Croissant Neuf Summer Party 2011 Review

2011 Croissant Neuf Summer Party Weather: Cloudy most of the time, one or two light drizzles.

Review by: Nonny Kinchin-Smith (with 2 kids: aged 5 and 4)

Getting to the festival and setting up camp:

The festival is situated in a beautiful wooded valley in south wales, accessed by very narrow country roads. Stewards were at junctions in the approach to the site to ensure that no vehicles tried to drive the wrong way (limited passing places). Once on site we queued for 15 minutes in the car before being able to go to the ticket office to get our wrist bands. So, in less that 30 minutes we were already parked and unpacking our gear.

The site is well-manned by stewards, they’re everywhere. They are all volunteers who work a couple of shifts for a free ticket. Without exception they were all very friendly, great with the kids, and amazingly helpful.

The festival is small – one field for crew/performers camping, another for live-in vehicles & caravans, another for general punters with tents. These three fields surround the one main festival field. On arrival, we were immediately approached by Rob, a handsome hippy of a steward, who offered to help wheelbarrow our things to the camping field. He even went back for a second trip with my husband to unload the car. Last year there was a lady with a pony & cart, raising money for Riding For The Disabled, who was taking donations in exchange for taking your things to the campsite.

The main camping field is on a slight slope so it pays to arrive early and get a tent space on the flat. The place is stunning – surrounded by beautiful woodland with (rather cute) wild boar, and an Iron Age hill fort where many activities take place. Our tent was soon surrounded but not overwhelmingly so. We immediately made friends with the kids in neighbouring tents and shared equipment and food!

Entertainment – Line up and Kids Activities:

Croissant Neuf used to run the main big-top at the Big Green Gathering and still provide the solar-powered stage in Glastonbury‘s Green Fields, so they are well practiced at putting on good shows.

For such a small festival the line-up and programme of activities was fantastic. For myself, I did yoga 9-10.30am every day (leaving hubbie to entertain the kids and do their breakfast) which was magical. I did two 2hr harmony singing workshops, which culminated in us doing a performance of a gospel song on the Sunday morning to the whole site. I also had a Reiki healing session (the only one that cost anything, but was worth it).

My husband used to be a carpenter and spent a long while hanging out with the didgeredoo guys and the old hippies making their woodwork stuff. He also caught more of the night-time bands and loved it.

The children were absolutely in their element. The festival is like one big circus and each day there is a constant stream of juggling, clowns, trapeze shows, talent shows. On the Friday they made beautiful paper lanterns, on Saturday they made Rubbish Robots, on Sunday they took part in the talent show (Ella showed off her newly-acquired plate-spinning skills and Dylan did ribbon-spinning in front of the crowd). There is a vintage merry-go-round, a lovely Toddlers Zone and Jan’s Bus which kids paint and decorate as the weekend goes by.  There is also face-painting and hair-braiding. We also all took part in the MayPole on Sunday and danced and weaved our way around a 40 foot Pole (with a rotary clothes drier at the top, lol).

For slightly older children they can do sporting things, like 5-a-side footie and the Croissant Neuf Summer Olympics. But there were plenty of teenagers learning trapeze and juggling skills every day.

My two are young but this festival is unique in its size and the way that you really can let your kids do their own thing. By the end of day 1 they were happy to go off and play with other children, or go back to the tent by themselves to grab a snack, or just check out the clown show, without needing us with them. This is not their usual behaviour, they can be as clingy and whingey as the next kid! But they grew in confidence as the festival went on. it was a great lesson in independence for them.

I missed some of the evening bands as my two wouldn’t have wanted to stay up late to watch The Beat, but on the Sat night there was an amazing outdoor circus show, on Sunday night was a lantern procession from the field up into the hill fort, followed by a night-time fire juggling show, the kids were gobsmacked at this and wanted to fire-eat when they got home. Bless.

Dressing up is a real theme of the festival and everyone is encouraged to wear dashing outfits! The Saturday night had a Wild West Hoedown theme (I dressed as a saloon girl whilst hubbie was a Clint Eastwood lookalike); Sunday has the vintage Tea Dance, with tea served in bone china teapots and the most lovely cupcakes ever. The Sunday Service (not remotely religious) is partly led by Sister Steve, a cross-dressing nun 🙂

So go to Croissant Neuf prepared to join in and dress up in your finery!

What would you change / improve (if anything)?

The food stalls were fantastic – mostly organic, all freshly made and almost all locally sourced. Reasonably priced too. But there was only one opportunity to buy fresh milk – the milkman arrived on site on the Sat morning and had plenty for everyone to buy, but there were no other ways to buy other essentials, like bread (although on the Sunday I did buy bread and milk from one of the cafes, which they were happy to sell me).

Any other comments and your Top Tip:

This the greenest festival I know of and the fact that the entire five days is powered by the sun, is a real selling point for me. However, bear in mind that you will need torches and lanterns as the site can be dark (depending on how much sun there’s been that day to charge up the panels).

Also take enough toilet rolls, and food to at least cover your breakfasts & lunches so that you can buy festival food for tea (for example, a plate of organic pasta with tomato & basil sauce and organic cheese is £4)

Site and Facilities:

There are about five sets of portable loos, about 8 in each block, which is really good for a festival of 2000 people. They were cleaned by the big poo-sucking truck between 8-10am each day and the toilet roll was topped up during the day. I was very impressed by this! As the entire festival is solar-powered, lighting around the loos and the campsites is limited. But all those attending fully apreciate that this is the case when you don’t have huge generators powering the site – I would much rather poorly lit loos than diesel-fuelled generators everywhere.

There are water taps next to each row of portable loos, giving out the most lovely, unchlorinated, Welsh spring water. Take empty bottles and fill them up when you get there, it’s much nicer than bottled water from tesco’s!

Last year there were solar-heated showers but the weather wasn’t bright enough to heat up the water, so this year they had a small block of showers in a portacabin. You bought a ticket for a couple of quid and booked the time you wanted to use the shower. But actually neither I nor anyone I came across, used them. You simply say farewell to cleanliness and happily accept five days of crustiness 🙂

Getting around the site is dead easy as it’s small. There is a pretty pathway from the main field going up through the trees to the hill fort, passing the Healing Area on the way. Stewards man the Information Tent for 12 hours a day and St John’s man the First Aid tent 24 hrs a day.

Phone coverage is fine (surprisingly – you’d think it would be poor in the middle of nowhere). There is a solar-powered internet cafe and a tent with solar-powered mobile phone chargers. I didnt use either of these so don’t know what they cost.

I loved the variety of stalls – there were vintage clothes, the Kill Or Cure teashop and apothecary, beautiful jewellery, and lots of places selling hand-crafted things.

The weather was great – a bit cloudy most of the time, one or two light drizzles, but perfect weather for being out’n’about with the kids (too hot & sunny isn’t good!). The Croissant Neuf site has lots of indoor spaces – in fact none of the music/activity/performance venues are outdoors, they’re all in ‘big top’ marquees. The walkways in and out of fields were all covered in plastic paths so that, had it been muddy, people and vehicles would still be able to pass easily.  And all the eateries were under cover.

Did you feel safe?

At no point during the five days did I have any concerns whatsoever about the safety of myself or my family. In every respect, the way that the event was organised ensured that children were safe and could not leave the site even if they wanted to! There are smiling stewards at every entrance/exit, and I ensured that the kids always knew where to go in case they lost us. All kids wear wrist bands with parents’ mobile phone numbers on. I heard of absolutely no crime or trouble.

I love Croissant Neuf because it is not a boozey event – there is a great bar in a barn, The Stagger Inn, but I didn’t see any drunkeness whilst me or the kids were up.

There are people of all ages – the organisers, Andy & Sally and their extended family, come from a true hippy travelling background and were part of the Peace Convoy in the ’80s. Because of this, they have the most lovely chilled-out friends, many of whom are older with a wonderful view of life. But there are lots of younger people, many of whom are children of the above, and bring real flair and dynamism to the event. So there is such a cross-section of people who attend,all of whom were smiley and friendly.

I am not surprised that Croissant Neuf wins so many awards for being so green and family-friendly. It deserves all the accolades it gets!

Would you go again?




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