Yes – it is a little bit like the first person I slept with – but I don’t think I am EVER going to forget LT 2012… mainly because there was just an unbelievable amount of mud! It shows how middle class things have become in my house when my daughter Scarlet jumped out the car and said “Mummy it’s just like your Parsnip Soup!” She was dead right – a blended pulp of brownness.
We unloaded the car via a Trolley from the very nice Mr. Trolley, (who only charged me for £5 even though I had it an hour) a blue wagon that was tricky to manoeuvre through the mud path but we got there in the end. We were 20 mins walk from the car – in the mud with two kids and rain threatening again, it would have been nice to be able to park closer to the family camping, but anyway, in for a penny. Car unloaded, tent up, sleeping bags in, we set off to enter the festival itself.
In all honesty NOTHING had prepared me for the ocean of mud that welcomed us as we happily went through security. OH MY GOD, I HAVE NEVER SEEN AS MUCH MUD! Now I am partial to a welly of the brown stuff, after all it is only mud, and as my Mother says, ‘just let it dry and we can just brush it off’. (I never did I ask her with what type of brush, as my hairbrush really didn’t work!) – but this was something else!
The kids were initially horrified (what a clean life we all lead). I convinced Scarlet that just before the festival they dumped whole load down just so everyone has a nice time, like a soggy version of an artificial beach. She started liking it then. I only told her a day later that it was grass three days before.
Once we got into the mud groove though it wasn’t too bad. Fred fell a few times, got his wellies stuck and was covered in “YUKKY “. He literally wore himself out wading through the chocolate porridge and we had to carry him a fair bit, but ice cream did make it all better. I saw people with blue wagons like the ones I had hired earlier but it would have be just as hard dragging it round everywhere – but with hindsight it’s a good idea as kids can sleep if they are tired and you can sit down on them.
Between the Global Village and the Main Lawn we met an arc of yummy food stands that reminded me of the main stretch of Ko Fang Yang in Thailand (about 12 years ago) with great smells that made you want to try them all. Groovy Smoothies were my favourite and Wong’s Noodles even made me a bowl of plain noodles for Fred with just soy and sesame oil on and only charged me £1. TING! (Fred HAPPY)
Fed, noodled and watered we pressed on to the Main Lawn, the Secret Garden and then through the Lost Wood, which was personally my favourite part of the site. Hidden within the stunning gardens are ornate balustrades and small Tudor dwellings that create little focal points for the secret paths. Dotted amongst the trees were teepees with activities from wand whittling and God’s Eye making for the kids, to massages and teashops for the grown ups. Simon went to see a chiropractor and came out smiling and euphoric an hour later – a very rare sight indeed. TING! (Husband HAPPY)
Meanwhile, the kids and I had discovered the delights of the Children’s Book Tree (where books were swapped via little bags), the Pom Pom Tree and the Wishing Tree – full
of kid’s and adult’s wishes that they had written on strips of cloth and tied to the branches. I decided not to stay here too long as it made me want to cry.
The Main Stage has a much smaller Garden Stage to the left so between the big acts there is someone else to watch. The kids loved the acrobatic voice antics of Shlomo but were restless standing so we only got about ten minutes of the performance.
So after making crocodile and spoon puppets and our own funky festival hats we found a huge pile of wellies outside a tent. Wandering in, we entered a willow workshop where we made animals from the emblems of flags. As much as I would have loved to have opted to make a full stag, we decided that a French Cockerel would do Fred and I just fine and Scarlet made a peacock. We sat for over an hour doing Scarlet’s favourite thing: ‘Making”. TING! (Scarlet HAPPY)
There is just a great magical vibe about the whole grounds, especially in the gardens. I can’t quite explain it. I think it might be because the festival has so many hidden away areas and but you forget there is another 4,000 people out there, you can feel like you are only a handful of people who are experiencing the moment. There is an air of anticipation, like something is about to happen at any minute but you are not sure what…
Well ‘Musical Ruth’ is what! A nun playing a piano on wheels that just mesmerized the kids and made me nearly wet myself! Speaking of which I also checked out the loos, which considering all the mud, were in pretty good nick. Dotted around the loo lines you would find ‘musical cubicles’ where music was piped into the pod from a speaker above. The Ivor Cutler wee I had was particularly enlightening, but nothing suprised me more when I sat down to BONEY M’s ‘Show me a motion!‘ Oh err.
There is such a lot of this impromptu performance art – it is what really made me feel that I was at a festival that you would be walking along chatting and then out of nowhere three grannies would start disco dancing. Then with a grandad on the decks they would have 20 people following their moves and getting down. The Bureau of Random Acts was certainly true to it’s name. Awesome! It was serene and controlled craziness, just the way I like it.
The Social is another space I have to rave about. A tardis of a tent, which looked titchy from outside, but transformed itself inside. With MDF box seating with comfy cushions, a bar serving lovely Thatcher’s Cider (TING! Mummy HAPPY) and a small stage we happily took refuge here on many occasions. Our legs were glad of a rest. Everything happened at The Social: during the day the kids could watch comedy, which was hilarious, go on a magical space ride or just chill out playing board games. And at night the music was intimate and warm.
When we got back to our tent on Saturday night ‘just for a rest and a quick bite to eat’, we realized that apart from half an hour when we sat by the food stalls we had been walking for 8 hours. We were supposed to be heading out again after our rest but everyone fell straight to sleep! I guess we all felt a bit like those sad buggies collecting on the rubbish piles – all partied out.
I have to admit that despite the weather and the mud, we all had a great fun. The mud did make a massive difference to the family experience – with a 3 year old it just made it bloody hard work!
All in all though, despite the brown stuff, it was an amazing experience, and we only touched the half of it I’m sure. From pitta making for breakfast, through to baby music, instrument making, performances and stories around the camp fire, you could fill the days completely. I even learnt more about the similarities between hip-hop and Shakespeare that I never even knew existed.
The juggling fire displays at night were inspiring, to say nothing of the great music. As adults we actually didn’t get that much to see so much music as we couldn’t sit down anywhere around the main stage because of the mud. But we chilled out on Saturday morning to the Keston Cobblers Club who had a wonderful energy it brought sunshine to the grey day.
The highlight for the kids was the parade on Sunday that took us on a romp around the entire site with our animal sculptures held high. There were different sections depending I upon which workshops you had done. We were followed by kids who had made musical instruments and they were followed by the ‘youth section’ that had been making African art and masks plus there were flowers and bees the size of portable loos raised proud and high.
On the whole I am a soulfully happy, if not utterly exhausted, and the Kids are filled with festival joy. Fred was super-proud showing off his blue wristband to the future revellers of 2027. Scarlet was super-cool showing her hair braid to her school friends this morning. Simon could do with a whole day sleeping but had to get up and function as normal, just like everyone else, and I have made some happy memories that can’t be washed away in super spin at 40 degrees.
Can’t wait till next year and we can do it all over again!
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We also have lots more articles and information on Larmer Tree if you go to the ‘Festival-Going Info’ drop-down menu on the right and select ‘Larmer Tree’ under ‘Reviews/Info by Festival’.