“This is amazing, Daddy,” Harrison shouted to me from his lofty perch on my shoulders, where he could have a better view of the stage and his favourite musician.
He was right, of course, it was, after so long away, simply amazing to be back at a music festival, the first we had been to since his and Dorothy’s arrival in our lives.
Through the ensuing years of broken sleep, early mornings, even later nights, endless toddler groups and traditional family-based activities, Kim and I had almost forgotten just how much we loved the energy and atmosphere that are unique to great music festivals.
Back when Kim and I first met – at a music festival in London – they had been an integral part of our lives, when not a summer would go by without us attending at least three or four.
However, back then it was a simpler affair; tent, mattress, sleeping bags, a few clothes and not much else, other than excitement about escaping the ‘real world’ for a few days.
Music has always been a means of escape for us, giving us the ability to switch off all other thoughts in our minds and be totally lost in the moment, listening to our favourite musicians.
Then we had children and for a long time, live music and festivals were off the agenda.
That was until this summer, when we decided we wanted to share the joy we experienced at them with Harrison and Dorothy.
For so long we have focused our time away on touring, using our motorhome to explore this and other countries, or, as is often the case with us, to embark on some mad road trip. Which, for the record, we have loved. But these days, with an ever-increasing number of festivals providing leisure vehicle pitches, we decided that it was time to do something a little different.
Focus on family activities
With any number of festivals to choose from, the hardest part was deciding which would be best for us, bearing in mind that a three-year old and a six-year old wouldn’t want to sit and listen to music all day long.
After much deliberation, we opted to head for RunFestRun, held at Laverstoke Park Farm in the heart of the Hampshire countryside.
As well as being focused on family activities and healthy lifestyles, this had the bonus of being the sister event to CarFest, the creation of radio DJ Chris Evans. This meant that during the day, we could enjoy a more relaxed time, with plenty of children’s activities in a much quieter setting, before spending the late afternoons and evenings at the main festival, listening to headline acts.
As we approached the main site, we spotted the feather flags that are synonymous with festivals lining the entrance to the field that would be our temporary campsite. Kim and I had that same sense of excitement and anticipation from all those years ago. There was also a huge sense of relief at not having to park miles away, then lug in all of our camping gear and provisions for the weekend. Instead, the Caravan and Motorhome Club were on hand to ensure that pitching up here was as seamless as being on one of their own sites.
Having spotted the main stage and some of the fairground rides on our way in, Harrison and Dorothy were desperate to get their shoes on and head straight for the arena.
Much as we were in the past, they were like the proverbial children in a sweetshop, full of pent-up excitement and energy at the huge choice of things to do, but not really knowing where to start.
So for the first hour they simply ran around with wild abandon, the dulcet tones of music filling the warm afternoon air, chasing other children as we sat and enjoyed fresh juice and stone-baked pizza, laughing at how times had changed since our days at Glastonbury.
Running, fast and slow
As the name suggest, RunFestRun’s main focus is on running, ranging from family fun runs and relays, all the way through to competitive 10km races and half-marathons.
Added to that, great athletes such as Paula Radcliffe, Sally Gunnell, Steve Cram and Colin Jackson were attending as team captains. There was also a huge array of talks and interviews, with them and a host of other inspirational people from the running and fitness world.
Not that the talks were of much interest to Harrison and Dorothy, although the parachute runs were, both finding it hilarious that the faster they ran while attached to mini-parachutes, the harder it was to get to the finish line.
It was a pretty close call between that the the hula-hoop fitness class for the title of best activity over the weekend. However, both of these paled into insignificance when compared with the fun they had over at CarFest, where the fairground provided hours of entertainment.
Comfortable camping in the ‘van
All the excitement eventually got the better of them, and as Kim and I sat and enjoyed a DJ set by Faithless, harking back to past times, they both slept blissfully.
It was as the night ended that we truly valued being at the festival in our motorhome, though – being able to come back to a certain level of comfort and relax with a cup of tea, rather than roughing it in a tent crammed into a field with thousands of others, is really something of a luxury as far as festivals go.
Next morning, having had a taste of festival life on the first day, Harrison and Dorothy were eager to dress, eat breakfast and head back to the arena as soon as possible. I can’t remember the last time they were dressed and ready so quickly!
The discovery of a giant sandpit ensured the morning was spent at a leisurely pace, the two of them happily building sandcastles and making friends while Kim and I, along with a host of other parents, took the chance to drink coffee in deckchairs provided by sponsors Eurotunnel.
It was only the promise of seeing Harrison’s current favourite musician, James Bay, that lured them away from the sand in the end.
After a quick pitstop at the motorhome, it was time to head back to CarFest, where our way in took us past a section of the site called ‘Memory Lane’. It was here we stepped back in time to the early 1970s, among a collection of chic caravans, complete with a host of memorabilia from the same period and owners dressed in the sort of clothes I imagine my parents once wore.
We were brought back to the present day by the sudden strumming of a guitar filling the air, reminding Harrison it wouldn’t be long before we needed to be at the main stage. Just enough time for a quick visit to the fairground, according to his calculations! As the sun began to set, the sky awash with shades of apricot, and the four of us standing listening to the music together, it was quite hard not to feel emotional.
Making great memories
We have always believed life is about memories we create and times we share together, rather than material possessions, and for Kim and me, being able to share our love of live music with our children, in such a lovely setting as this, was truly magical.
Seeing the pleasure on Harrison’s face as he marvelled at the world he suddenly found himself in, full of lights, flags and a collective atmosphere of happiness, was a moment that will stay with me for some time. It took me back to my own experiences of getting into live music, the many nights I, and then we, as couple, spent escaping the world around us to be lost in the moment.
This may have been the first festival we’ve been to in our motorhome, which was the perfect base for the weekend, but judging by how much fun Harrison and Dorothy had, not to mention Kim and myself, it most certainly won’t be the last. Now the only question is, where to go next?
In 2022, RunFestRun takes place at Englefield House, Berkshire, from 20-22 May.
Our top five ‘van-friendly festivals
Set in the beautiful Lake District, this is a more mainstream festival focusing on the musical side of things, often with biog-name heading acts across the weekend. Motorhome tickets are available as an additional cost to the festival ticket itself.
Isle of Wight Festival
Offering an eclectic mix of artists, from top current performers through to bands from yesteryear, and a popular kids’ zone, this is a great festival for all ages. It can also be combined with a longer trip, allowing you time to explore the island.
Set in the gorgeous North Yorkshire countryside, which in itself is a big selling point, and described as a ‘three-day wonderland of music, arts, science and sport for all ages’, this one is top of our list of festivals that we want to visit next year.
Amid the green fields and raggle-taggle farmhouses of rural Herefordshire lies Nozstock. The hidden Valley, a festival mixing music of all genres with an array of arts and crafts. There is a family-specific motorhome and campervan area – just be sure to book the extra ticket you’ll need for this.
Designed for families with younger children, this is ideal for a first0time family festival experience. The focus is very much on being at one with nature, allowing children to roam free and everyone to enjoy excellent music, creative arts and great food. Another one for our ‘must visit’ list.
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This may have been the first festival we've been to in our motorhome, which was the perfect base for the weekend, but judging by how much fun Harrison and Dorothy had, not to mention Kim and myself, it most certainly won't be the last