Monday, 22 August 2016

The Utterly Awesome Just So Festival Review 2016

We made it! Yeeay! It was impossible for us to overnight at the Just So Festival this year, but we were lucky enough to be invited along as day visitors. I'm pleased to report it made an absolutely excellent day out, in fact we didn't leave the site until almost 10pm! The only downside was that we would have stayed all weekend if we could...

The Just So Festival is a children's festival held annually at Rode Hall in Cheshire.  It is a festival for families with children of all ages, but especially up to around 11, and this year we took our 6 and almost 8 year olds with us..

We spent the full weekend there last year with one of our teenagers, and you can read my Just So Festival Review or my LEGO Just So Festival post to get a good idea of what we got up to. This year with a child in hospital we had to give really short notice and couldn't stay overnight, so how did 'a day out' compare with a weekend away?

As you arrive the Spellbound Forest is off to your left and ahead is the Village Green, with regular impromptu performances. We'd arrived just at the right time to catch Gary Bridgens with an interactive Ukelele based show.

We also immediately bumped into the rest of 'Team Ginger', Ben from We're Going On An Adventure blog. My 6 year old was taking notes on posing there....

We went to buy a coffee (£1.50 very affordable), and as we were walking away were invited into the Travelling Treasury - which is the most beautifully decorated caravan. Inside everything was formed from pages of books, and we were treated to a short acted story using headphones to transmit a soundtrack. It was lovely, and very different.

We'd arrived quite late into the morning, so we headed off to the Hope And Social area where the main food stalls are. This is a main stage area, where acts play late into the night, and there are toilets and even a bar! The area is walled with one main exit, so it's a really safe space for your children to run about a bit, with a clear limit.

We bumped into Colette and the We're Going On An adventure gang again here - and no crowds and no huge queues meant we could all easily chat while we ate. There really were some gorgeous dishes on offer, including less spicy or smaller children's portions. Between us and the children we had pasta in sauce, chicken and chorizo paella, chicken tacos, mini hot dogs, organic burgers and gorgeous vegan haggis in a wrap. There really was plenty of choice for everyone, and no disappointments except for the realisation a child's portion will no longer fill my 4ft tall 8 year old. Prices were around £6 per adult meal, so not cheap, but not ridiculously expensive either.

Just So is set among gorgeous woodland, and the Spellbound Forest fills a huge portion of the centre of the site. Just So is about magic, imagination and exploration, and when you enter the woods, you can be sure you will find some amazing things...

A Detective's Office and a crime which needs solving! There were several 'clawprints' left by the thief, thankfully my children's fingerprints didn't match...

Inside Outside Theatre For One

There were a couple of different codes to crack or learn, with hidden messages in the woods, as well as unlikely creatures made from clay, twinkling lights, giant walk-through books, and so much more that you could never list, and I doubt you'd find it all.

One of the biggest things in the Spellbound Forest is a stage - in fact there are 2 stages, plus the huge campfire area. We didn't make any plans for our day this year, we decided to just see where it took us, but the programme is available in advance, so you can see who is playing and catch some amazing children's authors, comedians, bands, theatre groups and others.

We wanted to spend time by the campfire this year, and storytelling with Ian Douglas. We've seen him a few times and had the pleasure of being witness to him proposing to his girlfriend on Saturday evening - congratulations guys!

This year's storytelling was accompanied by this amazing guy, who not only set fire to his hat and produced a great Hydrogen Sulphide explosion to show us what camera flashes used to be like, he also enthralled everyone with the biggest smoke rings you'll ever see!

Through theSpellbound Forest is the High Seas area and off to one side The Lake, which is out of area unless you borrowed a rowing boat (it was too windy when we were there). There were even lifeguards on duty, just in case...

The High Seas area has a huge sandpit with a shipwreck, an immense marquee with live music, loads of food, lantern-making and heaps of other stuff. It also has 2 small old rowing boats. My children played on these for over an hour.

One of the things Just So Festival shows you without a shadow of a doubt is that simple fun can be found anywhere, and it doesn't need expensive equipment, in fact it doesn't need to cost anything.

Ice Cream is always popular though - these were delicious and only £2, which is great for festival prices - and as ever, no queues. Just So Festival keep the numbers of guests down, so you rarely ever queue for anything. 

Tea-on-the-go with corncobs, and we headed off to roast a few marshmallows over a fire pit, before taking a seat for most of the evening around the campfire. An hour of singing really is good for the soul it turns out, I'm not sure who enjoyed it the most...

And a reminder whose home we are visiting...

We knew the lantern parade was going to be good, but it was immense! We perched on top of a hill to watch in the drizzle, and it took 50 minutes to go past! There were hundreds, if not thousands, of lanterns, all beautifully decorated. Here are just a few...

By this time it was nearly 9.30pm, and a slow walk to the van via the toilets, saying "Goodnight", and "Goodbye" to everyone as we went saw us leave site at almost 10pm. That is a really full day for your money, and we even got a lie in the next morning...

In short, it was awesome. One day is enough to escape from real life (although a weekend is just more awesomeness). Just So Festival is brilliant for children, stretching their possibilities and expanding their imaginations, letting them play in mud, with sticks, watch bands, feed their senses. More than that though, it allows grown ups to be children, to sing and dance and laugh at stories, to experience magic and wonder. It gives Mum and Dad some time off, and it was exactly what we needed...

I wouldn't miss it next year. If I can I'll definitely be camping, but if I can only go for a day, I'll take it...

Early bird tickets for Just So Festival 2017 (18 – 20 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire) are on sale from Friday 26 August at at special early bird prices of £120 (adults), £45 (child) for weekend camping, £70 (adult), £25 (child) for 2 day non-camping, £40 (adult), £15 (child) for day tickets. Under 3s free.

For another view, Colette and the gang at We're Going On An Adventure have their review here...

We attended as guests of the festival. I cannot thank Just So and Wild Rumpus enough for allowing us to make a final decision over attending only 2 days beforehand. You guys are stars. Thank you x


  1. LOVE this - you saw so many different things to us. So much wonder around every corner. My kids are keen to camp next year! Lovely to spend time with you all in such a relaxed environment x xx

    1. Thank you!! It really was great to see you guys and get to meet the girls properly! I feel like I knew them so well already :D xx

  2. This looks like such a great festival and not something I have heard of until this year - it looks ace! x

    1. You would adore it. Immersing yourself in a book is great, feeling as if you are safely immersed inside one is even better :) x

  3. It was brilliant to see you guys, did you enjoy singing around the campfire as much as me? I confess I shed a tear on our last night. I didn't want it to end!

    1. I think I did! It was lovely wasn't it? I've not sung like that in ages. It was lovely to see you guys too. I wish I had your number, Id' sing you a goodnight :) xx


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