by Naomi, with Eloise (12), Charlotte (9) and Amelie (9)
Shindig Festival kicked off our summer with a riotous blend of music, dancing and just plain old good quality family time.
There was an impressive amount on offer for both adults and children. They even had the ‘difficult’ teenager stage covered.
Due to our eldest now being in secondary school, we drove up after the school day on the Friday. But if you can get there earlier I would recommend it, as there’s so much to see and do.
The Kids’ Field
The kids’ field was expanded and improved, and my children were happy to be there for the entire day. Getting them out of there was usually the problem! The aerial circus was so popular last year that this year they added ribbons as well as more hoops and more staff. This greatly reduced the queue so my children kept going back for more.
The staff were brilliant teachers so we could see improvement over the day. I commend their patience, and that they continued teaching through the rain as the children didn’t want to stop!
With that and the climbing wall my children had more exercise and one-on-one tuition at Shindig than any other festival we’ve done.
This year there was the addition of the Junior Jungle ‘Mr Whompy’ disco which was appreciated by the parents as much as the children. In fact a few of us might have *cough* joined in with the fun at this point!
Kings of Ping were there running table tennis tournaments with their usual silliness.
More Festival Kidz favourites who had joined this year were the amazing Flying Seagulls, and we spent a lot of time watching their funny shows. Amelie even got up to tell a joke, although she made me promise not to share the video. It’s lovely to give children a voice in this way. One little girl was so shy it took a while to coax her to speak, but they carried on and waited until she was ready. It was wonderful to watch, and of course very funny.
There was the brilliant Junkfish too this year, with their multitude of activities to appeal to all ages. They even managed to get the ping pong table under cover which made for a great way to shelter from the downpours of Sunday.
Charlotte made me a headband out of scrap that she then declared I had to wear all day. I didn’t mind. Both twins made cardboard guitars there too, and pretended to be rock stars. We just missed the Aardman Animation workshop but it looked like fun!
There was a tent showing early morning films and then theatre and storytelling during the day. A load of scrap material filled up another tent, with supervised sewing machines, available all day for fixing and making new clothes and accessories. There was badge making, and great toddler and baby spaces. I really think they had thought of everything.
The Mayflower Project
I have to give special mention to The Mayflower Project who ran an outstanding teenager tent. My daughter has started learning guitar and the tent was full of instruments as well as staff to jam with. It had enough activities to entice even the most ‘bored’ of fussy teens, and ran until 11pm.
My 12 year old, already an honorary teenager, was so happy here it was difficult to prise her away even for meals. I asked her to write a little piece about her experience (as no adults were allowed in!)
Review by Eloise age 12
In the kids’ field there is a teen tent which is made by the mayflower project and is solely for teenagers. While I was there, I enjoyed the activities they had to offer. There was a timetable on which special activities were going on at certain times. But there were instruments, a pool table, sofas and a phone-charging station. I love the idea that you could choose what you wanted to do rather than in tents for smaller children where you had to do what was going on or nothing.
Mostly, I played guitar but joined in when there was a henna workshop, jam session and open mic. The open mic was especially funny because anyone could say or perform anything (as long as it wasn’t rude or offensive).
Another thing I love about it was that 1) everything was free 2) the people there were so nice. When I first came, a lady came over to me and we started chatting. In another instance, while I was waiting for my henna to dry, a different lady came over to me and asked if a wanted a hair braid (obviously I agreed). Overall, I would recommend it to you as I enjoyed it so much.
This year they had completely fixed last year’s ‘noise bleed’ problem from some of the stages being too close together. The stages were much more spaced out across the site. This was especially excellent for parents who could listen to the main stage while eating pizza at Pizza and Puppets.
It is a genuine joy to see music at Shindig, because the festival is a perfect size. All the stages are quite small but they all had enough room to dance. Although the crowd were up-for-it, it didn’t feel crowded or unsafe in any way. It did get a bit crazy after around 11pm but my kids were in bed by then!
The other thing I loved was that they put some of the bigger names on earlier in the day. This meant we could really enjoy the music with the family. We even managed a dance together down the front of Smoove & Turrell, who started their set at 5.30pm.
We also saw some of DJ Yoda’s Homecooking, which had live singers and musicians accompanying DJ Yoda’s tracks. It was great to dance to as you can imagine!
I had heard about Ozomatli so we bribed the kids with donuts to let us watch a bit. We absolutely loved them – a mix of salza, funk and rap with some incredible singers.
We saw a lot of other music and DJs over the weekend just from walking past and listening to a few songs/tracks. It wasn’t only dance music; I saw a beautiful chilled out acoustic set at the Bandstand. The Bandstand was close enough to the Kids’ fields to catch some of the music there.
I particularly loved the Stardust Disco and the Ghetto Funk Nightclub, which I had a chance to visit late after the children had gone to bed. It was good to have some decent music to dance to – there were even some secret venues that opened up later.
There was a submarine (!) with a new stage inside. The outside of it was even more fun though. A load of little speakers which you could plug your phone into and dance to your own music. When the DJ was on they also pumped the music outside. During the day the children made this stage their own!
We loved the hammocks everywhere, which were fully occupied by kids at all times but the adults didn’t seem to mind! There were boats to climb all over near the Naughtylicious stage too which had relocated to the back of the festival. It was always worth a visit.
The Beatbox collective were there teaching the children and their parents how to prrr-te-k-te, and getting children up onstage to outdo the adults to lots of applause. There were circus and cabaret acts on too. We caught a bit of the aerial circus which was beautiful.
The area at the top of the hill was the ‘green fields’ of the festival, with a wellbeing area, the Word tent, the Bandstand, lots of crafts and the ever popular giant chess set.
The wellbeing area offered yoga with a beautiful view. It was an excellent place to head to get some quiet away from the dance floor. There was a little garden and treatments such as massage on offer. It also offered the best sunset views.
They had kids’ yoga every morning and so we went to the one on Sunday. I had never done this before but I definitely want to do it again! Doing yoga positions to a fun story with lots of laughter is one of the best ways to help wake up in the morning. (And if not the coffee cart wasn’t far away.)
There was a really lovely chilled-out green-field vibe in this area.
I always visit the Resistance Exhibition when I see it at a festival. The exhibition contains photos and flyers from protests throughout UK history, such as the suffragette movement and the poll tax riots, through to present day.
It’s an interesting exhibition and I would recommend anyone to go and have a look, whatever you think of the politics.
The exhibition was an extended part of the festival with information about campaigns and discussions around current issues.
It was good to get a conversation started with the children over these topics. Especially as they are already asking me about this due to the recent climate change rebellion. And of course it gave me a chance to talk about my old activist days with like-minded people and hear about the latest news.
We had some rain last year and some more this year – most notably on the Sunday when it poured down for most of the day. However they had planned well for this with extra stones and reinforced paths, and so none of the site became difficult to get around. And when the rain stopped the site dried up very quickly.
They had also added more areas undercover, in the children’s field and in the rest of the festival which was very welcome!
Food and Drink
There was a lot of different food on offer for around £7-9 to suit all tastes from vegan to carnivore, and everything we had was lovely and good quality. One younger daughter was very excited that she had tried something other than pizza (although it was only a chicken wrap) and my older daughter loved the crispy duck wraps.
There was also a good choice of drinks. There were separate cocktail and juice bars for those that wanted it, and a decent coffee stall. For beer you could either go for the main bar to get £4 cans of red stripe, or you could buy a much nicer pint of craft beer for £5.50.
You could bring in your own drinks too which helped reduce costs for those of us on a budget.
Camping and Toilets
There was plenty of room in the camper van/caravan field this time, with enough toilets and water points, as well as hand soap or hand washing at each point. The toilets in the main fields got a little messy at times but they were cleaned every day.
All day the children had access to these lovely toilets in the Kids’ field anyway, so they didn’t need to queue until the evenings.
Family camping was equally spacious with good facilities, and you could stay in a bell tent if you wanted a little more luxury.
As last year you had to pay £5 for a shower so it’s worth packing your solar powered shower for this one! Or do as we do and just don’t worry about it for a few days.
Parade and Dressing up
The theme was Fruitylicious which people went for in a big way! The costumes were brilliant and they were entertaining. My kids especially loved all the inflatable dinosaurs, who were fortunately happy to be hugged a lot. Everyone was very friendly and good with the kids. Although my children kept asking why there were pineapples everywhere. “Why pineapples? Why not other fruit?” I admit there were a lot of pineapples. And bananas.
There was a Sunday parade which was good was fun, although people didn’t wait for it to dress up!
Would we go back?
We loved everything about Shindig festival this year. They had improved on last year and I fully expect that they won’t stop there! I highly recommend this to parents who like to dance and are looking for a family friendly festival with decent music.
What else can I say? We had an absolute blast. We had an opportunity to properly enjoy ourselves together as a family. And what better way is there to start the summer than that?