I was very excited to return to Folk by the Oak, as recommended by Festival Kidz this year.
The fantastic line up coupled with the amazing experience we had had last year drew me in. Before I knew it the kids were making signs and counting down the days. We prepared our picnic, put our frankfurters in a flask with hot water (try it – makes brilliant hot dogs), and headed to Hatfield House.
Entry was swift and before we knew it, we were setting up our chairs and picnic blanket. We were surrounded by similar camps, but people would disappear for several hours at the time exploring the site or visiting the second stage.
I really like that about this festival. It has a “locals” feel to it akin to leaving your door unlocked. Everyone is there to have a jolly nice afternoon and instant rapport is struck up between neighbours. This rapport later developed into BFFs as England did something good in the cricket and lots of people stood around with phones getting very excited together.
Many people return each year and you will see lots of children with Folk by the Oak t-shirts demonstrating their veteran status.
Their charity partner Willow, who provide amazing days out for seriously ill young adults, return each year with people roaming the crowd selling raffle tickets. (Top tip – visit their stall to buy tickets to a second raffle that will be drawn on the day).
Between musical acts there are folk dancing demonstrations and the chance to join in yourself. The air is civilised but not stuffy – you don’t need to worry about cups full of questionable liquid being thrown in the air. My children headed down to the front for many artists and were never made to feel like they were disturbing anyone.
The festival has one of the most even aged demographics of any I’ve been to, with three generations coming together to enjoy the day.
The day was beautifully folky, with haunting music coming in turn from the main stage and their second stage.
People set their chairs up at the start of the day and acts were timed so that you could flit between the two and not miss any of the fantastic acts.
For a small festival they certainly pull in some big names, with stars such as Seth Lakeman and Grace Petrie drawing a large crowd for early evening slots.
The early afternoon however was dedicated to “The Lost Words: Spell Songs”, a musical companion to the similarly named book all about the loss of nature related words from the English language.
This piece was commissioned by Folk by the Oak and the queues at the merchandise tent afterwards are a testament to how well it went down with the audience.
The headliner this year was Frank Turner. A bit more punk then many of the days acts, he drew a large crowd to the very front including my family, abandoning our chairs and picnic blanket.
When he instigated a circle pit I wondered whether it was wise to be so near with a four year old on my shoulders, but I needn’t have worried. It was Folk by the Oak!
We sedately skipped round in a circle with everyone looking out for each other. It reminded me a little of the folk dancing we had been encouraged to take part in earlier. Frank Turners set was absolutely fantastic.
We sang, we danced and as the fireworks went off over “I still Believe” my 6 year old daughter hugged me and told me it was the best day ever!
I totally agreed.
The Kids Area
At first glance it looked as if you needed to pay for most things (climbing, archery), but upon closer inspection there was plenty included in the festival ticket price.
Storytelling, woodland crafts, slack lining and of course circus skills kept my munchkins more than amused during breaks between sets.
The children’s area was close enough to the stage to allow them to continue playing throughout. You could easily hear the artists and watch the big screens while your little one hits themselves in the tummy with poi for the hundredth time.
The big hit for us this year was the Celtic Harmony craft area. All free and so much fun.
We made salt dough minibeasts (which we forgot to pick up later), an Odins eye and our boy spent far longer than expected grinding wheat between two stones.
With plentiful portable toilets there was rarely a queue.
When one did form it was fast moving due to people holding the door to signpost free toilets.
There’s a water point next to the toilets which many people used to wash their hands after, but they could really do with having more. I was directed to another one, but a trader had attached a hosepipe to it and so it was unavailable.
There are plenty of food options and decent drinks at the bar. Being such a small festival, and with a high number of picnics brought in, there weren’t long queues for any of these. The parking was well organised and entry to the site was efficient.
Another lovely year from Folk by the Oak. Their launch of The Lost Words: Spell Songs was very popular. There were lines of people keen to meet Robert MacFarlane as well as the musical artists involved in the project. I look forward to finding out what artistic endeavours the festival commissions over the coming year as well as keeping my eye out for next years line up. Tickets are not yet on sale for 2020 but keep an eye on the FestivalKidz website or follow us on social media to find out when early bird tickets are released.