Festival Kids Review: Forgotten Fields Edridge Park; Tunbridge Wells 7/8/9th August 2015

Forgotten Fields:

So we were all mega excited about our family festival trip to Forgotten Fields…the weather was predicting hot, sunny skies, and big acts to see such as The Levellers, Basement Jaxx and De La Soul.
We have been a couple of festivals before but were looking forward to this brand new smaller boutique family friendly festival only an hour from home..

The Campsite:

We arrived at about 2pm on the Friday, this was the earliest we could collect our tickets from the box office. To our dismay it was a good fifteen minute walk down to big hill to the campsite, now this might be reasonable if we had pop up tents and no food but we are a family of five, who despite our best efforts are unable to pack light! Unlike at other festivals there weren’t any wheel barrows for hire or other people to help with transporting our stuff.

The campsite was rammed, luckily our friends had already arrived and tried to save us a space so we were  just in time. We saw many other people wandering around in vain looking for space until eventually, at around 6pm the organisers realised more space was needed and opened an overflow field, both for regular camping and also for camper vans.

Despite being pitched as a family friendly festival there wasn’t any obvious dedicated family camping and everyone was lumped into a very beautiful but extremely busy area. While this wasn’t a problem for us as we wanted to be in general camping, ( we enjoy being in ‘the mix’ and have older kids 4, 8 and 9 who generally sleep through everything ), it may have been a problem for some who wanted a quieter, separate area. Many parents we spoke to said the whole camping area was so busy they couldn’t even get their push chairs back to the tents and needed to carry little ones for a long way.  We did ask a steward about family camping but he said they were just advising families to camp to one side of the main field, which clearly didn’t happen. Glamping options were also thrown into the general cramped mix with no separate toilets or facilities which you would usually expect for the increased price.

There were just about enough toilets in the camping areas but probably not cleaned often enough, some were awful at times and we needed to take our children round the back of the porta loos and have a ‘nature wee’ there instead. Luckily we all embrace the filth at festivals so no problem for us, but it maybe for others! Also the lack of dedicated family camping means a lack of dedicated kids toilets, with kids having to queue up with the rest of campsite. Luckily, everyone we came across was really lovely and always happy for kids to jump the queues but to be honest we probably expected more from a festival really billing itself at families….

There were originally only 8 showers for the whole site but luckily the organisers realised this was ridiculous, especially considering the 25+ heat and managed to draft in another 20 by saturday pm. Although i didn’t try myself, i was informed they were lovely, clean, warm and queues weren’t that bad at all.

Generally the first day/ afternoon seemed a bit of a shambles, everywhere was really, really busy, nowhere near enough space for tents or camper vans and even the security a bit gung ho…even wanting to take people’s water off them on the way into site, we heard a rumour that the organisers sold 1000  tickets in the last 48 hours so were kinda on the back foot and had organised the campsite areas to make them feel busy with the numbers expected and then had to rapidly change tack.

Saturday morning we also weren’t allowed into the site until 10am which was pretty annoying, security couldn’t really give a good reason but said they were still tidying up. This was pretty frustrating as we were camping with 2 other couple without kids and a little one woke up early so we thought we would take him off for a walk to stop him waking up others on the campsite, sadly we couldn’t do this. Also there were no food options inside the campsite so everyone was waiting desperately until 10 am so they could get onto site and get a brew and bacon sandwich! However by Sunday all had been sorted and access to the festival site was available at any time and loads more toilets and showers etc had been drafted in and the event organisers were clearly sorting all the early teething problems..

Inside the festival and the music

The campsite is separate from the festival area so once we were able to get in we went to have a good look about. Basically, the site is based around the 4 main music areas; the main stage, gypsy disco tent , horizons stage and the house party tent all spread around the edges of the site with a variety of food and drink stalls, as well as a few small stalls selling the usual festival toys, clothes and trinkets. This resulted in a large central area where people could sit and relax either in the sun or under some lovely large oak trees. Due to the small size of the festival it was, however, difficult to sit anywhere centrally that didn’t result in an almighty sound clash from the various tents and stages which did become a bit distracting after a while. It also meant that after the initial look about there wasn’t really that much to explore in the festival site itself.

We always got the feeling that this festival was about the music, the organisers are also responsible for the popular Kendal Calling they had an eclectic lineup of older and more current headline acts, festival favourites as well as drawing on upcoming local talent. with that in mind there wasn’t a huge amount of other ‘festival frolics’ that you might get at other events although the site was pretty with big flags etc and a few alternative events.  Most evenings we based ourselves around the main stage, Friday night was Public Service Broadcasting and Basement Jaxx, Saturday was The Horrors and Super Furry Animals and Sunday, (our favourite day) started with the amazing Too Many T’s, DeLa Soul, The Augustines, Razorlight with The Levellers ending the night. All day Sunday there was a good crowd present lapping up the beautiful day and making the most of the last afternoon, kids and grown ups alike. De La Soul seemed shocked by how many kids were present and even started a ‘ swear jar’ apologising for any foul language which  they gave away to the kids not he front row….it looked a healthy wedge!

The main stage finished about 11pm with the other tents going on till 2am. Whilst we didn’t sample the other areas much into the evenings ( by the time the main stage finished the kids were cold and ready to go) friends told us they heard a couple of good new bands in horizons. We could hear the house party tent in out campsite and first two night’s seemed pretty average/poor disco, this was shared by those that visited but the sunday night was cracking drum and bass and many had a good last day rave up!

Kids field/activities

As already said it was a shame no dedicated area for kids/ families within the campsite, just a small yurt or something would do. It wasn’t necessarily  needed as weather was amazing and there were trees for kids to shelter under but would have been a different ball game if rainy and wet.

The kids area consisted of an outside area and a medium size tent. There were lots of small bike and circus stuff for kids to play with, also a slack wire and some art and craft activities. Plus a smaller sensory type area for small toddlers etc. Additionally there were organised activities throughout the day such a trapeze sessions and kids Zumba. These areas all seemed well run but were pretty busy all the time and not a huge amount to do for older kids. I think this area would definitely need to be expanded in future years and maybe think about some stuff for older kids to do like tree climbing adventures etc if the festival plans to continue to market this event at families.

There was also the obligatory big wheel and chair-o-planes which our kids love but it’s very easy to drop a huge amount of cash in these things at £4 a go, however they were great and two just perfect, any more and would feel like a fairground  but without any our kids are disappointed.

We also bought a special kind of bubble maker, which at £15 was steep for a bubble maker but our kids loved it….and me too and kept them entertained for ages so was money well spent.

Food and drink:

As is sometimes the way at festivals now you were allowed your own booze on the campsite but not into the arena. Slightly annoying but understand why, festivals make their money from bars and means can keep ticket prices down.

Beer was around £4 a can; cocktails £8.50. The cocktail bar was fab but maybe a bit steeper prices then other festivals I have been too this year. There was lots of real ales on offer which my hubby loved.

There were some issues on the Sunday with the main water taps going off but staff quickly started giving away free water bottles which was great and needed considering the heat!

There was only about 6-8 places to get food and none serving dedicated kids meals and kids prices, although there was an excellent stone baked pizza place and also a fancy chip van which the kids loved, along with an excelled rotisserie chicken place and yummy ‘Gandhi’s flip flop’ selling vegetarian indian food.  All the food was great but there didn’t seem to be enough venues, as at times the queues for food were an hour-long, not great when we had promised our daughter pizza on saturday night, luckily she was persuaded to have fish and chips instead! To be honest that seemed a bit of a theme of the festival, like the organisers were surprised about the amount of people who actually arrived. All the main meals were about £7.50-£8 which I think is fairly festival standard and luckily were plenty big enough to share between us so we managed to get by on buying a few meals to share and padding meals out with snacks etc that we had bought ourselves.

Summary: Would we go again?

Overall we had a really great time, we love music and it was great to hear some big name acts and bands at a reasonably priced festival. There were plenty of teething problems but the organisers worked hard to put them right throughout the weekend, drafting extra toilets, camping areas etc. Unfortunately the cinema tent wasn’t working the first couple of days but they even got that going by the sunday. IMG_5085 IMG_5114 IMG_5132 IMG_5133 IMG_5138

The atmosphere was excellent, a great mix of families and groups of friends with neither drowning out the other which meant plenty of fun to be had by those that wanted it but nothing too out of hand for the families. The whole site felt completely safe and the litter teams worked incredibly hard to keep the site clean and safe and reportedly recycle over 80% of what they collect. Security relaxed as the weekend went on and coped with a huge amount of stress on the friday with good charm and the site managers seemed to listen to concerns and put as much right as they could. The incredible weather helped keep everyone happy!

With a couple of tweaks next year such as expanding the site so it’s a bit bigger and more places to wander and explore;  more for older kids; dedicated family campsite and services and less of a walk to camp, this will be an excellent smaller festival. I am wholly convinced the organisers have this in hand and we would love to go again. Thanks forgotten fields for a fabulous weekend in the sunshine.

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