Oh Green Man, what a beauty you are! Nestled at the base of the Black Mountains, this is a very special festival indeed. In fact it wasn’t just a festival, it was a whole week’s holiday in glorious Wales.
We were very fortunate to be given a Settler’s Pass. For a small additional outlay, this means that your family can camp from Monday. This is a huge advantage for several reasons. Firstly, you can park in the BLUE car park, which is an easy, 10 minute stroll from the camping area; you can unpack the essentials and pop back to your car to collect whatever you need in a stress free way. Secondly, you can choose a nice pitch and camp in relative peace and quiet for 3 nights before the festival begins.
I was camped with two other families and the children loved this time as they had time and space to play endless games of football on the grass. As the camping area was not too full we could allow them to run to the toilets and sinks by themselves as we had them within our sights.
Each day there were basic activities on offer, including craft stalls, music, a graffiti wall, a pub quiz, and, a bonfire each evening. There were some food stalls, a bar and a farmer’s market stall.
Another great advantage to having a Settler’s Pass is you can take your car out of the festival. Allowing you to pop to the town or explore the extremely beautiful local area, with waterfalls, castles and amazing views all around. Crickhowell is the nearest town and has a selection of independent grocers, butchers, as well as cheap German supermarkets to stock up on festival essentials. Being able to pop to the shops to restock on food meant that it was very easy to self-cater rather than relying upon buying food from stalls, which is a lovely treat but can become expensive when you are buying for a whole family for a week.
The last advantage is that there were plenty of hot showers that could be accessed from the start of the week. The Settlers made good use of these before the festival opened on Thursday lunchtime. Once the festival opened it was easier to take a travel towel and toiletries with you in to the festival, then pop in for a quick shower around tea time when it was less busy.
I would advise bringing ear plugs, not because of loud music late at night, but chattering toddlers and babies who wake up early!
The festival begins…
For the previous few days, we had been able to spot the Mountain stage in the distance, its colours looking beautiful against the backdrop of the Black Mountains.
On Thursday lunchtime we were allowed to go inside and explore, although the Mountain stage did not have any music playing until Friday. The children loved the natural amphitheatre and had great fun running up the stairs and rolling down the hills. This then led to a long game of hide and seek behind the recycling bins and the festival stalls. After a picnic on the hill we explored the site, which is spacious but easy to walk around with young children. I would estimate it was about a 10 minute walk from our tent to the main arena.
We wandered over to the Green Man, a wondrous wooden structure which stood in the middle of the main field. The Green Man is different every year and the children are very excited to see what he looks like each time. This year it was possible to walk inside, through willow tunnels at the back or climb up stairs to sit in a little hidey-hole. Colourful cards with string are provided so you can write wishes. Some of them were very sweet, and funny, to read!
We went back to our tents to get some warm clothing then went to listen to Public Service Broadcasting in the Far Out Stage. The tent itself was busy, so we sat outside on our picnic blankets and watched the visuals which were on a screen outside.
The next few days were a jumble of wandering around the different areas, constantly finding things to delight and entertain the children and grown ups alike. I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the bands who were playing in the daytime, which was liberating in a way as I didn’t feel like I had to be at a particular place at a set time. We were happy to let the children take the lead and just explore.
We had a wonderful time in Einstein’s Garden, the science area. The children played a game of crazy golf with a difference, exploring lessons about life, including making healthy choices and that sometimes we have set backs in life; this led to some of the children trying to play crazy golf with boxing gloves on or glasses that impaired their vision.
A favourite hang out for the kids was the area by the Bubble Inc and the Fairylove stall, where the children were able to watch regular displays of giant bubbles floating across the field, have a try at making some themselves and popping smoke filled bubbles. The girls enjoyed getting on the little stage outside the fairylove stall and having a dance.
Near to this area was the Mayflower Project, a tent specifically for teenagers, with creative activities that looked really interesting such as zine making, string and nail art, radio workshops, jam sessions and biodegradable glitter tattoos. There was also a busking stage and we saw an older child/young teenager get up on stage with his guitar and sing his socks off for the small crowd.
There were a couple of fairground rides, including a helter skelter and a ferris wheel which were £3 each. The children were allowed to go one ride each day and they seemed to accept this without argument as there was so much else to see and do.
We all loved watching an incredible show by Citrus Arts called “The Devil and the Deep”. This was a dance, drama, acrobatic and giant puppet show about the people who live and work on the local rivers and seas. The show was spectacular, with trapeze artists, glowing hula hoops and a giant sea angel who floated above the audience.
Little Folk Field
This was one of our favourite places, where we spent many happy hours. It felt very safe within this area, which had to be accessed through a fairly small entrance. It was easy to keep your eyes on the children and let them have a bit of freedom to explore.
This year the theme was the Lost City of Atlantis. There were beautiful crafts, including making fishes, sea creatures and painted fairy doors. There was a tiny pirate ship which you could ride on for free. The kids loved climbing over a painted wooden dragon and whizzing down the slide.
We all loved spending time at The Flying Seagull Project, a wonderful travelling circus which goes around the world to entertain children in refugees camps. My son and I reached the final of making a new silly dance which would go viral around the festival. Our dance was called the Green Man Worm, which involved wiggling our bodies whilst holding hands and sticking our tongues out. There was another trapeze artist here and the older children had a chance to have a go at arial skills.
We had spotted a huge inflatable whale in the Little Folk field and I had thought that it was an installation to teach children about plastic and how their bottle can impact upon marine life. But the next day when we returned, we realised that there was a show taking place inside the giant whale, which involved getting on hands and knees and crawling inside through a little hole. Inside the whale was a beautiful puppet show about a baby turtle who grows up and mistakes some carrier bags as jellyfish. the children had help to save the turtle by pulling the carrier bags back out of his tummy and feed him some jellyfish. It was lovely that some of the children were able to participate in the show and walk around with the jellyfish puppets.
I feel that there was so much that we didn’t see, including the Sunday night ceremonial burning of the Green Man and the fireworks display. I would love to come back and explore all over again and I’m sure that next time we would have a completely different festival experience. There was something so lovely about having the time to relax and play that meant that this festival was at a slower pace, with less rushing around and more time just to play and to be. Which is great for the kids and a rest for their parents.
Recycling and Toilets
Recycling is taken seriously at the festival, with separate disposal points in the camping areas for gas canisters, nappies as well as recyclable waste.
The toilets seemed to be exactly the right amount and they were well maintained. I have to give a special mention to the toilets in the family camping area which were supplied by Watt Loos. These toilets used no water or chemicals at all and the waste products can be used to generate power in rural locations. These toilets were a joy to use, clean, brightly lit and not smelly!
Accessible camping was very close to the main arena and seemed to be a large camping area with plenty of space. I was impressed to see wheelchair accessible showers, and allowing parking next to tents.
Although most people walk into the main stage over some stairs, there was also an accessible entrance and a road throughout some of the festival. Some of the site is slightly more hilly but there are ways of accessing other parts of the festival through the central courtyard.
Food and Drink
We made use of the plentiful Frank Water stands which allow you to fill up your water bottle with unlimited cold water. You can buy a weekend wristband or if you have a Frank water bottle you can have free refills. If you go to festivals regularly then this is a good option.
Alcoholic drinks are plentiful and reasonably priced, including pints of Green Man’s own Growler IPA for £5.00 a pint, to a cider stall, bloody mary stall and lots more. Green Man have ingenious cups with hollow handles that can be stacked, so you can buy a round of drinks and carry them around easily.
The food stalls are varied and included some really interesting options, such as Goan Fish Curry, and one pot meals that included Carribean and Persian dishes.
There are lots of options for children including the Fishfinger stand in the Little Folk field (£4 for a child’s meal), the pizza stall by the Mayflower Project (£8 for a margarita pizza that fed an adult and a child) and Super Tidy Burgers, which was £6 for a high quality burger. There was also a stall run by local community groups which sold reasonably priced cups of tea, home made cake and cones of sweets for a pound.
Green Man is a little pocket of heaven in a stunning location. I had always hoped to visit this festival one day and it exceeded my expectations in so many ways. It is vibrant, creative, clean, safe for children and inspiring. It is wonderful for children of all ages and being able to stay for longer was a pleasure. We left the festival feeling relaxed, happy, and already counting the sleeps until next time…