Penn Festival 2012 Review

Penn Festival 2012 weather: Weather couldn’t have been much worse!  Torrential rain on the afternoon before opening meant the water-logged ground was knee-deep in mud.  Rain continued off and on for whole weekend with some really heavy downpours.

The festival organisers had kindly given us some tickets to share with several of our family blogger/website friends.  It was a great opportunity for us to get together and meet somewhere other than Twitter!  Do take a few moments to hear their differing accounts of the weekend: Kideeko (and her HUGE family group!), The Mummy Whisperer (as she encounters her first ‘proper’ festival mud) , and poor ‘ol Melksham Mum (whose unfortunate trip culminated in a midnight journey to A&E!).  And below we have some reviews from our followers.

Review by The Stones (with 2 kids aged 6 and 5)

Getting there and arriving on-site:

The main carpark was closed by the first night as you couldn’t get cars on/off.  However, a shuttle service was immediately set up to ferry people in – great bit of emergency planning that seemed to work well.  Staff were superb in helping to push cars out & they had a queue system organising two tractor-like vehicles to tow cars and campervans out.  Boards were brought in on Friday evening and placed at the entrances & exits.

Although there were severe weather warnings a few days before we were all shocked by the sudden turn in the weather and I think the organisers did a sterling job!  We had lots of help getting car onto site: due to horrendous rain the car park was water-logged, but staff very willing to lend a hand in pushing us the final yards to dry land.

We didn’t have to carry camping equipment too far – it would have been no problem if ground was dry.  The organisers did relax their rule about not parking on camping field to try to help people transport tents etc through the mud.
Camping field had a very relaxed and friendly vibe.  Some noise on Friday night but think only from one group of campers.  On the whole felt safe.

Kid’s activities: Some of the activities had to be cancelled due to bad conditions but the children’s activities that they did have were great – circus skills, lantern making, flag painting etc. –  all free.

Line up: Line up was great and very entertaining.

Site and Facilities: Mobile phone coverage fine but a little weak in spots.  Site organised well with everything easily accessible.  A map in the programme and on their website was a helpful touch.  Toilets were better than larger festivals but don’t expect usual camping standards!  If bringing the family then would advise having a camping toilet with you.  However, it seemed the only place to empty them after the weekend was the porta-cabin toilets – not easy to do in the best of conditions!  Hot showers were really great but no water until late Sat morning (they did stay on continuously after that).

Accessibility:  Couldn’t comment fairly on how easy it was to get around as the fact that everyone had to be towed out by tractor was not the organisers fault.  They did put down loads of boards near exits/entrances and bought up all the hay bales from the nearby farm.  However, conditions not helped by the fact that the heavy-lifting machinery had churned up the centre of the field and car park while moving the stages etc into place the previous few days.  Maybe next time they could use the outside of the field where possible rather than going straight through the centre?

What improvements could be made? More toilets in the camping field.  Showers working from Friday evening.  Tractors etc not going straight through the field where possible.  But to be fair they did a fantastic job in only their second year.

Security / Safety: Security staff friendly though maybe need more visible patrols round campsite.  Very family orientated – it felt very safe for my young children.  Quite small and well contained so we didn’t worry about children getting lost.

Would we go again?  Yeeeeeeeessssssssss!  This was our first family festival and we picked Penn because it was small and family-orientated.  We were not disappointed!  Would definitely recommend and will be back next year.

The Verdict: Overall a very family-friendly vibe helped along by the very friendly staff and other festival-goers


Penn Festival 2012 Review

By Tom Keegan

For a long time festival goer with a new arrival Penn Festival promised the ideal location to introduce our 14 month old daughter India to the festival family and maybe even keep our own festival spirit alive.

After receiving word that our destination has survived the onslaught of torrential rain that had claimed many other outdoor events I wasn’t surprised to find homage to Glastonbury ’07 for a car park. Aided by tractors and last minute boarding we reached a very civilised albeit somewhat waterlogged campsite. The site itself definitely had a festival vibe about it, people were milling around drink in hand chatting and a break in the rain raised the spirits. It also had somewhat of an upper middle class flavour to it, with people sat outside huge tents eating a greek salad and ciabatta by candle light with a bottle of wine. It was at this point I realised this wasn’t going to be my usual festival experience, admiring the choice of Chablis rather than the volume of cider selected by my neighbours.

Friday night granted us our first look at the arena which whilst cut up seemed to be holding up well now that the rain had ceased. Due to electrical problems with the main stage the focus was on the beer tent which provided shelter from the rain and a well deserved drink. The music was good with local bands providing a particularly good rendition of a Kings of Leon track that brought a bride rushing from her adjacent reception, dress hitched up and wellies on running to dance the night away. The bar was both well stocked and staffed with the local ale being particularly good providing for a night comparable to a good country pub with a rather muddy driveway.

Saturday morning brought a closed car park and further rain, totally tearing up the site and causing chaos on the surrounding roads. Joined by our newly arrived friends we ventured into the arena to find the reduced crowd milling around in the mud. After roaming around the site we took up position in the (dry) beer tent and enjoyed the highlight of our festival two stepping with India to a reggae band. We sampled a few of the food stalls with the Pizza being particularly good before listening to Snap! whilst watching the brave few who decided to mud wrestle for the crowds entertainment.

Like many other attendees we decided to leave on Sunday morning with the announcement of cancellation of a number of bands and also the continuing downpour. Penn was certainly an experience, and surprisingly in the face of adversity a good one. We now know we can do festivals as a family and whilst adding extra logistical requirements if you are well prepared you can have a fabulous time. The festival itself is clearly young and it feels like you have to enter into the fact that things will go wrong. That is inevitable until they are established and learn the lessons that took the big boys years – the right infrastructure is at the core of a good festival, get that right and then build upon it.

The organisers took a brave decision not to cancel, it’s now up to them to learn from the weekend and build what could be an outstanding festival.


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