Bluedot Festival is a celebration of intelligence, curiosity and wonder in all its forms.
Scientists are on equal footing with rock stars and there were some beautiful moments where the two come together, such as watching Professor Tim O’Brien, Associate Director at Jodrell bank for Astrophysics interviewing Wayne Coyne, the frontman of psychedelic rock band The Flaming Lips.
At Bluedot the queues to see some of the most famous and inspiring scientists are so long that they need security!
Arriving and Setting Up
You know when you’ve arrived at the festival because the first thing you see is the inspiring and friendly sight of the Jodrell Bank space telescope. The Lovell Telescope is definitely one of the stars of the show.
Sitting right behind the main stage and covered in beautiful light projections, it provides the perfect backdrop that lifts the music into a cosmic experience. Some of the audience spotted the International Space Station flying above the festival on Sunday night whilst watching the Chemical Brothers.
The security staff were friendly and helpful and directed us where to park on the campervan field. The camping plots were generous and in a great location, flat ground and a peaceful respite from the busy festival arena.
While we pitched our tent our friend took the children to watch the Blue Planet Orchestra, where footage of the BBC Blue Planet series is accompanied by a live orchestra. We then met up underneath an inflatable earth sculpture by Luke Jerram (funnily enough we had sat underneath one of his other pieces, the moon, at Timber Festival) before having an early night.
On Friday we wandered into the festival site and the children played on the playground and played music on an electronic glockenspiel hidden in the trees. They were entertained with a sculpture like a giant space fungus; you could make noises into the tubes and the sound would come out elsewhere.
We walked into the arena, where all bags were thoroughly checked, and headed for the Luminarium, a giant inflatable piece of art where you can explore and relax in the pods. After an obligatory festival pancake we sat and watched some music before heading for the science tent.
Bluedot does brilliant science workshops in association with the Henry Royce Institute. The children tried lots of different experiments and gained a sticker for each, which could be exchanged for a prize at the end.
Workshops included a virtual reality experience, working in a decontamination chamber, looking at 3D printers and learning about the properties of materials. My son was delighted with his science themed Top Trumps cards and rechargeable torch.
We went back to the van for a rest and to get some warm clothes for the evening before walking back to the arena. The kids were mesmerised by performances from Public Service Broadcasting and the Flaming Lips. The Flaming Lips put on such an incredible visual display with their confetti cannons, giant inflatable balloons being bounced around by the crowd, huge inflatable pink robots and Wayne Coyne zorbing across the crowd whilst singing Space Oddity by David Bowie.
My son said “I will never forget this memory for as long as I live”.
Unfortunately towards the end of the evening there were a couple of issues with people tripping or falling over the kids despite our efforts to sit in a sheltered spot against a fence.
On Saturday morning the kids asked if they could have a Bluedot tshirt, so we walked to the merchandise stall to find that they had sold out of most of their stock. So my tip is, if you want a tshirt, buy them straight away to avoid disappointment.
We then went and relaxed in the star field, where we watched a show about an astronaut who has a space shed before experiencing more science demonstrations and experiments where the kids got to learn about volcanoes, particle accelerators, and touch part of a meteorite.
There was a lovely lady who had a soft toy which was a space probe and a pod, which she used to show my little boy about how they were used to explore the surface of mars. He was really proud to tell her that he had been learning about Saturn and Cassini.
In the afternoon we listened to Gary Numan whilst relaxing on giant inflatable orange sofas. Camping chairs are not allowed into the arena after Thursday evening, so these sofas were extremely popular and they pack down into a small bag.
In the evening we decided to head for a quieter part of the festival and stayed by the playground whilst watching a world music band called Baloji. Baloji is a Belgian rapper of Congolese origin and there was a lovely atmosphere of parents and children dancing to the tropical beats as the sun set. We ended the evening watching the fire garden.
Sunday was spent going to a Big Fish Little Fish family rave, which had balloons and tattoos for the little ones, and a colouring in area for children to make their own headbands. After, we revisited the science tent and the star field.
I was particularly impressed by the women in science stalls who were there to encourage girls to explore engineering activities. Sunday evening ended on a high when we donned our glow sticks to watch the Chemical Brothers provide a fantastic sound and light show.
As we walked back we could see a lot of people heading out for a late night party in the DJ tents and occasionally were reminded that although Bluedot is a family friendly festival, it isn’t purely set up for children and there is a more hedonistic side late at night.
Food and drink
We were blessed with hot weather and were grateful for the water taps which are freely available to fill up water bottles. Cans of fizzy drinks were £2 each. A pint of beer was £7. There was also a prosecco cart and a gin bar.
There’s a good selection of food stalls. My daughter and I loved the vegan paella which was packed full of vegetables, very filling and good value at £7 per portion.
My son enjoyed a kids hot dog meal with fries and a drink for £5. As well as the more usual food vendors they had some little quirky stalls including a home made cake stall, which was very popular. We had some churros on Saturday night which were £6 for a generous portion.
Accessibility is very good at Bluedot, as the Jodrell Bank site is an established visitors centre throughout the rest of the year. There are several paved areas and an accessible camping field a short distance from the main arena. I saw several wheelchair users around the festival.
Glamping and camping
There are a range of camping options, including Boutique Camping, with their own fenced off area and fancy flushing toilets. Tangerine fields has pre-erected tents, then there’s bell tent camping, quiet camping, family camping areas and a late night party camping area. All of the camping fields are no more than a 10 to 15 minute walk to the main areas. You can buy a wristband to access a shower area. I opted for washing my head under a tap instead.
A Stimulating Festival
Bluedot is an incredible festival experience for children and parents alike. There’s plenty of stimulating talks for adults as well as for children. It is a medium sized festival, so the atmosphere is busier than some of the smaller, child oriented, festivals.
This may not be the best festival for first time festival goers, or families with very young children. However for school aged children there is so much to keep them entertained, while having the opportunity to learn and be exposed to the wonders of science.
Tickets for 2019 are available now! Buy them from the Bluedot website.