Out of this world!
It’s some time since we’ve discovered a new festival all the family enjoyed equally. The relatively new but already large-scale bluedot ticked all the boxes as a super well organised family festival and something a little different to the norm.
The location couldn’t be more perfect. The UNESCO World Heritage Jodrell Bank is one of the world’s leading radio astronomy observatories. Still in operation, the site includes several radio telescopes and has had a substantial scientific impact in many fields like the study of meteors and the moon, the discovery of quasars, quantum optics, and the tracking of spacecraft.
It was some way for us to travel to bluedot so we opted to arrive early on Thursday (extra ticket required) which was really worth it for our close proximity and to explore the site before the crowds arrived.
We were in the live-in vehicle field which was well equipped and a 5-10 minute walk from the festival entrance. Pitches were clearly directed and allocated on arrival with plenty of helpful staff to settle us in. We found large numbers of both helpful volunteers and security across the site all weekend. If anything, the number of security guards on site felt somewhat over the top for such a respectful festival crowd.
The camping fields were also spacious and well organised for families and other campers and the glamping options ranged from vintage tents, hobbit houses, airstream trailers and beautiful hanging bell tents with a backdrop of mature trees and a short stroll to the Jodrell Bank arboretum begun by an astronomer who also loved trees. We found science and nature effortlessly combined across the festival weekend.
Music & Entertainment
Entertainment was spread across several large stages and a couple of more intimate smaller venues. Apart from the open main stage which offered the stunning backdrop of the Lovell Telescope and some spectacular visual projections the other larger venues (Nebula, Orbit and Mission Control) were inside big tops which was a blessing as we had a fair bit of rain over the weekend.
Favourite venue for us was the Deep Space Disco and before we go on we want to thank SK Shlomo for their beautiful and heartfelt performances making music inclusive (especially beatboxing for kids) and then taking back to the 90’s with a rave through the ages. Keep it real – we love you! We also caught Big Fish Little Fish family rave and a special appearance from The Clangers.
Music highlights were Poridj and their awesome live dance music, Squarepusher, and of course, Groove Armada. Wow!
A big reason for us visiting bluedot was Sunday’s headliner Bjork performing with the Halle Orchestra. Although I caught the full set the kids gave up as it was so busy and pretty difficult to even catch a glimpse or get anywhere near close enough to hear the full impact of such an epic show.
Mission Control, Star Pavillion. Space Pavillion, The Big Bang Stage and The Power Plant hosted talks, workshops, live debates and everything else over the weekend including live stream astronauts.
Food & Drink
Guests were spoilt for choice at bluedot. I think it’s hard to think of something that was missing from the many, many food options. Regular festival prices meant as a family of 4 you didn’t get much change from £50 for a meal. As a family on a budget we generally ate out once a day and fed the kids back at camp for the rest of our meals. You were allowed to take soft drinks and snacks into the festival from the campsite (no alcohol) so it was possible to keep costs down. Take a cup if you use the bar as the £2 cup levy isn’t returnable which is a shame as we saw lots of the cups in the general mixed waste. Hopefully they were rescued after the festival and reused as the environment and circular economy is something lots of the non-music activities mention at bluedot. Pint £6.60. Icecream £4. Chips £4. Average meal £10.
Kingdom of Sweets – avoid at all costs unless you are happy for the kids to spend £30 on your visa. This was nothing more than a rip-off and as the festival was cashless you may end up surprised a £14 giant gobstopper is even a thing. This was the only negative we had about the whole festival. Parents beware!
Of course, a huge part of bluedot was the hundreds of science activities. You’d be forgiven for feeling rather stupid after a few hours of exploring the many stands from brilliant organisations around the festival. Kids definitely needed to be the right age to absorb the education side of things but even the youngest visitors could have their minds triggered by simple fun activities using lego, sand, water, mud and many other tactical materials.
We felt even more stupid as the kids absorbed far more information than us and were inspired to have their own debates later in the day about things they’d picked up. Thanks to all the fab volunteers, students and academics involved. Not going to spoil things by mentioning too much here. Go check it out for yourself. We even got the see the sun erupt!
Sustainability & Shampoo
A big hit for our kids was the brand activation from Lush. As someone who isn’t really a fan of sponsorship at family festivals, I felt this was done really well. The Power Plant Stage hosted inspiring talks and performances from highly respected individuals like Satish Kumar on subjects including everything from sustainability, regeneration, communication and humanity.
Along side the stage was the Lush Shampoo bar where you could relax with a head massage and hair wash with some of their products and then spend as long as you liked styling your fit for the day. £12 included a shampoo bar and storage tin to take home and hopefully some inspiration for these young minds to think about what they use. They spent long enough there!
Heaps of charities were onsite to talk about their work from animal welfare, environment, education and beyond. Some really important lessons for young minds in thinking about their individual impact on the world and universe around them.
Toilets are always important for families and a big reason many people choose not to camp at festivals. Even though there was a fair bit of rain over the weekend the facilities were kept pretty spotless. We checked out the VIP area facilities which were slightly more upmarket toilet blocks but across the site we never waited more than 2 or 3 minutes and always found them clean and well serviced proving it is possible for events of this size.
The whole site is really flat so easily managed with buggies and wheelchairs. As an all year round visitors centre the grounds are well equipped too. Even with rain the organisers kept on top of a few potentially muddy spots making us kind of forget we were visiting the only spot in the UK not to be bathed in sunshine that weekend. No such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes and bad preparation.
The main stage was huge but there was an easily accessible platform for those that needed it to view the performances and dedicated toilets too.
What the kids thought
Almost forgot to mention the highlight for the kids was eventually making it into the illuminarium. A beautiful experience not to be missed. We rather stupidly left it until the last day when the wait seemed to be its longest but it was worth it and a highlight for both kids who kept themselves busy in the queue with The Japanese art of making mud balls (or mini planets) from layers of compacted earth – strangely addictive the whole family ended up doing it! They also loved the full-size giant arcade games with human Pacman a big fav.
We’d recommend bluedot for families with slightly older kids. Little ones will still love it and you are never too young to start inspiring the next generation but with conversations about astrophysics and ever-expanding galaxies well into the evening, you just might blow their tiny minds!
2023 tickets are on sale NOW – visit discoverthebluedot.com for more info and to book