Come for a Cwtch
We fell in love with Green Man Festival last year and I have to admit to being worried about how it could possibly meet the expectations we had from it being so wonderful. I need not have worried because yet again this beautiful festival filled my heart with happiness. I did not think it would be possible for us to love it even more than we already did.
Arrival and the Site
You may think you have taken a wrong turn driving to Green Man, you travel along very narrow roads to get to it but when you see the top of the tents poking through the trees you know you have arrived. The family car park sold out quick this year so unless you want quite a walk with kit from the west car park to family camping I would suggest getting your family parking passes in good time. The family car park is a reasonably quick walk to family camping. Mr Trolley was on site at both car parks to provide a trolley either just for the day or for the weekend with cushions and covers. We could not have managed without the trolley – it makes everything so much easier, I would always recommend getting one.
The camping space at Green Man is without a doubt for me the most beautiful of festival camping sites. The hills surrounding it, the space you have around you, the lovely thick grass, in the morning watching the mist rise over the mountains; it really is a wonderful space. Facilities are always clean and there’s plenty of them. There are the usual queues for showers at peak times but if you leave it till later in the day or at night you may have a block to yourself. The toilets were always clean and had loo roll and hand sanitizer at all times.
We camped with friends this year. One family with 3 children under 6 and another family with 2 boys ages 6 and 10. So a wide range of ages but all the children loved playing together having space to run around the tents and enjoyed the space in the camping field to chase each other and play. We camped quite far back so it was 10 minute walk to the arena with little people so we tended to load up everything we needed to save the walk back and forth.
I hesitate to call the Little Folk area a childrens area as you could have as much fun as a adult in Little Folk as you could as a child. The space is a perfect size with entertainment going on all day in every corner that you turn. This year it was transformed into Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
The Queen of Hearts, the Cards and the Mad Hatter all looked after the site and kept the children’s imagination running wild. Junkfish take up a large part of the area, a large tent filled with dozens of different activities happening at all times all through the day. So much to do and create I cannot possibly list it all. My son’s favourite thing was balloon creature making. This is such a simple idea – you fill a balloon with sand then after the knot goes on attach eyes, hair and what ever else you want. Think we had about 6 in the end and my son is still playing with them now! He also loved the top hat making and clay making. The record player making was a huge hit with our friends children. Everything made was free and the volunteers helping in the area were all very patient, helpful and always there to give a hand if needed.
Next to Junkfish was a teacup ride – again this was free with very helpful volunteers running it (unlike the main fairground rides, which I will come on to later). On the other side of Junkish you could find The Flying Seagulls. All summer my son had been desperate to see Bash and his crew of Seagulls, and yet again they did not disappoint. They do no stop, from first thing in the morning till the end of day they perform at an incredibly high standard providing laughter and memories. Please keep the seagulls forever at Green Man, the festival would not be the same without them!
In the centre of the Little folk there’s a lovely clay area. Be prepared for stimulation overload for little people! It was so lovely to see toddlers moulding, creating and playing with clay and all of their creations are on show for all to see. There’s an area with hand made instruments and a few things to climb on next to the clay making, plenty of drums to bang on and straw to throw around. Other tents had entertainment for babies and younger children going on all day and things like drama and circus classes happened in another tent.
The children’s toilets had gone this year which wasn’t a massive issue as toilets could be found directly outside the area, but as they were in high demand from the area you could expect queues and I noticed some parents having to take little ones in the bushes around the outside of the area which seemed a shame. Can the toilets come back next year for little people please? You could spend all weekend in the Little Folk area and not see another thing but we managed to drag ourselves away to check out the rest of the festival.
No Fit State Circus
Just next to the Little Folk area you could find the No Fit State Circus. There were several performances every day. It was a huge quality circus performance followed with open-air public training sessions and workshops. A wonderful hour of circus chaos, everywhere you look and every acrobatic and aerial circus act you can think of is performed in every corner of the field. It is difficult to know where to look first. When the show finished you got the chance to have a go and have training at everything. My son loved learning the floor acrobatic work, flipping and rolling all over the place. A band played out of the side of a lorry whilst everyone played. It was really very different and made a change from anything else I have ever seen at a festival.
This was another area that you could easily spend all weekend in. A huge array of scientists, musicians and comedians took you on a journey of science and nature.
Highlights for us were the Somerset butterfly house, a small butterfly house you could walk into and with a sheet given on entry you could spot the butterflies flying around you (and if you were lucky even landing on you!) You could ride bikes to make energy to charge your phones. A lesson on sport and the important of exercise was given to children through getting them to do games. You could go on a wildlife walk and try pond dipping and look for bugs. My son loved spending time with the Anthropologist Archaeologists, learning all about how they look for bones and even having a go on a dig followed by having a look at the human skeleton and bombarding the very patient team with a hundred questions on bones. You could just sit back in the gardens in the centre of it all and relax with the beautiful views all around you whilst workshops and entertainment carried on all day. Just be prepared to meet all sorts of bugs and animals while you take in the surroundings.
Somewhere is an action packed area for 13-17 year olds, somewhere to make friends and have a mini-festival all of their own. We did not spend a lot of time in this area but the time we did spend was mainly enjoyed by my 5 year old watching the older boys in awe on the skateboard ramp – so much that he now wants a skateboard for Christmas!
The Newport film school were on hand to help make your very own music video, or you could try photography and contribute to a festival blog. Circus skills, arts, crafts and lots of sports were on offer, including some very professional sock wrestling. Our friend’s 10 year old wanted to have a go at the zorb football but the wait was long and there seemed to sadly be very little supervising over it. I think the people running it were not much more than teens themselves and the 10 year old’s Dad had to take control over it.
Just outside of Somewhere was a bell tent run by a group called Festival Parents. They provide a place where young people (16-24) can relax, unwind and recover, until they feel confident enough to get back to festival life. They support and guide the festival kids’ good decisions and choices, reducing the risk of harm from themselves and others (a cup of tea, a piece of toast and a chat) in an informal setting set up a bit like a living/ dinning room. All Festival Parents are qualified youth workers with a wealth of experience. I have personally never seen anything like this at a festival before – you normally have first aid areas these young people can go to if needed but nothing like such a welcoming area with supportive people. I think every festival should have a support area as such, invaluable at many festivals now.
With so much to see and do you can at times forget about the music at Green Man. This year the line up was a brilliant one and I am sure without children you would have been spoilt for choice with amazing performances. The Mountain Stage (main stage) in my experience has one of most beautiful back drops for a stage. It is located at the bottom of a hill so it’s perfect even when at the back on the top of the hill to hear and see everything perfectly. We found a spot half way up the hill each evening and if the mood took us, took it in turns to go closer down the front. We were particularly spoilt one evening as a friend offered to look after our son so we could go together to watch Mercury Rev headline. A magical, unforgettable performance that at point brought tears to my eyes. I adore the walled garden stage, a small stage in yet another idyllic position. Perfect to relax on a sunny afternoon, with a beer in hand and roast chicken and potatoes to eat.
Food and Drink
All the food and drink was very reasonable as festival prices go. A wide choice and everything we and our friends had was of a high standard. They have thankfully not gone too over board with the food side of things which some festivals tend to do now. The majority was locally sourced and home made. We loved the paella from Jamon Jamon, a huge portion for aprox £7 – we even shared it a couple of times. You could get real ale for £3.80 from the real ale bar and cider and lager at the same price. No children’s portions or anything specially catered for them but so much choice and I am sure if you asked they would have done a smaller cheaper portion for children at most places.
So much from the entertainers walking around acting like golfers to the green man himself, a special spiritual place you can leave your innermost wishes. You can go for a Spa, watch a film in the cinedrome, have a disco at the denture disco, spend time looking in vintage stalls, relax in the courtyard with a pint of real ale or spend time watching the brilliant Mushroom Man. The Mushroom Man is not just a incredible craftsman but he performs his craft whilst entertaining and capturing the imagination of all that see him. My son adores him and I know he was a highlight for our friends’ children. As with the Flying Seagulls he will be what my son talks about all year till we go again.
Green Man has a couple of fairground rides (we will be covering festivals and fairground rides in another piece) but generally they are always expensive and always a source of arguments if you have children that want to go on them. Maybe they are a necessary evil but I think I can speak for all of the reviewers from FK, please get rid of them Green Man.
Out and about on site were the team from clik clik, a group of very excitable people who carry a board with a couple of gaps for you to stand behind and get your photo taken pretending to be a cowboy or whatever else is on the board at that time. They sung and danced and paraded all over the place, this is the second festival I have seen them at and they really make everyone laugh and smile. When you get home you can find your photographs on their page and its a lovely momento to keep.
Is it for families?
YES, YES and YES, everything about this festival is family friendly, it is like getting together with one big family when you get to Green Man. Everyone has a smile on their face, I only ever heard positive things from people when you chatted and once people come to it they tend to come year after year and never want to go to another festival.
To sum up Green Man
We adore this festival, and I worry that my words do not do it justice. On the last day the Flying Seagulls lead a parade around site. The children play instruments and sing; they carry the creations they have made over the weekend and proudly walk from the Little Folk area, past the main stage and right to the top of site then back to the Little Folk. It is quite a special thing to be part of and makes you realise what a real family atmosphere there is. When back at Little Folk a party was held in the one tent and children got to go on stage and show their performances and skills they had learnt. Bash from the Seagulls asked if any children wanted to come on stage and show the audience one thing they had learnt. To my shock my son sprung up and ran on the stage telling Bash he could do a back flip. I did not even know he had learnt to do one! It was such a magical moment – not just seeing him on the stage but the confidence he had to jump up and do it – I thank Green Man for this. A festival to build and develop and nurture, to make new friends and memories. For us, Green Man is like coming home.