The festival season has started so with more and more family-friendly festivals popping up and with Wilba still in nappies and thus avoiding festival toilets we thought it was time she went to her first festival. We’d took the boy to Latitude when he was two (just for the day) and thoroughly enjoyed it.
To break us in gently to the festival season we went to Common People in Oxford – a two day festival but with no camping. We booked up in a near by Best Western which I can highly recommend as even though was a 20 minute drive, it was considerably cheaper than hotels in Oxford. So, with destination and accommodation sorted, we packed half the house in the car and set off on the journey to Oxford. We were making great time until just outside of Oxford road works slowed us down. In a panic we stopped at the first park and ride we came to – Pear Tree, which turned out to be a mistake, no toilets and a 15 minute walk from the city centre drop-off to the venue with two kids doesn’t end well. What we should have done is gone to Thornhill which is the 400 service and drops you right near the festival site on South Park. Ahh hindsight the greatest superpower! That and never gaining weight no matter how many donuts you devour 🍩
The park and ride is only £2 to park your car although the pay by phone is a little confusing and we ended up paying £4 for 24 hours 🙄, the return wasn’t bad value though for £4.80 return for all four of us (kids don’t pay). Oxford itself is a lot more cosmopolitan than I had imagined but does have an amazing shopping center called West Gate that I would go back for just to dine on the fabulous roof top garden area, beautiful bars and restaurants with views across Oxford.
By the time we got to the festival both our two were hangry and tired and mummy hadn’t read the festival rules carefully which meant our precious cheese sandwiches had to be discarded on entry. There are lots of scrummy food vendors inside but are obviously festival priced and quite exotic so my advice would maybe be to have lunch in the grass outside before you come in if you have little ones or really fussy eaters. There’s no re-admittance once your in so make sure your prepared with blankets, rain-wear and in our case – nappies. Although we did make friends with a lovely family just because they had run out. The whole festival has a very friendly, considerate vibe. The staff we met were good humoured, polite and in abundance so you always felt really safe even in the evening when there was an influx of younger guests. We were lucky enough to have been gifted VIP tickets with the booking. This gave access to an area which was fantastic for a young family as had free face painting, a sandpit, a covered bar which on a hot weekend like we had was a lifesaver especially as someone forgot the sunscreen… there were also proper toilets and we were to the right of the main stage so never had to get too close and personal to be able to see the acts. If you can I would definitely recommend upgrading to VIP if you have young children like ours.
The Line Up
The line up was really eclectic and didn’t disappoint with a number of other stages playing everything from acoustic guitar, old school funk and even a mariachi band – there was something for everyone. We loved the disco shed and of course the Carnival Soundsystem stage where we saw Craig Charles, legend of Red Dwarf, Robot Wars, Takeshi’s Castle and also a bloody brilliantly DJ. He had so much energy and his mix of old school funk and soul got everybody dancing, including some rather excited security guards.
The main stage housed top acts like James, The Jackson’s, Maximo Park and Boney M who were my surprise faves, again just because of their energy and glorious dance routines.
For The Kids
There was a whole area, the ‘Kid’s Garden’ devoted to them away from the main stage, so you could get a bit of time away from the speakers. It had a comprehensive list of activities on all throughout the weekend like live street dance workshops, big makes and circus skills but it also had loads of ‘turn up and do’ activities from riding circus bikes, net games, giant balls, inflatables, dress up and even and under 5’s area. The boy enjoyed Big Top Mania the most, who were an awesome circus act trio who really knew how to capture the kids imagination. There’s also a number of fair ground rides to try for about 2.50 per person, just don’t go on the chair swings after a few ciders and pulled pork it doesn’t end well, but I did stagger far enough to a seat right near the high-wire and trapeze act who were absolutely amazing and had performances all weekend. Then there was the worlds largest bouncy castle which did not disappoint. For £4 we were a little reluctant but it was amazing and the boy thought it was the best thing in the whole world, I might have given it a test too and can agree that it is a must whatever your age – just don’t forget the Tena Lady.
Top Tips For This Festival Season
Fashion: Glitter, glitter and more glitter (obviously the eco kind) it was everywhere! You could even pay to be daubed in it, also I saw lots of fashionistas in long silk, almost dressing gown-like jackets, teamed with denim shorts and tops. They were both really cool but easy to wear whatever the weather did. And of course colour, colour, colour.
Seating: A very clever invention seems to be the air cushion/sofa we saw lots of people with. These lightweight ‘tubes’ self-inflated with a bit of wind to provide extra comfort and squashed down into a carry bag when you were back on your feet dancing. They’re available on eBay from about £10.
Hygiene: I know we have two kids but I couldn’t count the times the wet wipes came in handy, from ice cream and cider related accidents to just a quick freshen up in the loo or to wipe off my face paint (not just for the kids you know).
Water Bottles: The Common People site had drinking water taps dotted all around the park so you could fill up your water bottles without queuing at the bar.
Umbrella: For festival rain or just to grab some shade. There’s wasn’t too many places for shade so even if it doesn’t rain will come in handy.
Safety: Ear defenders for the kids… if you want to stay until the evening acts these are mega important as it can get too much for smaller ears, also name and number bands so if you’d little ones do get list they can be reunited (that’s if you want to find them)
Phone Power-bank: Keep your phone charged for the way home, taxis and to find your friends.
We had a thoroughly great time at Common People. It was a great first for Wilba because it wasn’t too big that we felt overwhelmed but had enough to fill two days worth of fun. We laughed, danced, enjoyed great music and got creative. We didn’t over-plan but did make sure that bands we really wanted to see were interspersed with trips to the kids’ area and fun fair which seem to work really well. There’s also an app to download if you haven’t printed off your list of acts… Until next year Oxford – you were amazing!!