I’ve wanted to go to Green Man for a long time now, and I’m so happy we finally made it there. Set in a lush green Welsh valley, the site could not be more beautiful and acoustics could not be better. The main stage, called the Mountain Stage, has been designed for sound and scenery and is an impressive achievement.
Family Camping and Parking
We missed getting a Blue Car Park pass, so we ended up right at the end of Orange Car Parking. This was quite a long and hilly walk to family camping and we really regretted not getting the Blue pass – it is definitely worth snapping these up as soon as possible.
We also found that getting there on Thursday the camping was already quite full. However there was easily enough room for everyone – you just needed to walk further!
We got a spot slightly up a hill which gave us a beautiful view of the campsite, and we could also hear the main stage from our tent. This meant that even though I spent Saturday night babysitting I spent it listening the beautiful songs of Laura Marling drifting across the Welsh hills.
Green Man does an extra “Settlers Pass” ticket, which I think is well worth it if you are happy to spend a bit more. It allows you to stay for the week from Monday.
Although there are only a few activities going on, it’s such a beautiful place that you could easily spend the time sightseeing the local area. Also you automatically get Blue car parking next to Family Camping, which I think is a great deal.
Site and Stages
The site is incredibly beautiful, set in landscaped gardens full of trees and flowers. A manmade stream flowed down thought a series of tiny waterfalls to a small pond – the ‘stream’ had been set into the ground and was exactly the right height for wading and exploring in wellies.
So much thought has gone into the layout of the site that it’s difficult to do it justice in a review. Just to say that we go to many festivals every year so it is less common for me to be this impressed!
Our favourite part of the site was the area around the Green Man Rising stage for new acts. This had trees providing shelter from both rain and sun, and while the children splashed about in the water we could climb a small hill to watch the main stage while keeping an eye on the kids.
The Green Man Rising stage itself had some very good quality new music playing. It was a great place to see some music where it was not so busy.
The walled garden stage was lovely during the day but very busy in the evenings, so we tended to steer clear. The main stage also got very busy when popular acts were on, although as there were several levels to watch it from you could always get a good view of the stage – even for the headliners – which was very special.
There were a couple of busy thoroughfares that could be hard to navigate (especially with a trolley) when there were a lot of people. One entrance to the walled garden is a narrow gate and became a bit too busy with our small children. It would be fine if you had older children or a smaller family than us!
I don’t know many festivals that could have coped under this quantity of rain. The rain fell almost constantly throughout the weekend with just a few glorious patches of sunshine.
At one point on Saturday afternoon we even reached a delicate balance when as soon as it got too hot it would rain and when it got too cold the sun would emerge – an odd experience but very interesting! We were also treated with the most incredible displays of rainbows over the weekend.
The festival dealt admirably with this weather. The ground quickly absorbed the rain which kept the mud away until Saturday evening. By that time the organisers had covered the worst of the mud in hay.
It helps that the main routes across the site are proper tarmac, or artificial, roads. Even with a buggy you can easily get from one side of the festival to the other. As a test of a festival this weekend showed that Green Man is rainproof! It won’t stop your kids getting muddy though as whatever the weather they will be covered in mud from playing in the pond!
The whole festival is like one giant kids field but they have a huge field dedicated to kids behind the main stage! It’s full of activities, stages and workshops.
The most popular stage was the Flying Seagulls – a wonderful troop of funny circus performers who did a variety of different shows delighting the children. Getting a line of children up one at a time to tell jokes was absolutely hilarious.
There was also a whole stage for babies and ANOTHER one for toddlers! My 6 year olds enjoyed the toddler tent because it was full of fun things like play dough and toys.
We ended up watching Rocktopus – a very funny children’s band which the adults all loved too. Their song “Mummy can I have an ice cream” which is essentially the same line followed by “No”, getting increasingly more agitated, struck a particular nerve with the parents.
As well as all that, the Woodland Tribe occupied one end of the field. With a zip line, campfire cooking and an opportunity to build things with wood.
My 9 year old disappeared for a couple of hours to build stuff with hammers, nails and saws, all provided. There was even archery – for free – we have had to pay for this at all the other festivals.
Everything in the kids’ area was free, making it a fantastic place to spend the day. The only problem with the kids area was the lack of food and drink options. Although you could grab a coffee you had to leave the field to get lunch!
I have never seen anything like Einstein’s garden at a festival before – an entire area devoted to making science fun for children. The quality of activities here is wonderful, so many interactive experiments for children to try that if you have older children you are guaranteed you will learn something.
My eldest loves electronics. She had an opportunity to put electric circuits together, play with sound equipment, and experiment with sound waves. Many of the stalls are manned by students from universities, which is fantastic if you’re trying to get your children more interested in science.
My daughter discussed with one student about why sound made different shapes when you put sand on metal pieces and play them with a violin bow. I spent some time talking to a group of students from UCL who are doing research into hydrogen fuel cells, which was fascinating.
We tried foraged food at the edible forest, and you could visit the inside of a brain cell. The number of different activities on offer was just staggering, and we didn’t manage them all. There was even a butterfly house! I think this part of the festival alone is worth visiting for, especially if you have slightly older children like mine who need a bit more to entertain them.
Activities for Older Children
Again it’s rare in a festival for there to be so much on offer for older children. When talking about planning my own festival recently, I actually suggested a separate campfire for teenagers to give them a place to hang out. Well Green Man has beaten me to it and already done this!
Around the campfire was designated alcohol free, making a lovely safe space for them. They also had a couple of tents with activities such as DJing and film making.
Interactive and Roving performances
Green Man excelled in these special festival performances – roving street theatre and crazy interactive and funny shows.
We loved The Lift – containing lift attendants who picked people out of the audience to star in film recreations. The twins were chosen to be man eating sharks in a James Bond sketch. They were given toy sharks and had to run in and attack, they had great fun!
An entire section in the trees was taken over by an interactive ‘detective’ experience. You find out something has happened and need to find clues to work out what it was.
This involved looking through people’s tents full of belongings – old photos and diaries, with pieces of their luggage – the attention to detail was wonderful. My daughter loves anything to do with spies, clues and detection. She went running around through the trees excitedly looking for clues.
Our favourite however was Le Flea du Cirque by Tin Shed Theatre Co – which was in a tiny circus tent and was one of the funniest things I have ever seen.
They do bad versions of circus acts, which go so badly wrong and are so hilarious I nearly fell off the bench from laughing. I just had to bring the children to see it the following day.
The music at Green Man was exceptional. I don’t have time to keep up with much new music these days but they had so much variety that I loved everything I saw.
Also because of the design of the main stage, we managed to keep the children up late enough to see Belle and Sebastian (one of my favourite bands) even though it didn’t start until 10:30pm! We stayed right at the top of the hill and had an amazing view of the stage and the crowd.
At one point the band got the entire audience, well, as much as they could fit, onto the stage with them. It was a magical moment.
We decided to leave early to watch the exploding Green man, and managed to get a great spot right at the front of the barriers. The girls who had fallen asleep during the band were woken up to an incredible firework display and the Green Man burning away, and we all agreed it made a magical end to a magical weekend.
Green Man at night
I went out at night in Green Man after the children were in bed, because there was so much going on I didn’t want to miss it! The only things I didn’t manage to get into were the David Bowie and Prince tribute parties that were going on late at night in the cinema tent. Everywhere was just buzzing and fun. There was a late night venue playing some great dance music, and I spent a bit of time dancing in there.
I always also went to into Walled Garden, which was a bit too busy for us during the afternoon/evening but was lovely late at night – still buzzing but not packed. I saw Charlotte Church DJing there which was fun if a little odd – she was also singing!
Another time I was there in the early hours of the morning and the DJ beckoned a girl up to the DJ box. Once she was there he climbed down into the crowd leaving her to wave to the crowd. The music was all sci-fi dance music which was great fun to dance to so I stayed for a while. After I got home I looked it up in the programme and it was DJ Yoda!
Green Man is that sort of place – there are so many amazing things going on you can just wander into something great.
Comedy, poetry, talks, cinema and more!
There was so much going on across the site I couldn’t write about it all. As well as the larger cinema and comedy tents there were smaller places dotted around the festival with bits of poetry, comedy, discussions.
There were wild nature walks, dance workshops, and interactive art all over the site – so many times over the weekend we just ‘chanced’ upon something magical.
The variety of food on offer made it difficult to decide what to try. But it meant my fussy children were easier to cater for.
We especially loved the stall serving a plate of roast chicken and chips for £6, and upmarket buttermilk chicken burgers with a Korean spicy sauce and kimchee. They were soooooo tasty!
We took full advantage of the fresh fruit stall. Selling cups of fruit and smoothies it’s perfect way for fussy children to get their vitamins!
At Green Man I discovered it is possible to have too much of a good thing! As well as a huge beer festival tent there seemed to be beer and cider festivals at all the other bars. This was difficult for me as I usually just want a standard lager or cider and I often don’t have much time to get one.
Usually at a beer festival you can ask someone what’s good, they’ll give you a recommendation and a taste, and then you can choose something. Here was different – the bar staff had no knowledge of the beers, and at any time most of them appeared to be missing. So if you picked one at random they would go off for 5 minutes looking for it and then come back to tell you it was “off”.
It became a bit like a comedy sketch. “What do you want?” “What have you got?” “I don’t know, what do you want?” “Oh I don’t know, how about number 33?” “That’s off. What do you want?” and on, and on!
Please please please Green Man if you’re going to have a beer festival you need to train the staff! Needless to say, I had a much healthier festival as I ended up not drinking much alcohol in the end. Not such a bad thing. Anyway, the problems with the beer festival was a minor quibble (and added to the festival’s charm).
Would we go again?
If anyone asks me what my favourite festival is I find it very difficult to answer. Some I love because of their amazing community feel, some I love because of the music. Some I love because of their location and vibe, and some I love because of the variety of workshops on offer.
A better question is which do I recommend. I will recommend a festival for all different reasons, but I can now say that Green Man is the best ‘all rounder’ I’ve been to. Green Man festival will most likely please any festival goer – as it has a bit of everything – great music, great vibe, great food, great workshops and great kids entertainment.
Green Man just excels in non stop quality entertainment, enough activities for all ages, and no chance of anyone ever getting bored. All in an absolutely beautiful setting. If you are looking for perfection in a festival – Green Man has got the closest to it of any I have been to. Next year we’re hoping to go for the full week!