The Magic Loungeabout invited us along to sample the festival this year, so we sent festival virgin Sarah and her young family along to find out if the Unwind was really so Refined…
Review by Sarah Folley
We were festival novices having never attended a festival before either as a couple or with our children. We are in our early thirties with two little girls, aged 2 and 4. We’ve been following Festival Kidz for a while now and, inspired by their blogs and articles, decided we were ready to try out a festival as a family and see for ourselves whether it really was as much fun as it sounds!
Billed as the “Refined Unwind”, the organiser aims for a festival that involves no queues so tickets are limited to 10,000 (which as I later found out was referred to as a ‘Boutique Festival’). The Guardian once called it the “Harrods of festivals” which is quite fitting as the event involves very upmarket food, champagne, waiter service tents and even a camping section with flushing toilets.
The setting was beautiful in the grounds of Broughton Hall and if you want to festival in style then this is definitely the place for you.
After the ticket price of £230 for a family you could also upgrade for another £299-499 to a yurt or a tipi with beds, breakfast, flushing toilets and showers as well as a concierge service. This looked amazing if you fancy an upgrade and want to really treat yourselves.
The musical line-up was headlined by The Human League on Saturday night followed on the Sunday by Badly Drawn Boy. Also playing was the New Young Pony Club, Ed Sheeran and Fenech-Soler to name but a few. Saturday had an electric pop influence with the Sunday being more acoustic lead.
Other entertainment was plentiful although it being only a small festival set in one field. Bearded kitten were entertaining the crowds by organising jelly fights and water-sliding down the hills outside the main hall (this was excellent fun!). Angel gardens were there for the children with a large part of the field. They had wonderful workshops set up throughout the day such as drums, story time, lantern making, all for just a donation towards materials. Zorbing balls were quite a hit with our 4 year old and always commanded a large queue. Speakers were invited such as Annie Nightingale, and a curious cinema was set up showing classic films like ET and Coraline.
Food and drink were all top quality allbeit a little on the expensive side. I believe the best buy of the festival was the biggest sparkly candyfloss I have ever seen which cost us £2. There were pop-up restaurants from Covent Garden and all the food we saw looked delightful. We tucked into an Indian on Saturday evening which was just soooo nice. The ice creams were handmade organic ice creams, again top quality. Everything on offer was the best of the best. The festival operated a fair use policy on drinks allowing 12 cans of larger, one bottle of wine and one bottle of spirits per person (as long as there was no glass brought into the festival). This is a good job as pints were £4 in the main arena, this turned out to be much more expensive than stated on the festival’s Facebook page just weeks before when they were advertised at approximately £3.40.
When booking tickets you could choose between four different areas in which to pitch your tent:
The Brook – This was the V.I.P / Boutique Camping area where pre-erected tents and tipis were located. The lucky occupiers of these wore blue armbands as opposed to pink like ours. This looked a wonderful option, especially when you compared it to our very small tent!
The View – the main area which was located on a slope, this overlooked the main house and arena only separated by a brook. As a family I’m glad we avoided this as, according to the Facebook page post-festival, some campers found it noisy and badly lit. There were some posts of tent thefts, but sadly no festival is immune from people intent on stealing no matter how nice the genuine audience it attracts. I personally thought The View camping area was on too much of a slope as well.
The Forest – this was a small area which was really a continuation of The View – it just had a few trees on it. Pretty, but not really to be recommended for families as it was on the edge of The View.
The Family Camping / Quiet area – This was a lovely area which occupied one field but overlapped into another near the entrance. The children’s entertainers were around between 8-9AM to entertain the children in the field which was a wonderful touch. Our girls made a friend in a nearby tent which made them both happy.
The site was easy to find and we drove in with no queues whatsoever. After getting our Festival Kidz press passes, we hired a funky rainbow-coloured folding wheelbarrow to take our camping equipment to the field. This was only £4 and although the girls enjoyed the ride, it was not entirely necessary as the family camping was only 100 meters away from the box office. We pitched the tent and there was plenty of room; we were around 5 meters from our nearest neighbour. We chose a spot near the exit so as not to be disturbed with people walking to their tents at night, as we knew we would be earlyish to bed.
We made our way to the main arena which was only around a 5 minute walk (and that with a 2 year old dragging her feet!) we passed prettily decorated bridges of bunting and flowers. As you entered the main arena Angel Gardens took up a large proportion of the area before us, it was lovely to relax and know the children couldn’t get into much trouble, couldn’t wander far away and had all the circus toys, dressing up costumes and workshops to play with. Angel Gardens we found out are a group of volunteers who attend festivals and in return for entry they entertain the children. Workshops ask for a donation towards materials but this is well worth it. After painting a tiny hand for an art exhibition we decided to take a look around the site to see what entertainment was on offer so as to plan our weekend.
The girls soon found the large plastic sheet lain on the hill getting hosed down with water and fairy liquid, adults and children alike were throwing themselves down like headless chickens, one of the bearded kitten crew even got injured doing just this! The girls were like ducks to water especially as it was so hot and this kept them entertained for hours. With music playing in the background, we happily sat in the sun watching the girls slide down the hill again and again we just kept topping up drinks and sun cream for them and we were all very happy.
After many hours of sliding we took a look at the choice of things on sale, many upcycling dresses and clothes and stall after stall of gorgeous food. We also noticed the wonderful-looking MAGIC SPA. I would recommend this on the Sunday evening to recover from the aches and pains of camping. They offered massage, reflexology, Indian head massage to mention but a few treatments. We noticed some DAY TENTS which were all occupied offering much needed shelter from the sun’s heat. These tents were waiter serviced and offered table and chairs to sit at, overlooking the main stage.
At this point our girls were wet and tired and our eldest had just been stung by a wasp (luckily I had Calpol and Waspeze packed in our tent for such an emergency) so we decided to head back to our tent to have a bite to eat and change of clothes before returning for the evening. A short walk back to our tent and we all tucked into a snack made on our camp stove. We sat outside on our blanket and the girls made a friend so played happily for almost 2 hours.
We returned to the main arena at around eight o clock, the girls played in the tents of the Angel Garden crew and took part in the lantern parade around the field. They felt very proud as everyone clapped the handmade lanterns on show. As soon as this finished they took part in a festival wedding by surrounding the “bride and groom” in a circle, this was quickly followed by a fire dance show which was entertaining and as we sat watching this we heard the Human League performing in the background. Our youngest daughter didn’t like the noise so we viewed from a distance but they were excellent and I surprised myself with how many songs I knew. As the time grew towards ten, the girls were very tired so we popped back to our tent and I was very pleasantly surprised to find that once The Human League had finished playing at around half ten we heard no further noise from the arena. We had a very good night’s sleep. The girls loved the “adventure” side of camping, we dressed them in fleece suits as they tend to move a lot in the night and even though it was a very hot weekend it was still very cold at night.
We awake before the children at around 8AM and again the weather was already hot. The toilets on the site were as clean as could be expected: no dirt, always contained toilet roll and in the main arena even had children’s only portable loos. We had breakfast and managed to buy milk from an onsite shop (not too badly priced either). We took down our tent and packed up before it got too hot, then headed into the main area. Whilst we were packing, the girls happily played with the other children in the field. At around 10AM we headed to the main area, we knew that most workshops we wanted to do didn’t start till half ten. We stayed around Angel Gardens and enjoyed a children’s yoga session, this was movements set around a story and especially captured the imagination of our 4 year old.
After this she wanted to go zorbing so whilst daddy took her to queue up I did a headband making workshop with our little one, I do think I enjoyed this more than she did but she did love choosing the flowers and leaves to go on it and wore it nonstop afterwards. Both girls got faces painted before we spent over an hour at a willow workshop again much loved by mom. We made some angel wings and the girls got messy with glue and glitter decorating them, then we made a wicker heart to bring home as a memory of a wonderful family weekend.
I found the festival experience enlightening; it was somewhere you could be to truly forget about stresses at home and magical for the children. This festival was attended by mainly families and I would say my husband and I were below the average age of visitors. My husband was hesitant at attending a festival but he said it was ‘above and beyond his expectations’; it was like a camping holiday but with everything (entertainment and food) in one place, and very refreshing not to use your car for a weekend.
Things I was glad I had taken
Baby wipes (lots), Alcohol hand gel, large picnic blankets, dressing up outfits for our children, ear plugs for hubby (although I was fine without), cereal bars, bottled water, sunscreen, potty, flashing necklaces for the evenings…
Things I wish I’d taken but didn’t
It was hard to pick fault to be honest as we had such a wonderful time and having never experienced a festival before we just loved everything about it. I have tried to be honest and also have taken time to read other reviews and feedback on their Facebook page to get a perspective on the experience of other festival-goers but from a personal family point of view we really enjoyed ourselves,… must say the weather made it though! 🙂
** We found a fabulously well-written review of the Magic Loungeabout here: http://theplbway.wordpress.com/festivals/the-magic-loungeabout-2011-review – after reading this one, I’m sure you’ll want to be there too!