This year for our Festival Kidz Awards, we asked you to vote for your favourite festivals, but also also to vote for the often overlooked side of our family friendly festival experience. Those people who entertain and look after our children. The names you look for in the kids’ field festival line up.
But one stalwart of the festival circuit was not eligible to enter. Because last year, a quiet announcement on a crew page marked the end of Angel Gardens, a kids’ area that was a big part of the festival scene for a long time. Although they may continue to attend some events, they have decided they will no longer run the kids’ field at festivals.
So we would like to give the very first Festival Kidz Lifetime Achievement Award to Angel Gardens.
If you saw Angel Gardens on a festival lineup you knew your kids would be happy. Staffed by ‘angels’ all wearing purple shirts with wings, they were instantly recognisable to those of us desperate to entertain our small children. The field was constantly buzzing – full of crafts, performance, fun and games – but also filled with incredibly friendly and kind staff. It was an inclusive safe space for both parents and children.
Particularly the talent show, which allowed children to perform to a small encouraging crowd. All three of my children performed there many times over the years showing various skills – gymnastics, hula hooping, singing and even playing ukulele. My kids were not confident, but the talent show gave them a safe place to shine. There was no judgement there, no expectations, and no competitiveness. I remember fond moments of children receiving huge cheers for getting the punchline of a joke wrong, or for demonstrating the often underestimated skill of armpit fart noises.
Time spent in Angel Gardens was always amazing, and you never knew what might happen there. One incredible Blissfields one of my children learned to DJ and found themselves DJing for Grandmaster Flash then receiving a certificate of achievement from the great man himself!
Angel Gardens were often the main thing my children remembered at a festival.
But Angel Gardens was so much more than a kids’ field. It was a community.
My family had the honour of being part of the crew one year. We worked and lived together at two festivals that year, and I wish we had done more. They are now some of my fondest festival memories.
We worked hard – setting up before the festival, working in shifts and taking it all down again – but we had time to enjoy the festival too. Everyone had tasks to do, including the children, and it was a great experience for them. The children took their ‘work’ seriously. It was not expected of them but they all pitched in, I remember my 7 year old spending a long time decorating a fence until it looked beautiful and taking great pride in it.
We all joined a supportive morning circle before we opened and an evening circle at the end of the day. We held a children’s parade around the festival, dressed up and singing and banging drums. The crew kids all ran around together, in their special mini T-shirts, and the older children looked after the younger ones.
My eldest child wanted to run a crochet workshop, so was given a slot and allowed to paint a sign for it and run it themself. I held workshops in crafts such as ‘wand making’, and pitched in whenever I could, as an entertainer, an assistant dance instructor, lost kids’ officer, whatever was needed.
It was sometimes exhausting, always fun, sometimes hot, sometimes incredibly muddy, but always rewarding.
The people we met there – the performers, the artists, the face painters and craftists, the acrobats and fire twirlers, musicians, dancers, comedians and paint pixies – were some of the best people we have worked, lived and danced with. We sat around the campfire together playing songs, watched each other’s children, and made life-long friendships.
Words from the crew
I asked some of the Angel Gardens (now ex) crew if they could write a few sentences about what made Angel Gardens so special.
What made angel gardens special to me was the sense of community and acceptance.
No matter who or what you are, everyone was made to feel like a member of the family.
I started as a shy teenager outcast with a love of circus (very strange to all my peers) but no matter what festival I was at, when I worked with the angel gardens team I was home. These wonderful people encouraged me to embrace my weirdness and surrounded me with love.
I’m so proud to have had these experiences and I cherish the memories of being part of the angel gardens family.
Angel Gardens was a beautiful space with everything from beatbox workshops to baby support tents and crafts with socks! But it was so much more than all of that and what it brought to every festival. It was a community and a family.
I have the most wonderful memories of working and playing at AG.
I’m not sure Sam and Keith realise how important what they created is and we miss it lots.
I am so thankful to of been part of those wonderful days in sunny fields with AG.
Thank you Sam and Keith for helping me make some of the best memories ever.
From the very first moment I worked with Angel Gardens I knew I had walked into something special, little did I know at that point it would become such a huge important part of my life that has spread over 10 years of mine and my children’s lives. Angel Gardens isn’t just a kids ‘area, it is a family welcoming in new family members at every event, whether it is crew or visitors. Everyone always goes the extra mile because thanks to Sam’s fantastic leadership, everyone understands just how special the experience is for every child that we entertain. By giving every child their own special moment, you will give them a memory they can cherish forever.
For me, Angel Gardens has given myself and my children friends for life and allowed us to help and watch so many children grow and develop, overcome fears, try new experiences, the joy of being able to facilitate that for them is an honour and a privilege I will cherish forever. Thank you Sam.
To Angels Sam and Keith, the family behind Angel Gardens, who created this mini utopia and grew this incredible community, we would like to say a big thank you for all the festivals. We know how much hard work went into this every year, how many problems you worked through, how many people you helped and listened to, how many children you entertained and looked after, gave confidence to and gave an extended family to. Thank you. If anyone deserves an award it is you!
Do you have memories of Angel Gardens? Please comment below.
If you believe that someone deserves a Festival Kidz lifetime achievement award, please do write in to Festival Kidz (firstname.lastname@example.org).