The Wychwood Festival takes place at Cheltenham Racecourse every year in the last weekend of May half-term. It’s consistently named as one of Britain’s best family festivals, and it’s easy to see why.
We went along on the Saturday with my whole family – including my 2 month old nephew, 2 year old niece and my mum and dad, who are 66 and 70 respectively. Who knew a festival could cater for an age range that big? If that’s not family friendly, I don’t know what is.
The headline acts tend to be bands that were big in the 80s (as well as Mr Tumble, although disappointingly for my niece, he played on the wrong day for us this year), which gives you an indication of who the Wychwood Festival is aimed at. Pretty much everyone there has kids with them, from tiny babies through to teenagers.
There’s a lot to do to keep everyone busy, so much so that we hardly even bothered with the music. It doesn’t seem right to go to a music festival and not bother with the music, but with kids you tend to do what interests them – and they’re not interested in listening to bands they’ve never heard of.
The weather was not really what you would hope for at the very end of the May, but at least it didn’t rain, like it did on the other two days. Brief periods of hot sunshine were interspersed with cloud, wind and general cold. By the end of the day I was wearing two Tshirts, a hoodie and a coat – and I was STILL cold.
There’s free activities, like circus skills, crafts, story times and dance classes. My boys kept vanishing for hours at a time – my younger son was busy doing circus skills and watching a ventriloquist, as well as hanging out with a boy from his class. A stall selling bubbles was pumping bubbles of all sizes out all day and my son spent hours just getting covered in them. Who knew bubbles could still be so much fun when you’re 11? My eldest ended up playing chess with a stallholder (and beating him!). Random, or what?
My kids also liked the inflatable activities and flight simulator you have to pay for – usually about £3 a time. It sounds fine, but when two of them go on it and they all go on at least two things each, it starts to add up.
My daughter went along to a musical theatre dance class. Lots of mums were dancing too, so there was no stopping me from joining in! I didn’t get told off by a single member of my family for being embarrassing, which is a result. My mum and my niece even joined in with the class briefly. It was amazing to see my mum and my daughter, with 57 years between them, dancing together.
The food and drink on offer is really good. There’s lots of choice for vegetarians, including a whole Mexican stall which was purely vegetarian. My younger son and my husband had ostrich burgers for lunch, which all seems very wrong to me, but apparently it was very nice and it’s healthy as it’s much leaner than other meats. You learn a new thing every day! If you indulge in alcohol, like every person on the site apart from me, my mum and dad, there’s plenty of beer and cider, not to mention Pimms, if you’re feeling a bit posh.
The toilets aren’t bad and the queues are pretty short. There was a tense moment when I saw a lot of brown stuff on the floor of my cubicle, but I realised it was clay and everything was well with the world.
There are three stages – the main stage, the big top and the Hobgoblin stage. My husband and I checked out Yes Sunshine on the Hobgoblin stage, who were a very good indie/ alternative band.
We then watched The Proclaimers on the main stage, who gave a fantastic and very long performance, considering they weren’t even the headliners. I only know two Proclaimers songs – Letter from America and 500 miles (of course). Their performance for me was punctuated by my daughter complaining that she was cold and that she needed the toilet. I kept telling her they were nearly finished, the next song would definitely be 500 miles and she could go after that. They played for an hour and a half. We ended up sprinting to the toilet before the end of the set and there’s no prizes for guessing what they were playing on our way. back.
UB40 (or what’s left of them) were the headline act. I know far more UB40 songs than I know Proclaimers songs and Ali Campbell’s voice still sounds fantastic, but my kids had pretty much lost their momentum by then. They still didn’t want to watch a band they didn’t know, it was too dark to run around, the stalls were all closed (apart from the bubble stall) and they were cold. So we left before then end.
It was a fantastic experience and we all loved our day at Wychwood. I’m sure we’ll be back again next year (and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that the Levellers will play, nobody will get bored then!).
Find out more about Wychwood Festival and keep an eye for next year’s ticket prices here.