Years of wondering why anyone would want to take their children to a festival have been cast aside in one fell swoop. Like a well-placed swing-ball strike, we’ve decided to test this glittery water and explore what all this new age fuss is about. Enlisting the company of our 10-month-old son Benny (fresh eyes), we put our past misgivings to the foam sword and trial a new, In The Night Garden, themed chapter in our lives. We’ve chosen DEER SHED to see whether we could relive former glories of festivals from our youth – while playing dress up as responsible grown-ups.
Any reservations are gone within minutes, popping like gleaming bubbles from Early Learning Centre’s whale bubble machine (if you haven’t got one – get one). If ever there was a festival that comprehensively appealed to all generations, it is Deer Shed. It’s a wonderland of creativity and an inspired vision. Imagine Willy Wonka (minus the sinister chocolate river boating escapade) does The Kazimier. The festival is curated firmly with the kids in mind, but is wonderfully, monstrously, adult friendly.
The huge range of activities, workshops and a never-ending array of games is ingenious, and is a credit to the creators who seem to have the ability to capture the imagination of children and turn it into a reality. Swing balls as far as the eye can see, wrestling workshops, an arena filled with every sport you can think of, kayaking, and a full array of yoga sessions, but only a few we were able to try – Benny would have to be five before we could touch on everything Deer Shed has to offer.
What stands out is the diverse and eclectic activities for children of all ages, from Drag Queen story time to a science tent filled with wondrous experiments as well as robot and clay making workshops. Each of the inspired activities and installations enabled the children to enter a realm where any worries or social pressures are momentarily melted away, encouraging them to let their imaginations not be restricted or moulded by the expectations and preconceptions of the modern age.
The music seems like a glorious after thought, in the best sense. Deer Shed truly knows its audience and the bill was packed top to bottom with a great mix of heritage and breakthrough acts. Personal highlights are BC CAMPLIGHT – who is essentially Elton John on acid – and GRUFF RHYS who’s as stately in his stage manner as ever. Elsewhere, the imperious power of ANNA CALVI, CHARLES WATSON’s classy revivalist nostalgia, DYLN CARTLIDGE’s soulful notes and the serious, world-level songwriting tour de force that is EZRA FURMAN are all performances worthy of learned-muso festival status.
It would be dismissive of the big, pink, blow up elephant in the room to not talk about Deer Shed without mentioning everyone’s old enemy, the Great British Weather. In short, it doesn’t stop pissing it down. In the festival’s 10-year history, this is only the third time that rain has played a big part (so the odds are stacked in our favour for next year…). This time though, there is no denying that lugging around a soggy and frustrated 10-month-old taints the experience somewhat, yet it doesn’t dampen the overall spirit or vibe of Deer Shed, which was simply brilliant.
We can definitively say we are child-friendly festival converts thanks to Deer Shed and our sincere apologies go to the parents we have ever doubted in the past – we are now standing, soaking, smiling and enlightened amongst you. Covered in glitter, too.