The Wychwood Festival

My short-lived festival-going career ended nearly half a life ago. I went to Glastonbury when I was 18 and saw many bands I can’t now remember, apart from The Levellers for the first time (of very many) and PJ Harvey. A year later I went to the Phoenix festival, near Stratford-on-Avon. That festival only survived a year or two and I can’t for the life of me remember who played. That same year I travelled to Belgium on a coach to see The Levellers play a festival. There were lots of other bands on the bill, but the only other band I can remember was Faith No More. I also remember the heat, the dust and the lack of sleep. Fast forward a few years and we went to the very first V Festival, which was in Chelmsford. We mainly went to see Pulp, but my best memory is of theaudience (not a typo), fronted by a very young Sophie Ellis Bextor playing a pink guitar.

And that was it. My festival career.

The Wychwood Festival has been at Cheltenham Racecourse for 10 years. I think it was a few years before I became aware of it – I was too busy at the time having babies to worry about festivals. I knew The Levellers had played there and I knew that I’d sometimes missed the festival because we were on holiday -in Italy  and Barcelona. I’d seen The Levellers were playing again this year and had a vague idea we should go, but in the end it was my mum who suggested it and booked the tickets for us all.

The weather forecasts had been good, but they’d started declining as the week wore on, until we were predicted sunshine and showers all afternoon. So we wore our walking boots for the mud and packed our waterproofs and suncream. In the end, it was warmer than predicted, but without much sun and no rain at all. Pretty much perfect weather, really.

The parking for Wychwood is great. Cheltenham Racecourse is used to dealing with BIG events. Wychwood Festival is a fraction of the size of Gold Cup day, so there is easily enough parking to go around – and you can get to and from your car in a few minutes if you don’t want to carry the kitchen sink everything with you.

I’d heard that Wychwood was a very family-friendly festival, but I couldn’t believe how family-friendly it was. All of the festivals I’d been to before had been geared towards young adults. This was all about the kids. Pretty much everyone there had children with them. There were activities for toddlers and things to keep the bigger kids entertained too. There were bubbles, balloons, crafts and even a Little Tikes play area. It was so family-friendly that Justin Fletcher was first on stage! My sister and brother-in-law took my niece into the crowd to watch. My daughter would have liked to see him, but she was at a dance rehearsal, so I gave him a miss. The boys were typical big boys and complained about how irritating it all was.

We set up our picnic blankets and pop-up tent just away from the main stage, where it was a lot less crowded and a lot less muddy. The kids kept disappearing to look at the various stalls. At first I kept trying to find them, then I gave up. I realised the site was pretty small, they weren’t far away and they were safe. I was amazed to see there was just as much hippy clothing on sale as there had been in the 90s. Who still wears this stuff?! I was very pleased when my eldest bought himself a copy of A Weapon Called the Word, The Levellers’ very first album, which I’ve never had a copy of. I had it taped off a friend in the early 90s and then downloaded a few of my favourite tracks more recently.

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We went to see a singer in a tent (which conveniently for my husband sold beer) who had sounded interesting, but he didn’t sound like the singer described in the programme. He was OK, but he didn’t set the world alight, so we went back to our picnic blanket and the stalls. We were happy just watching the kids run around. My niece got the most amazing balloon – a dog with legs, that she could walk as though he were on a lead. She was VERY happy with him as she loves dogs, but unfortunately it burst.

The Levellers were doing a signing in the afternoon and my eldest was determined to be first in line. He made us get there half an hour early – and we were first in line! He got his CD signed and my daughter bought herself a Tshirt and got that signed. We also had a photo taken with them (by my dad, who isn’t used to cameras on phones).

My husband wanted to see Bad Manners in the afternoon, so we did. My younger son had found both his best friend and another boy from his class, so they were very happy together dancing in the mud. I’ll be honest, Bad Manners are slightly before my time (and I can’t say that about many bands), but I knew a lot of their songs. It was a really good show.

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Then it was off to find food! There was a good selection of festival food – all freshly cooked and good quality and lots of vegetarian! Pretty much everything seemed to be about £6 a portion, which seemed like reasonable value. I went for noodles for lunch and chilli at teatime. My younger son had bacon sandwiches for both meals and the other two went for pizzas. The toilets were pretty good too. There was a lot of the posher sort of toilet, as well as the standard cubicles and the queues were short.

After tea, the boys and my younger son’s friend started playing with a giant balloon. I’m not sure where the balloon came from. Gradually more balloons, and more kids, appeared, until all you could see was balloons and kids. They also got hold of some water balloons, which they filled, but didn’t actually throw. This kept them happy right until The Levellers.

My daughter was restless and tired, so she changed into her onesie and was just going to stay in her little tent. My sister and brother-in-law went home, and my mum and dad just chilled out on the picnic rug. It was time for The Levellers!

We had a fantastic time at the Wychwood Festival and will definitely go back next year.

 

 

 

Author: Sarah Mummy

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27 Comments

    • I did! It was a very long time ago!

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  1. Wow! It sounds like you all had a fantastic time….
    It’s great that it was so accommodating for children!

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    • It was great, thanks very much. I wonder if all festivals are going this way now, or if some are still strictly adults only?

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  2. I think I would have LOVED this festival, it sounds so chilled out. I love The Levellers, they were one of my mums favourite bands when I was growing up 🙂

    Glad you had so much fun and yes I am jealous 🙂

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    • You make me feel old that they were one of your mum’s favourite bands!

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  3. This looks like a brilliant day out! I am always slightly wary of taking kids to festivals, for fear of them being ‘bored’ or not being particularly child-friendly but it looks like there was something for everyone here – how fab!

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    • I must say my friend’s teenagers (16 and 14) did go home before 8pm as they were bored! I would have thought teenagers would have loved it, but I guess the music was more for adults reliving their youth and the activities more for younger kids.

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  4. I do love a good festival, so much to see and do for all the family. This one looks like no exception. #MagicMoments

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  5. I have been meaning to go to Wychwood for about 4 years now and STILL didn’t make it this year. Next year I am determined not to be lazy and forgetful!

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    • You need to do it! You’ve got no excuse! (Like I had no excuse for the last many years either.)

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  6. It seems we had very similar music tastes as teens! I loved Pulp and I went to the Phoenix festival the year that The Wonder Stuff headlined and played their last ever gig (such a sad day for a huge fan like myself!). This looks like a fab place to go and I do love a bit of One Way 🙂

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    • Yay! Good to hear someone else went to The Phoenix Festival. Nobody seems to have heard it, it seems like a figment of my imagination. Did you know The Wonder Stuff reformed (I guess it was mainly just Miles Hunt tbh)? They supported The Levellers when we went to see them three or four years ago in Birmingham.

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  7. Sounds like a great day out! I have seen Bad Manners a few times, always good fun, although I did buy some of their singles back in the day, so they obvs weren’t before my time! A Weapon Called the Word was my first Levellers album, still have it somewhere in a box of cassettes! Xx

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    • I was probably too busy listening to Phil Collins or something while you were listening to Bad Manners! I miss my box of cassettes! My eldest trashed the all as a toddler 🙁

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  8. This is such a great writer up! We have thought of going before especially living in spitting distance, and we can hear it from the house, but we’ve never made it. Love the Levellers! They had James a couple of years ago. It’s good to know how much the children enjoyed it. Think we should go next year.

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    • You should definitely go! Hopefully The Levellers might be back. Glad you liked the post 🙂

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  9. This post takes me back – The Phoenix festival. Faith no more, The levellers – all loved one and all!

    #MagicMoments

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    • Thank you! Great to hear that someone else remembers The Phoenix Festival (and The Levellers and Faith No More!).

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  10. We keep saying we’ll go to a festival with the kids but it’s just finding one that has bands we like and that is children friendly, it looks like lots of fun through #magicmoments

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  11. It certainly was fun! I was surprised that the music mattered less to us than I’d expected it to. We were all just happy being there 🙂

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  12. I have never been to a Festival before but it is something we’ve talked about as a family event and you’ve just made up our minds. What a fab time you all had and I so enjoyed reading this xx #magicmoments

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    • That’s nice to hear I’ve helped you make up your minds 🙂

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  13. Looks like you an amazing time 😉 I can;t wait until one are a bit older and we can get on the family festival circuit :))) x

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  14. Wow, sounds amazing! I haven’t been to a festival for many years, T in the Park back in 1992ish…! Great that it was so kids friendly, I’m a little jealous 🙂

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    • Your festival career was at a similar time to mine! 🙂

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