Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited along to review Beautiful Days Festival at Escot Park near Exeter.
I must start my view with a confession, and that is that I wimped out on camping at the festival. Living just 40 minutes away from Escot gave me the luxury of being able to drive to and from the festival each day. As a single mum to three year old Brody, I was nervous about taking him to his first festival alone and the thought of camping as well was just a little to daunting so I opted out.
The festival gates open for campers on the Thursday. We arrived Friday lunchtime to be greeted by friendly staff directing us where to park, and to the box office to swap our tickets for wristbands. The child's wristband cleverly has a bit that you can write your phone number on should your child get lost, brilliant idea! The car park was a manageable walk from the main festival site. I'm pleased to say that we managed the walk each day without getting lost, and as someone with a terrible sense of direction this felt like quite an achievement!
We arrived and had a walk around the site. I took Brody for his first ever portaloo experience. They were suprisingly clean although I was well aware this might not last being as it was only the first day. Toilets were a concern of mine as Brody still has the occasional potty training accident, but the festival was well covered for toilet facilities which meant there was never much of a queue if any at all. They were also regularly cleaned and on only one occasion did Brody describe them as "a bit minging"!! Brody infact took quite an interest in what the regular toilet cleaners were doing and on more than one occasion made us stand and watch them carry out their job, eventually deciding that he might like to be a portaloo toilet cleaner when he grows up!
I was told it was a family friendly festival but I never could have imagined quite how child friendly it would be or how many families would be there enjoying it. I certainly didn't feel out of place with a 3 year old for company, infact I fitted right in.
There was so much to do for kids we didn't even come close to seeing or doing it all. There was a great selection of fair rides, and much to my dismay I was dragged on both a super high helter skelter and a rather fast big wheel. Thankfully Brody was happy going solo on the children's train ride!
The weather wasn't on our side for the majority of the weekend. I've always been blessed with sun at festivals in the past so as the festival site turned into a mud fest it was definitely an experience, and for Brody, my expert puddle jumper, a dream come true! Kitted out in his waterproofs and wellies he was more than happy to jump in the puddles and stomp in the mud. There were numerous moments when despite my cries of "not when people are walking past" he managed to splash people with mud, but all he got were laughs and the occasional adult joining him to jump in the puddles with him. He really was in his element.
Seeing Brody have so much fun meant no amount of mud could dampen my spirits.
Every time we wandered through the large children's area at the festival we saw something different. Throughout the weekend we were greeted by the site of various costumed characters from aliens to ostriches. There were fairies making bubbles with the children and areas to play music. Toddler areas with mud kitchens and areas for teens. There were story telling tents and play tents. You name it, they had it!
For food our vegan diets were more than adequately catered for. I had the most delicious tofu burger and every day we indulged in the most delicious vegan flap jacks. The chips were pretty good too!
The only disappointing thing was seeing an exotic game food stand right next to the main stage. The idea of game shooting being normalised at a festival with such an ethical feel just seemed rather out of place and distasteful. As far as complaints go for the festival as a whole, that's probably the only one I can find.
The line up of bands over the weekend was pretty impressive with bands such as The Happy Mondays, Dropkick Murphys, The Skints and The Levellers who put on the festival. I'd accepted that our choice to drive home each night meant we'd miss the big names which was dissapointing as I'd have loved to have seen Dropkick Murphys but with Brody still so young I accepted there were bands I'd have to miss. I did however work out that The Skints who I love would probably be on in the afternoon and decided that if I could just see them I'd be happy. In typical Sod's law fashion though we nipped back to the car to drop something off and as we got to the car a thunderstorm started so we hid in the car for an hour feeling very smug to not be outside, unaware that as we did so we were missing my favourite band. We missed their whole set! There was a stand selling festival program's for £5 which I presumed would have had set times in, but we made the mistake of not buying one and as there was no where else to find out the times it meant we didn't always know which band was on or when. It didn't stop us having a good dance in the rain though and discovering a few new bands I've not heard of before.
For shoppers there's a whole host of stands selling everything from camping accessories for those things you forgot to pack, to clothes, jewellery and pottery. I'd set us a tight budget for the weekend so behaved myself and resist all urges for a shopping spree but it would have been so easy to indulge and treat myself to some of the beautiful things I saw!
Everyone we met at the festival was just lovely. A man dressed as Spider-Man made Brodys day by giving him a high five, when Brody picked up a worm a lady was quick to offer me hand sanitiser for him and when I was struggling to take a selfie strangers were quick to offer their photography skills. We felt totally relaxed in the company of the crowds at all times and loved seeing so many people enjoying themselves with their families and friends.
All in all we had a positively magical time at Beautiful Days and are so grateful to Beautiful Days for allowing us to come along and have such a wonderful festival experience with them. We both absolutely loved the experience and the only tears from Brody came when it was time to go home on Sunday night as he simply didn't want to leave and I can't blame him. The festival offers the perfect balance of both adult and child friendly entertainment for everyone to enjoy. Without shadow of a doubt we will be returning next year to do it all over again as we loved every minute and only wish we didn't have to wait a whole year to go again! Thank you Beautiful Days, we love you !
For more information on Beautiful Days please visit their website www.beautifuldays.org
Reviewed by Steffi Rox & a very muddy Brody Ace