Just So Festival is now in its third year and attracts a loyal band of festival goers who return for its inventiveness, chilled atmosphere and family fun. This year saw them move from their original location to a larger site at Rode Park, near Congleton for another sell-out weekend.
The new spot has a more open feel and yet Just So have managed to bring the same intimacy of their fully wooded former-home. With the festival divided up into themed areas such as: Away With the Fairies, Lazy Days, Wild Things and the High Seas each space had a distinct offering to visitors.
Camping on site was spacious and nicely located with neither the parking or festival too far to walk. We were lucky enough to have a tent pitched for us by Alpkit, who also have a cool festival of their own.
Much of the magic of Just so is just that: magic. They create an environment where simply anything could happen. The Gruffalo walks past as you buy your morning bread, a giant bird strolls through the festival and The Dream Catcher comes to visit you as you have your breakfast (this didn’t work out so well as Betsy took exception to him…) and the resident characters are but one layer of the entertainment.
The volume of activities is mind boggling. Some are a constant provision while others are offered at particular times. Big hits with our gang were: everything in Wild Things (head dress making, masks, dragonflies, clay faces, instruments – you name it, we did it), lantern making, the giant mud pit and circus skills. We could have stayed a week and still had things we wanted to do and see.
The food was excellent with delicious fresh baked bread, wood-fired pizzas, kettle popped popcorn and bulging falafel-filled pittas being our highlight. We had planned to cater most of our meals but were tempted by the delicious choices more than once (especially when cooking in the rain was our prospect!). Even more lovely was the social barn where you could pull up a straw bale and eat together.
In the main everything work brilliantly and, from our point of view, was a joy to attend. There were a couple of small things which could do with some attention next year. Food by the loos: the main toilet blocks and the main food area were adjacent which we didn’t love (the whiff of chemicals and wee is just plain off-putting) in The High Seas I felt particularly sorry for the cake stall by the portaloos.
Following last year’s water issues I was expecting there to be no problems at all this year. While there was nothing on the scale of 2011 there were times when the water stopped working and after the first day it was unusual for the taps to be working in the loos. The loos themselves were plentiful (we never queued) and of good quality but did need to be attended more frequently as they were often out of paper and soap.
Last year also saw some high blood pressure over limited spaces on Pirate Training. This year there were far more sessions than previously (which we heard great things about) but despite the programme saying sessions could be booked at nine and at midday by the time I got there at 11:45 they were advertised as fully booked for the day. I heard a few grumbles from fellow parents over the booking which is a shame. Our opinion was that with so many amazing activities and shows missing one thing wasn’t the end of the world but perhaps this is one activity so popular it shouldn’t be booked but first come etc.
Summing up Just So Festival is tricky. It is so many things – a great camping experience, community, magical and creative. You can be silly, lazy, active, social and just plain relaxed as the atmosphere is unbelievable. Children can run free and explore the arts in a safe environment, experiencing things alongside their parents. Each and every turn has wonder awaiting you. The video below captures some of the fun we had during our weekend.
Just So Festival is the stuff of truly amazing Summer memories. It is a mythical Other World which opens up for a few short days; if you are lucky enough to be there, it will stay with you forever.
Early bird tickets on sale now and selling fast…
With thanks to Just So Festival for inviting us to join them for the weekend, Alpkit for bravely pitching our tent in the rain so we didn’t have to and to every single volunteer and performer who made it such a wonderful experience from start to finish.