Glastonbury with a 3 year old – a very different festival experience!

Glastonbury with a 3 year old – a very different festival experience!

We’ve all taken a look at this year’s Glastonbury clashfinder, slumped to the ground with our fist in the air shouting “WHY EAVIS, WHY?”  when we saw the unholy clash between Radiohead and Flaming Lips, but spare a thought for those of us who have to worry about clashes with a band we must see vs Mr Bloom, Basil Brush or the Frozen singalong!

We may kid ourselves that we’ll be able to go and see that band.  We concede that there will be tough negotiations, no doubt involving trips to the ice-cream van.  We think it will be easy to get the necessary advantage to get our own way.  But in your heart of hearts, you know that before long your ears will be ringing to a roomful of kids belting out “Let it go” at the top of their lungs, and you’ll still have been stung for the ice cream!

That’s the reality of taking kids to Glastonbury – But it’s Glastonbury so we’ll still have an amazing time!

Initially I thought about pretending that this is the first time we’ve taken our child to Glastonbury, kind of “ooh, what’s he letting himself in for”, build a bit of suspense – but this isn’t a Murdoch red-top, so full disclosure – we took him last year aged 2, and we all had a great time!  Indeed when we dismantled his travel cot on the last day, he didn’t want to leave!

It’s obviously a very different kind of Glastonbury – you’re likely to spend more time in the kids field than watching bands for example, you’ll be firmly at the back of the Pyramid stage audience after about mid-afternoon, the late night areas are out of the question – but it’s Glastonbury and it’s never too early to share the magic with your kids!  (Well I say that, but often there are children born at Glastonbury – I think you have to be a certain type of super-parent to cope with that!  But on the other hand, fallow year’s aside, they have the best birthday party in the world!)

Thinking of taking a young child to Glastonbury?

I would however urge caution If you’ve never been to Glastonbury and are thinking of doing your first with a very young child.

Glastonbury is pretty amazing, so by the time you get home you forget all about for example, the grueling hour long walk from the car to the campsite over rough, possibly muddy terrain, loaded down with tents, sleeping bags and essentials such as 300 cans of cider!  It can be hard going and you really need to have experienced it before and be sure you really want to go, to ensure you are ready for it.

Though of course in many ways it’s like any other holiday – most start with a long car journey, or going to airports at unholy hours.  If the holiday is good you don’t remember any of that stuff.

If you’ve never been it can be hard to get into the spirit when faced with adversity.  For example, on my first Glastonbury it had been beautiful sunny weather for weeks.  The BBC forecast “possible showers”.  We arrived on the Thursday night (rookie error – bands don’t start until Friday so why bother getting there any earlier, or so we thought!)  Setting up our tents in blistering heat.

That night we experienced flooding of biblical proportions.  I woke early to a quagmire.  I didn’t want to wake my mate (and I’m not even sure how you knock on a tent!) so I wandered off to one of the stages.  The first band were delayed and there were rumours that the whole thing was going to be cancelled.  I wanted to return to my tent but there were thousands of tents and I’d no idea where I’d camped!  I said to the guides “It’s a blue Halfords tent” but strangely they’d no idea where it was!

I couldn’t get a phone signal, I hadn’t bothered with wellies so my sandals were sinking into the mud, and I had a sinking feeling in general and just wanted to go home!

Fortunately, I eventually managed to get a phone signal, found my mate, found my tent, the bands started, and by the end of the Sunday night I had a sinking feeling again – this time because the following year was a fallow year so I knew it was at least 2 years before I’d be back, and I might not even be able to get tickets!

It can be a baptism of fire!  But once you’ve experienced it, not going simply isn’t an option!

Knowledge of the festival is key!

If you are going for the first time with kids, make sure you are at least going with people who know the festival.  I’ve actually seen people take pushchairs down the front of the pyramid in the evening!

In the afternoon the pyramid stage tends to be relatively quiet – people who were up to the wee small hours partying are either sleeping, chilling at their tents or exploring.  So if it’s a nice day people tend to be out on the grass with their picnic rugs and it’s all very family friendly.  However, come early evening it can quickly become very busy.  The last thing you want is to be stuck at the front with 100,000 people behind you!  It takes a while getting through the crowd even on your own!

Knowing the dynamics of the festival, or having someone on hand who does is key!

I’m aware of how heavy going Glastonbury can be so although lots of people express an interest in going to me, I never push them into going, they have to be keen enough to keep pestering me.

For example, one year I got a phone call out of the blue from an old school friend who was  watching it on telly saying “this looks pretty amazing – we should go next year”, I replied “I’m here!”.

Come the following year, I mentioned tickets were going on sale and he hummed and hawed “Hmmm it’s a lot of money, what if I don’t like the lineup, what if it rains, I’d need to camp, I can’t shower, the toilets stink…”.  Sat at the Cider bus he rang me again whilst watching it on telly, and he regretted it!  That was about 7 or 8 years ago and he’s still never been!

It takes a certain kind of determination to do Glastonbury, I know lightweights who’ve gone home at the first sign of rain, once you’ve done it a few times and understand the ups and downs and what you are letting yourself in for, you can make an informed decision on whether you and your child(ren) are ready!

I always like going round with someone in the gang who’s going for the first time because when you see them wandering around wide-eyed taking it all in, it reminds you of your own first time.  You want to be free to wander, and that’s going to be tough if you’re doing it with a young child, unless you have someone who can take them for a bit.

I’ve been going for long enough to realise that it doesn’t change much from year to year, I don’t need to run from stage to stage scared that I’ll miss something, I can have a great time anywhere in the festival, so if we don’t make it to the stone circle or the cider bus or something then it’s no big deal.  Also I don’t get hammered like I used to.  We only saw about 5 bands last year, yet it was still a vintage year and the highlight of our year!

Before bringing our child for the first time, I observed and spoke to other parents – seeing the kids happy faces, having the time of their lives help convince me it was the right decision to take him, and I didn’t regret it!

It’s hard to explain the appeal if you’ve never been.  I remember when a friend wanted me to go I thought it was all just hype.  I couldn’t see the appeal of a muddy field, watching bands on a video screen as the wind plays havoc with the acoustics!  The lineup drew me in, the festival brings me back, and to be honest this year’s lineup is relatively bland, albeit I’ve shortlisted 147 acts I’d happily see (well to be honest that includes the Frozen singalong!) so I don’t think we need to take a book to read.

Other Parents

Of course some parents at Glastonbury make this parenting lark look like a doddle!  I still remember my first Glastonbury and a mother breastfeeding her few day old baby at the pyramid stage!

I thought about going to see Dolly Parton a few years ago.  I’m not a big fan of country music, but these cheesy legend acts can be very entertaining.  For example, I went to see Shirley Bassey a few years ago, someone I’d never normally consider going to see, but that’s the beauty of a big festival -seeing acts you’d never normally consider.

The Arctic Monkeys had played the Friday night and she mentioned that those “nice young boys” had played “Hey Big Spender”.  She sounded humbled that young lads performed her old song.  She proceeded to do a storming rendition, and ended up by shaking her ass to the side and in full Diva mode “That’s how it SHOULD be done boys!” she won Glastonbury!

Anyway, the problem with the legends slot is that it gets very busy and as a lot of people are there out of curiosity there is a lot of pushing and shoving as people come and go.  Not having a young child with me that year I’d overdone it somewhat and decided to go to see Public Service Broadcasting on the Other Stage.

It wasn’t very busy and I was pretty close to the front.  I noticed a child who turned out to be about 7 on her own.  I asked if she’d misplaced her parents, and she explained that her parents had gone to see Dolly, she preferred Public Service Broadcasting so they told her to go and see them, and would join her after a few songs.

Sure enough, her mum joined her about 3 or 4 songs in.

It’s impressive that one so young has such good taste!  On the other hand, I was reluctant to let my 14 year old go off on her own!

Don’t get me wrong, Glastonbury is a very safe place, it’s not like there are quiet back alleys or rough areas, security is very tight, police are never far away, and there’s a good age range, it’s not full of gangs of youths causing mayhem.  It’s busy enough with enough people mature enough to help if a child got into difficulty.

But, I wouldn’t be surprised if my son says to me one day “Awww Dad, I want to go and be with me mates, I’m 24 after all”.  Well they get up to all sorts up in that naughty corner!  He should be back in the tent with a cocoa and an early night 😉 Actually, I might be turning into my parents!

As always, everyone has their own way of experiencing Glastonbury.  I know one guy who goes every year and never bothers to watch a band or political debate, some people spend all weekend in the Dance Village (Silver Hayes), some spend all weekend in the Acoustic Village, some spend all their time in the Greenpeace area, some spend most of their time at the pyramid, and most wander around and sample a bit of everything.

There’s no “right way” to do Glastonbury, it’s whatever suits you.

Look out for Updates

Will we see any bands?  Will we learn to love the film Frozen?  Will Theresa May make a surprise appearance with Billy Bragg?  Will our house-sitter drink all my Jeremy Corbyn wine I’ve set aside for the next election?

I’m hoping to going to try and post updates from the festival – technology, elements and stamina permitting!

Otherwise a full round-up of all the fun and games next week!


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John King

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