Vibrant and inclusive, Wychwood festival catered to the needs and interests of all family members. It was a friendly community and a weekend filled with laughter, music and excitement. Blessed with sunshine, groups and families gathered to enjoy a weekend of pure joy together. Wychwood was a family hit.
It has been 10 years since Festival Kidz reviewed Wychwood and personally 6 years since my last visit. As my last visit had been with friends I was looking forward to returning with my family. Unfortunately our 3 hour journey turned into 7 hours which meant we arrived late Friday afternoon hot, bothered and tired. It was lovely to be greeted with friendly, smiley stewards many that have helped out for 10-15 years. This speaks volumes about the event and adds to the community feel of the weekend.
A relatively small festival, it’s situated in a compact and accessible space. It has 3 music stages, a healing garden, a huge family/children’s area and a selection of shops and food stalls. There is everything you want from a festival but without the miles of walking you get at larger events.
Location and camping
Wychwood traditionally takes place at Cheltenham Racecourse with the festival campers on the actual racecourse. This year the location of the festival changed slightly, moving to a neighbouring field. I liked the new location which was set in the countryside surrounded by hills and cliffs. It felt much more like a festival but previous visitors might need to consider it is not completely flat like before. Although I saw plenty of buggies, wheelchairs and prams.
Glamping, tents, caravan and campers were situated in slightly different areas but were all a short walk to the festival entrance. There were plenty of toilets at the campsite and festival all clean and stocked with toilet paper and sanitiser. There were hot showers and chemical toilet disposal in the camping area and a baby feeding/changing tent was situated in the family area within the festival field.
The organisers understood the importance of accessibility and provided brilliant facilities for individuals with disabilities. The accessible “mobiloos” which include toilet, full size changing bed, hoist and air conditioning were 1st class.
Within the festival field was a designated viewing platform for wheelchairs which was elevated to give a fantastic view of the main stage. Always manned by Stewards it was great to see it being used by so many people. There was also a sensory calm space for any young person needed respite from the festival open from 10am-8pm.
As we entered the festival grounds we were greeted with colourful flags, decorations and a large dedicated family area. Circus & street theatre, arts & crafts, dance, music, singing, drumming, performances, story telling & poetry, this festival had it all. The workshops and activities were endless and you could literally spend the whole weekend just in the children’s area.
The arts and crafts area like most festivals was hugely popular. Tables were filled with colourful paper, glue, scissors, various materials and children everywhere unleashing their creativity and producing masterpieces. We came away with a pottery heart, beaded bracelets and rings, a batik bag. We just missed out on making some enamel jewellery (we were busy learning to belly dance).
Most activities and workshops were free which was brilliant. A few charged a small additional fee.
Libby is a keen dancer so she tried out lots of different dance workshops. They were fully inclusive to all ages and abilities and her favourites were street, African and belly dancing. All dance, music and theatre workshops were family friendly. We loved the music workshops learning to play an array of different instruments including the harp, harmonica and ukulele.
My daughter who is 14 was more than happy to get involved with numerous crafts, workshops, board games, literacy talks etc. What she did miss was not having a teen tent where she could meet children her own age. This is a minor point and she had an amazing time so if you have small children the family area is incredible.
Food and Drink
There was a wide range of culinary delights from around the world catering for all tastes and dietary preferences. Food trucks and stalls offered delicious brownies, vegan burgers, Indian, pizza, Mexican and crepes ensuring all the family had something scrumptious to eat. Prices ranged from £3 for fries to £13 for a meal. Our family favourite was The crab shack. They offered offered great value and taste, £7 for scampi and fries, £3 sweet potato fries, and £5 for whitebait.
The food choices were great but a nice thing about Wychwood is you can bring in your own food and snacks. This is helpful when you have fussy eaters or helping to keep costs down.
There were 3 bars on site selling draught real ales, larger, cider and a variety of other alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks. You paid a £2 deposit for a reusable cup that you used throughout the weekend. These could either be returned to the bar at the end of the festival or kept for future events.
For a relatively small festival Wychwood always features some well known headliners combined with a variety of rock, folk, indie, pop and world music. The music was definitely aimed at families with choices like Happy Mondays, The proclaimers, Ash, Mel C, Travis and Sam Ryder. Perfect for 30-50 year olds with families like myself but not so appealing to large groups of older teenagers which made the evenings chilled, safe and calm. I have to say that Sam Ryder performing his 1st headline slot was a real hit with all ages and what a performer and entertainer he was. Some of my favourites were Travis, Electric Swing Circus and Old Dirty Brasstards.
Each evening after the live music finished there was a headphone disco from 10.30pm-2.30am.
Next to the main stage was the VIP area which consisted of 3 tipis and contained some seating and a bar. It was incredibly hot over the weekend and the tipis was a great area for families with small children/babies to keep them out of the sun. Equally if it had been pouring down with rain it would have been a great shelter where you could have watched the main stage. The best thing about VIP areas for me is having flushing toilets, running water to wash your hands and not having to queue for the toilet or bar. Is it worth the extra cost? It is a personal choice and down to the individual but it’s there and a nice option.
Wychwood was an effortless festival as it was compact, easy to get around, friendly and safe. It contained all the elements of larger festivals but on a smaller scale. A perfect weekend family festival or for those living close by a day festival. There was so much to keep children entertained and you really could just sit back and relax while watching your children enjoy themselves.
To get the best value I would recommend buying early bird tickets and taking your own food in. We’re hoping to return with friends and family to spend quality time together in a fun and safe place.