It doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch to say that Glastonbury is my spiritual home. I didn’t grow up on Glastonbury but first went when I was 19. In return for a ticket, I worked as a steward outside the main festival perimeter through the Oasis Carnival Club, headed up by Dick Goodenough. My family were convinced it was a scam as I sent off my cheque for the £100 deposit we’d been asked to pay. It wasn’t. Experiencing my first Glastonbury, my mind was blown and my heart was opened, and I’ve been to every festival since.
Back then, I was intoxicated by the hedonism, but it was never just a party. It was the most inspiring place to be as an emerging adult. The heart and soul of Glastonbury is social and environmental justice, peace and love, and I experienced this full force. Its power is undeniable. The energy of the festival has such momentum. You believe, shoulder-to-shoulder with the thousands of people around you, in the possibility of a better, more just world.
Yes, there are the headline performances on the Pyramid stage, but there a whole spectrum of experiences to discover. Some of my best moments have been much smaller – hearing Tony Benn speak in the Left Field, watching Kae Tempest’s spoken word, rejuvenating at Sam’s sauna with a bunch of naked strangers, dancing in the wee hours in a stumbled-upon venue. The mud!
Glastonbury helped me form new values, ones shared by the friends I went with. We were bound tightly together by the intensity of our time there. I still go with these friends. One, Ella, I married. Glastonbury is the backdrop to my love story.
Glastonbury is a world of freedom and creativity; it shuns consumerism and self-interested thinking and inspires people to their full potential to make a positive impact on the world. I grew up always trying to do what was expected of me, but Glastonbury made me realise you don’t have to conform. You can be yourself. You can learn this anywhere, but I learned this at Glastonbury. In time, it helped me allow myself to love who I wanted to love and to pursue my dream of joining the circus.
It felt fitting that my two years at circus school culminated in a performance in the Big Top in the Theatre and Circus field at Glastonbury. As we made our way there, I received a phone call that changed my life. NoFit State Circus were at the festival performing their outdoor show Parklife and were short of a cloud swing artist. Was I available? This was the company that five years previously had sown the tiny circus seed in my heart. They were the circus I had longed to be part of. Yes, I was available! The moment at the end of the show when the MC thanked the audience and said, “We have been NoFit State Circus,” was the moment my dream came true, and it happened at Glastonbury.
For the last 10 years, we have been running science and art workshops in the Kidz Field. Children aged 12 and under are free to enter Glastonbury when accompanied by a ticket-holding adult, and the Kidz Field is incredible! It is bursting with colour and there’s endless action for children. At the top of the hill there’s a massive and beautiful crew-made climbing frame, there’s a helter-skelter, swing boats, a climbing wall, a tent with every craft you can think of – metal pressing, ink printing, junk modelling, clay – there’s hair braiding, face painting, music workshops, a mobile recording studio, storytelling, music and theatre performances; I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s on offer.
Among the hubbub, we pitch our tepee and run rolling workshops throughout the day making sunlight prints and water rockets. We also put on science shows in which children help us with explosive experiments. Sometimes the tepee is packed; sometimes there are only a couple of children. Some children stay five minutes; some stay an hour. It doesn’t really matter. The motto of the field is, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood, or to enable someone else’s”. And that’s why we’re there: to offer positive experiences to children that they can engage with in any way they want to. It’s a privilege to be part of the field.
Because of Covid and Glastonbury’s fallow years, last year was the first festival we were able to take our two girls to, who were 4 and 1 at the time. We hadn’t come close to doing anything like Glastonbury as a family before. There were things we were apprehensive about in the run-up – everything we did would be tempered by what the girls were capable of, and how would they react in such a different and potentially overwhelming environment? I wasn’t so worried about our baby – she’d be happy anywhere with us – but for our eldest, it could have been a lot.
If you’ve never been before and you’re 4, it’s difficult to know that the trudge from the carpark will be worth it. But once we’d got through the schlep, found our camp and settled in, there was no going back. She fell for Glastonbury just as I had all those years before. It was amazing to see her throwing herself into everything.
There wasn’t the same space for Ella and me to lose ourselves in the festival, but it was enough to be there. As I was putting our baby to bed one night in the caravan, I could hear Noel Gallagher singing Champagne Supernova on the Pyramid stage. (I can’t help it: I’m a massive Oasis fan.) As soon as she was asleep, I left the rest of our crew at the camp and pegged it along to the back of the Pyramid stage and sang along with Noel, and thousands of others, at the top of my voice. A warm summer evening, blue skies above the stage, wispy clouds overhead. I was home.
My experience of Glastonbury has evolved over the last 20 years. The carefree years, the circus years, and now the family years. With Glastonbury, it’s easy to feel that you’re missing more than you’re seeing – you are – but I feel that even more keenly now that my children are with me. This year, we’ll try and venture further, but even if we don’t make it far, I feel lucky to be sharing this place that is so special to me with my daughters. I hope they love it. I hope they feel its freedom and creativity. I hope it teaches them, if they don’t know it already, that they can be themselves. Alice Ellerby
21 until 25 June, Pilton
Last year we got ourselves to Elderflower Fields, which I have been wanting to go to since my son was 2. I was so excited for the children (4 and 6) to experience a festival for the first time, and I can safely say we absolutely loved it!
Arriving on site, everything felt super chilled, friendly and spacious and it was lovely to be around so much nature. The campsite was a short walk to the actual festival, which was perfect for my eager children with little legs, and the toilets and food stalls were super close to everything as well, meaning we were never far from all the fun!
Before we arrived, I had a good scan through the website and made a list of everything we wanted to see and do. This proved really helpful, and we came away feeling like we had thoroughly experienced the festival and had a wild weekend in nature. A few things we enjoyed getting stuck into were circus skills, pocket science, slacklining, making clay bug sculptures, pond dipping and nature crafts. My children loved finding the next activity through the ferns and trees and dancing at the Dragonfly Stage.
I can’t wait to get back to Elderflower Fields. It felt easy, safe and had all round good vibes. Jasmine Moulden
26 until 29 May, Ashdown Forest
After a weekend at Hay, I always feel more enlightened and energised. The programme is packed with hour-long author talks, interviews and Q and As. My favourite talks are often by non-fiction authors. It’s fascinating to learn from experts more about their specialist subjects. The talks can be about almost anything, but the speakers are so interesting and engaging, you end up discovering all sorts of things. There is plenty of space on the festival site to lounge on deckchairs between talks, either with a book, or in spirited conversation about an event you’ve just attended.
Last year was the first time I went with my children. I hadn’t attended any children’s events at Hay before, but they are brilliant. It’s amazing to see a room full of children eagerly listening to an author reading or discussing their book, and the young audiences are full of questions. There is also a fantastic craft room and children can attend a session there and get messy with lots of different activities. If you go to Hay with more than one adult, this is a great place for entertaining children while one of you slips off to a talk the children wouldn’t want to sit through.
The town of Hay itself is a wonderful place to explore. It’s crammed with antique shops, bookshops, cafes. In early summer, the river is wide and shallow – perfect for a dip – and the surrounding countryside is beautiful. The festival has its own reasonably priced campsite, and children under 12 camp for free. Alice Ellerby
25 May until 4 June, Hay-on-Wye
Dan, Victoria, Mog (9) and Bear (6) rambled into Medicine in a camper-van on the Thursday of the festival, staying until Saturday afternoon. Beautifully organised, safe, extremely family friendly, and with a positive and caring vibe. The family zone has a brilliant range of activities for children with plenty of art and crafts, yoga, nature trails, and singing circles to end the day. We also enjoyed classes and talks and watching music across the rest of the festival site. There’s an excellent range of food stalls, all vegan or vegetarian, including an exceptional wood-fired pizza tent and a delicious ice-cream stall.
A highlight for me was taking the children out dancing in the evening, not something you can easily do in the real world, and they loved the lights at night around the site. Getting them involved with the ceremonies was a delight too. They really listened to the elders and took on the solemnity of the moment. There was a strong focus on water given the drought through the summer, and they really felt it was an opportunity to help nature.
Mog says, “I loved Medicine this year. It was colourful, beautiful, and bright. All ages were there. I particularly liked the swimming lake and all the stalls selling different things (especially crystals). I loved the care and attention that all the workers put into the festival. It was overall amazing!” Bear says, “I loved the karate, because I learned lots of new moves, but my favourite was the yoga. I saw the man with flower sticks and now I have them!” Victoria Hill
17 until 21 August, near Reading
I have visited Green Gathering for a few years now. Being up the road from where I live, and with a seasoned festival-goer of a sister, it seemed the natural choice for where to celebrate her forthcoming wedding with some friends last year.
The walkabout performances are always a delight to discover; joining in with them is optional, of course! Finding the silent disco was definitely a highlight, and tuning eight sets of headphones into the same channel for us was no mean feat for the very patient DJ! Ending the night around a huge communal campfire with a chai latte for the road home was the perfect chillout end to our celebrations.
Although we had a programme of events and spaces to visit as our guide, we all agreed that wandering around and discovering workshops such as stone carving and jewellery making in the Permaculture field, chatting to stall-holders and unexpectedly coming away with repurposed saris as dressing gowns, was the best way to experience Green Gathering.
The festival is off-grid, powered by solar and wind energy. It sits within Piercefield Park with the majestic ruins of Piercefield House as the most glorious backdrop, and views across the River Severn. Jo Haycock
3 until 6 August, Chepstow
World Yoga Festival
World Yoga Festival is a real highlight of the summer for my family. The family area is a safe, welcoming space that reflects the tranquillity yet playful feel of the overall festival. While the event’s ethos is to focus on the authentic eight limbs of yoga, with yoga practice, Vedanta talks, meditation, traditional Indian dance and world music, there are also lively and fun classes developed especially for toddlers, children and teens, with dedicated tents for each. It’s a secure environment with art, crafts, storytelling and entertainment for the whole family, alongside the adult classes, plus great food and luxury toilets as standard. You can upgrade from camping to glamping and really make a weekend of it.
All the teachers and workshop leaders created an inclusive and friendly environment where our daughter could flourish, and the balance between exciting, engaging activities and free play was perfect. The family area became a lovely place to spend time, and by the end of the festival our daughter had made many new friends, and so had we. Mark De’Lisser
3 until 6 August, Henley-on-Thames
First published in Issue 83 of JUNO. Accurate at the time this issue went to print.