The sun shone gloriously for our first ever visit to The Great Estate Festival. It was a fantastic weekend of great live music, tasty food, fun activities and time spent with good friends in a beautiful location.
Scorrier House in Redruth is all forest, rolling green hills and a lovely old manor house. It makes a fab setting for this fairly new festival (this was only The Great Estate’s third year). There was so much to see and do that we only covered a small proportion of the events on offer. I would love to go back again and explore yet further.
Arrivals and Set-up
As much as we enjoyed The Great Estate, I have to say arrivals were very tricky. We weren’t camping, but there was no separate entrance for day visitors, so we sat in the hour-long queue to get onto the site and parked.
The car park we were in was a long way from the camping fields and further again to the festival site. It was a 20 minute walk to get from our car to the family camping field, all slightly downhill (so if you were lugging camping gear, it would be impossible to ignore the fact it would be uphill on the way back).
To get to the main stage from the car park took 40 minutes with the children.
For a festival of this size, that really is a long way to expect camping families to walk, especially when they may have to do three or four loads to the car and back.
For us, it meant it was tricky to leave coats and layers in the car for later as it was such a mission to go back for anything.
The festival site opened on the Thursday this year, a day earlier, so lots of families arrived then. I heard of other families who bought just one Thursday ticket, so one of their party could come in and set the tent up.
So by the Friday, when other campers arrived around 10 a.m., the camp site was already pretty full. Because campers had already marked out areas with tape, the new arrivals found it hard to get their trolleys and pushchairs through to find a space to camp.
All in all, it made for quite a fraught arrival and set-up. But luckily, it didn’t take long to shake the bad moods. As soon as we started walking through the lovely woodland with quirky art installations, we began to chill out and enjoy the magic.
The Secret Gin Garden
The Secret Gin Garden was one of the first areas we reached. This provided a lovely space to chill on the grass with a speciality G&T while some beautiful classical music played.
The Secret Gin Garden was also host to the intimate Thursday evening gathering, The Secret Gin Garden Party. Anyone who had booked tickets for the Thursday had access to the party.
We couldn’t get there till the Friday, but it sounded fab. I mean flowers, bunting, fairy lights and gin – what more could you want? Some groovy funk reggae? Oh yes, it had that too in the form of Backbeat Soundsystem.
My children love a silent disco, so they were pleased to find out there was a special kids’ one taking place on both the Friday and Saturday afternoons. They hurried us down to find it soon after we arrived.
The children (and adults) all seemed to be having a great time. The kids loved being able to switch between the channels to choose which song they wanted.
A friend’s five-year-old told us happily that Channel 1 was his favourite, Chanel 2 his second favourite and the ‘red one’ he didn’t like at all.
Red was ‘Off’.
Stage on the Green
The Stage on the Green was the largest stage and as such hosted the biggest acts over the weekend. Because the sun shone so gloriously for the vast majority of the weekend, it was easy to set yourself up on the grass here all day. In fact, I heard a few people saying they wished they had wandered a little more as the programme was packed full of interesting things to do. Still, it was a lovely spot, backed by towering trees. We did a lot of lounging around here, chatting with friends and enjoying the music.
Highlights for us, musically, were Get Cape Wear Cape Fly on the Friday night and Plastic Mermaids and James on the Saturday. We had to leave before Craig Charles took to the stage on the Sunday with his Funk and Soul Show. But by all accounts he had everyone moving, grooving and singing along to the hits.
Plastic Mermaids were my favourite ‘discovery’ of the weekend. Hailing from The Isle of Wight, their sound is reminiscent of Mercury Rev or Flaming Lips, and their live show was stunning.
Saturday night headliner James were the band I had been most looking forward to seeing. I saw them years ago and remember being completely wowed by their live performance.
Tim Booth is still a great performer, writhing around the stage and crowd-surfing from the off. The songs from their new album ‘Living in Extraordinary Times’ sounded good and were welcomingly politically charged. However, it did seem an odd choice to play so few of their better known songs.
I realise bands must get fed up of being known for songs they released 30-odd years ago. And if you’re releasing and touring a new album, it’s understandable you’d want to show those songs off. But unless it’s a very muso-festival, the reality is that the crowd want to hear the hits. Still, opener Sit Down had everyone singing along, and one of my favourites, Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) sounded fantastic. We also had a Madchester-style boogie to Come Home.
The grass in front of the main stage sloped upwards. This meant it was always easy to get a good spot while still having plenty of room, which is essential when watching headliners with kids.
Madam Wong’s House of Wrong
The fabulously-named Madam Wong’s House of Wrong was a big top tent filled with all manner of the weird and wonderful.
If you’ve never seen Elvana – the Elvis-fronted Nirvana covers act (yes, I know how random that sounds!) then you really must. This was the perfect setting for such an outlandish show.
We were also wowed by the Hurly Burly Circus show. This 45 minute performance saw a man limbo under a stick of fire ridiculously and unnervingly close to the ground.
There was a daring aerial silks act, as well as a chair-stacking routine that had the whole crowd holding their breaths. All backed by the fabulous Hurly Burly live band. The children loved it as did the adults.
The Hokey Pokey Parlour
Another tented venue, The Hokey Pokey Parlour hosted one of the most-talked about events of the weekend – Lucha Britannia Wrestling. There was an adult show in the evening of the Saturday, but during the afternoon a family-friendly, more theatrical experience took place. And what an experience it was.
Here, my children also took part in a drama workshop. First they made wands out of sticks, string and wool, then after some warm-up games they were given a script about a boy who goes out to seek a kingfisher’s eye.
They decided amongst themselves who would play each part and then performed the piece. Both my two enjoyed the workshop although it was pitched a little young for my twelve-year-old.
The Playground was a catch-all name for the main bulk of the children’s activities on offer, but was split over several areas.
Thoughtfully-placed by the main stage was an under-cover area which contained arts and crafts, storytelling, a toddler space and sandpit. The youngest in our party, who is under two, spent a lovely hour playing with the sand, blocks and playdough.
There was also a large selection of inflatables here, but at £8 (albeit for unlimited use) we thought it was far too pricey. Lots of other parents felt the same.
Similarly, the fairground rides were a bit of a financial drain. My youngest started bugging me for rides as soon as we entered the main arena.
He had some birthday money on him so we decided to let him loose with it. He loved this and spent an hour roaming the site on his own, appearing every 10 minutes or so to let us know he’d bought a smoothie or been on the ferris wheel.
In the end we pretty much succumbed to the expense and let the children have far more rides than we usually do. They loved it. But had we been really needing to watch our money it could have been very tricky as the rides were impossible to avoid.
Mount Hawke Skate and Hang Out
Just outside the main arena, this was a great spot for older kids to hang out. Unfortunately you needed to have brought your own skateboard, which we hadn’t packed, so my two couldn’t really use it. Still, they enjoyed watching the other kids.
We also loved the Parkour show that took place here. My eight-year-old watched it three times – he thought the guys were awesome.
Scorrier House itself was fully utilised over the weekend. On the Saturday it hosted a giant tea party. A Victorian sports day replete with wheelbarrow race and sack race took place outside.
On the Sunday, a classic car show took place directly outside the manor house, showing off over 100 vintage cars and motorbikes.
During darkness, the house itself was lit up with creative light displays.
The Blue Moon Café
The Blue Moon Café was set away from the main festival area, near the skate park and Scorrier House. It was the perfect location for this chilled-out space.
I always love an area at festivals that is adorned with rugs and cushions and where removing your shoes is obligatory.
We ate lunch here – I had the Ethiopean stew, and my husband and children all had toasties. Much of the menu was vegan and they had a great selection of herbal teas.
While we ate our lunch, a Beatbox workshop took place here. My eight-year-old wanted to join in, but was too nervous, so instead we edged closer and watched.
We ended up spending a whole afternoon in here. It was so relaxing we didn’t want to leave. We also saw a really funny comedian who cracked us up with a random set that included singing us songs his young daughter had made up.
The kids also made some cute egg shakers in a craft workshop that took place in here.
Food and Drink
As well as the Blue Moon Café, there was a really good selection of food and drink stalls around the festival. The queues were never too bad.
My favourite was the Indian Street Food stall where I had a three-curry thali with rice, chutneys and a large bhaji for £10. It was enough to share with my youngest and very tasty.
Meals were averagely priced for a festival, coming in between the £6 – £10 mark, with children’s portions available.
I was impressed with the quality of the food and also the number of options available for vegetarians and vegans.
If you wanted something a little more civilised, an afternoon tea event took place in Scorrier House on the Saturday. There was even a three-course feast with fine wine and canapés on the Saturday and Sunday too.
Toilets and Facilities
The toilets were of a really high standard at The Great Estate. As well as the usual portable chemical loos, there were cabin-style toilets with individual cubicles.
These were the fanciest toilets I’ve ever seen at a festival, bar the ones you have to pay extra for.
Proper flushing loos, sinks with soap and running hot water, paper towels to dry your hands, and even a vanity unit / mirror with warm, flattering lighting! I was most definitely sold.
They were kept well-stocked with soap, loo roll and paper towels at all times. You barely had to queue, and even on the Saturday night when the queues did grow, it still only took five minutes because there were so many.
Friends did feel they could have done with more toilets in the camping field, though. One morning they had to queue for 45 minutes, which is definitely too long, especially with young children.
What Else Was There To Do?
Lots. There was a two-hour woodland adventure for six to fifteen-year-olds, including bushcraft, survival, obstacle-crossing and combat. This was £15 per person.
There was also a vintage fair, wild gin-making sessions, hot tubs for hire, foraging workshops and I’m sure lots more that we didn’t even touch upon.
I would like to make a point about the programme here. It was very beautiful, but I feel it could have been laid out in a much easier-to-follow way.
Lots of people didn’t seem to know when the activities were taking place and therefore missed out on them.
I think, when you have such a packed programme of different activities, it makes much more sense to have one overall timetable for each day.
If it’s then split by the hour, with every area of the site listed, it’s much easier to look at any one time and see what’s on where.
We found the layout as it was a little clumsy and you had to be really on the ball to make sure you didn’t miss something. Likewise the Mount Hawke Skate and Hangout simply said to pop in and ask for the full listings.
I think most children (and many adults) would prefer to know in advance what’s on, rather than have to ask.
So What Did We Make Of The Great Estate?
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the festival. After all, if one of the biggest problems over a weekend is that you’ve failed to fit in everything you would have liked to do, it’s certainly not a bad position to be in!
The vibe was very laid-back and family-friendly. Everyone I spoke to was welcoming and cheerful. It felt a very safe space to let children wander by themselves.
I was also really impressed with how swiftly the organisers put procedures in place to make things easier for us when an old medical condition of mine flared up.
Similarly, my friend had broken her foot prior to the weekend, and found the walk from the car too long and painful.
When she spoke to officials, they quickly arranged for her and her family to park in the accessible car park and gave them wrist bands so they could cut through easier on foot.
It’s important for any festival to adapt to the needs of festival-goers and I got the feeling the organisers very much wanted everyone to enjoy the weekend.
I do think it would make a huge difference to families if the long walk from the car parks to the family camping could be reduced.
But for a festival only a few years old, The Great Estate was very well dressed and turned out. We hope to be back.
The Great Estate will return on Friday 29th May – Sunday 31st May 2020 and super early bird tickets will be released soon. For further information on The Great Estate please visit www.greatestatefestival.co.uk