We were provided with Press tickets to the Just So Festival in Cheshire this year and could not have been more excited. The not-for-profit festival focuses on family arts and seemed to offer something that little bit different to other festivals I've been to in the past. We packed up our tent and travelled along the A1, M62 and M6 and before we knew it we were there. We were able to camp for up to three nights and the campsite was very close to our car which was a blessing. Anyway, we fell head over heels in love with Just So.......here are few reasons why:
1 - We snacked on Corn on the Cobb
My kids love Corn on the Cobb and it was the first thing they spotted when we entered the festival site. It was sweet, juicy and really hit the spot - the perfect festival snack!
2 - The attention to detail was superb
The attention to detail at Just So was simply amazing - I have no idea how long this must take to put together but I am guessing they must already be starting on 2017. From the hand-drawn signs to the twinkly lights and bunting everywhere you turn. The detailing was well thought out and really added to the magic.
3 - We could dance the night away
The footlights is the perfect place to set up camp, get the drinks in and dance the night away with new friends. A real highlight for us was the huge 'Zombie Congo' which snaked through the field one afternoon courtesy of the Baghdaddies.
4 - We were captivated by stories around the bonfire
It's not often you get the chance to listen to stories by the bonfire and these were by real story tellers who had kids on the edge of their seats and the grown ups laughing at the jokes that went over the kids' heads. The tale about the boggles of Cumbria was or favourite.
5 - There's lots of space to chill out
Sometimes festivals can be full on but at Just So there were plenty of spots to chill out whether this be by the lake, in Sailcloth city, during family yoga, whilst enjoying an Indian head massage or simply just under a tree. There were lots of places to escape the craziness which was appreciated.
6 - The festival setting is beautiful
The Just So Festival is set on the Rode Hall Estate in Cheshire. The grounds are beautiful and very well kept with lots of flowers, ponds, woodland and shrubs.
7 - We learned all about bees
I appreciated the hands on & educational aspect to the festival and my three loved lifting the bee hive lids hidden in the spellbound forest to learn all about these special creatures.
8 - We composed our own song using pots and pans
My kids were transported right back to their toddler years and composed their own song using nothing but pots, pans and crockery. Lots of fun!
9 - The staff were all fantastic
From the roaming actors who stayed in character the whole time to the friendly faces on the entrance gate to the parking stewards and volunteers helping us create our own lantern - all of the staff we encountered were happy, friendly and made us feel welcome and nothing was too much trouble.
10 - We joined the circus
It's not every day you can join the circus! We loved learning new skills and by the end of our session we were all spinning plates with ease. What an achievement!
11 - We discovered the magic of the forest
The Spellbound Forest at Just So truly is a magical place - from the moment you step through the storybook entrance you can't help but be taken in by the twinkling lights, hidden theatres and secret trails. We even managed to bump into the Gruffalo!
12 - We enjoyed contemporary dance
Watching contemporary dance isn't something you'd normally find us doing as a family but we actually ended up thoroughly enjoying the performance.
13 - We were immersed in all things crazy
A flying boat, egg heads that crack, stardust, robots, empty planets and vacuums.......all part of one of the truly crazy but funniest shows of the weekend.
14 - Mud and rain were dealt with and weren't an issue
Sometimes rain and mud can cause problems at festivals and hamper the fun - well not at Just So! There are plenty of spots to hide under cover, indoor activities and the mud was dealt with promptly with staff laying down straw to stop it getting slippy. Hats off to the festival organisers for being so well organised.
15 - It was an excuse to dress up
Some of the costumes at Just So are AMAZING. From grown men in lion suits and dressed as Fantastic Mr Fox to babies dressed as frogs and full mermaid costumes, I REALLY need to up my game next year. Still, it was nice to walk around with a pair of fox ears all weekend and join in the fun. Steve has already started a Pinterest board with costume designs for next year!
16 - The Tribal Leaders
Before you visit Just So, you should align yourself with a tribe. With our red hair, we naturally aligned ourselves with the foxes. Every tribe has their own leader who spends time walking around the festival and entertaining everyone. The leaders were funny, over the top, always in character and took the time to speak to every single child.
17 - Inclusive performances
Most of the festival was accessible by wheelchair, there were accessibles loos and many of the performances were also provided with an interpretor and sign language if needed. I loved this inclusive feel to the festival - it felt like nobody was left out of the fun.
18 - There was candyfloss
19 - We spent time with friends
Festivals are the perfect place to visit with friends - there is plenty to see and do so you aren't on top of each other but then there's also lots of opportunity to enjoy a couple of drinks together or catch a performance. We visited with our friends the Hoopers (who we actually hadn't met in real life until the festival - we were just internet friends) and it was lovely to have someone to share the experience with.
20 - We camped under the stars
Part of the magic of festivals has to be the camping - the pitches at Just So are very close to the car park (so no great distance to carry everything) and pretty close to the festival entrance. There are clean loos and shower blocks and fresh water is available too. Yes it rained (quite a bit) but there is definitely something special about just embracing the festival vibe.
21 - There was FREE Soreen
This was perhaps a little unexpected but we were handed free Soreen samples throughout the day. My eldest was in his element and we actually discovered he loved Soreen so will be adding a bar to his packed lunch when he returns to school. It turns out Soreen is the perfect snack to nibble on and keep you going between performances.
22 - Something new to see everywhere we turned
You could never be bored at Just So - there is something new to watch around every corner and you never know what to expect next from giant Heron's to galloping human horses. We were definitely entertained.
23 - We joined in with crafts
I'll be the first to admit I'm not at all crafty and crafts at home aren't really my thing so when the kids had the chance to create something fantastic at Just So, we really appreciated it. They loved making their 'Team Fox' placards and they now stand proudly against their bedroom wall.
24 - A little healthy competition and rivalry
Throughout the festival you have the chance to earn special golden pebbles from actors and performers - you then must hand these to your leader and they are counted up at various points throughout the day before a winner is announced at the grand Tribal Tournament finale. Foxes took an early lead but sadly it wasn't our year. The healthy competition was lots of fun though, especially as rumours spread amongst tribe members about how to obtain extra pebbles.
25 - There was GOOD coffee available from Little Espresso Co
No weak tea or cheap coffee here - only the best for Just So parents which pleased me no end! It was blissful to grab a cup on Sunday morning and take in an outdoor performance with the kids.
26 - We learned how to become spies
H&H enrolled in Spy Science and learned how to write secret codes using invisible ink - just one of the free spy school workshops available to book.
27 - We joined in with a HUGE pillow fight on the Village Green
The Village Green was home to an EPIC pillow fight on Sunday afternoon, It was so much fun to both watch and participate in and very well organised by the tribal leaders who ensured things didn't get too out of hand. Feathers everywhere!
28 - There was time to sit back and watch the world go by together
Sometimes the best thing about spending the weekend with your family is actually spending time with your family. We didn't charge our phones on purpose (there is a charging tent should you need it) and loved the time with our children away from technology and simply having fun.
29 - The Boy Who Cried Wolf
Animalia in the middle of the woods was home to the most fantastic theatre company (the Fabularium) we loved gathering around and listening to the beautifully performed Boy Who Cried Wolf.
30 - We tried something new together
I was well and truly pushed out of my comfort zone and joined in with an acrobatics class with Heidi - it was lovely to try something new and as always, fantastic for Heidi's confidence as she was praised by the staff for her flexibility and grace (me not so much - haha).
31 - We were captivated by the story of Reynard the Fox
Another favourite from the Fabularium - the tale of Reynard the Fox. Young and old loved this performance and there were a few jokes in there just for grown-ups too. It was a definite highlight for Jack and I and we couldn't help but fall for Reynard's charm.
32 - Indulgent treats for grown ups too
Freshly made curries, fries topped with bacon and cheese, gourmet burgers, local ales and ciders, proper fish and chips......there were plenty of treats for grown ups to enjoy too.
33 - We ordered our own pizza which was made to order
I love encouraging the kids to do things for themselves and H & H were proud as punch when they ordered and paid for their own pizza for lunch one day. It was delicious too! Most food vendors sold children's meals (typically £5 for a main, side and drink) and food wasn't too overpriced.
In conclusion, the Just So Festival was everything we expected and so much more. It was fun, inspiring, creative and chilled......all at the same time. Once you pay for your ticket, everything apart from food, drink and concessions is included. I loved not having to put my hand in my pocket when the kids wanted to join a craft session or we signed up to family yoga. Because of this, the Just So Festival really is superb value for money. To get more of a flavour of the festival, please check out our short video below. I promise the pillow fight isn't as crazy as it seems! LOL
Early bird tickets for Just So Festival 2017 (18 – 20 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire) are on sale from Friday 26 August at www.justsofestival.org.uk 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.
Disclosure: We were provided with Press Tickets to attend the Just So Festival and write an honest review.