fitted in perfectly with the whole ethos of the festival. I was surprised that it was their first time at the Beautiful Days, but I suppose they can’t keep bringing the same headliners in every year, and Skunk Anansie would be a tough act to follow onto the stage.
Beautiful Days thoughtfully published a list of all their caterers before the festival. This was very helpful for anyone who may have needed to plan their meals ahead for any number of reasons.
My son always loves mixing his smoothie by pedal power at the Bloomberry Juice stall. We purchased a lot of our meals at Fresh Organic, as I loved their burgers and breakfasts and my son says they do the best chips!
Flat Cow (not on the list) and Whole Hog were frequented by the meat eaters. My son loved spinning the wheel at Whole Hog. For a pound there was a chance to win range of prizes from a compliment to a half price burger.
I loved the vegetarian curry place next to Whole Hog that did the most delicious masala dosas. Café Magritte was very popular for pizzas. I loved that they had fresh herbs growing in pots that we could help ourselves to.
Accessible Camping is lovely at Beautiful Days. The pitches were marked out, but applications for extra space were considered individually. The team in charge of the campsite were really helpful so we were well taken care of. Electrical hook-up was available, and furthermore there were charging points inside the stewards’ marquee.
There were accessible toilets and an accessible shower alongside the standard ones in the campsite. Similarly, there were also accessible toilets across the whole of the festival.
Both of the main stages had viewing platforms which were stewarded at all times, and only available to those that needed it and their carers. Viewing Platform wristbands were available in the accessible campsite and at the information tent.
This year Beautiful Days had instructed all of its stall holders not to sell single use plastic bottles. Water was sold in cans. They had also introduced a reusable souvenir cup which cost £1 at all bars. Draught drinks were only sold in reusable cups. As well as this, there were recycling stations across the whole site.
There were plenty of chemical toilets around the arena and in the campsites provided and also kept clean and well stocked by Andy Loos. We noted that the urinals were enclosed by the chemical toilets. This consequently made them a lot more discreet which was better for everybody!
This is always manned by the same two guys. As a result, they know the festival very well having always been part of it. My son loves them as they always keep on top of the football scores and chat to him about football, the festival and life in general. We always feel very well looked after. Thanks Garth – we’ll see you next year!
Once again, a truly great weekend of family fun. Above all, it was wonderful to see different generations coming together to enjoy music and laughter, relaxing and partying. It was certainly a wonderful way to escape real life while uniting with a like minded community. We’re already excited about next year’s festival!