Blissfields Festival Review 2015
Dear mummy, it’s taken me nearly a week to get over Blissfields Festival. The whole family is knackered but we had such a good time we just had to share it with you. This is our family experience of Blissfields 2015.
So what is Blissfields?
It’s a small music festival sandwiched between Winchester and Basingstoke just off the A30 near the M3 in Hampshire. Now in its 15th year, it started off as a small gathering for family and friends on a farm and has now evolved into one of the most hotly anticipated festivals of the year. The festival has a real family friendly vibe about it and this is why we were invited down to see what it was like. I’m a toddler and this is my first music festival “weekender”.
Blissfields is the largest festival I’ve ever been to and over 4,000 people joined our little family. We’d heard on the grapevine that Blissfields was a great place to see live acts before they get super famous and Sam Smith, Mumford & Sons, Bastille, London Grammar have all graced its stages over the years. Not only is it renowned for its music, Blissfields is a very quirky and arty festival, with lots of commissioned art installations, performance art and even an on-site cinema. We love the fact they have a festival theme every year too! This year it was “Somewhere in Time” It also has more activities for children than most major festivals. There’s even a dedicated children’s area called Angel Gardens to keep the kids amused!
So what did I think…
I think this expression says it all really!
I had a wonderful time, playing, chilling out and listening to music. It’s great to be out in the fresh air, meeting new people and exploring new experiences. My mummy and daddy also had the opportunity to let their hair down and try to blend in as teenagers in the Bliscotheque (it didn’t quite work though and they were busted for their old dance moves!)
The staff and other revellers were so friendly! Never had we felt so included by other festival goers walking around with a small child. Lots of high-fives and warm smiles. When I was dancing to Songhoy Blues and Ghostpoet by wiggling my bum, clapping and jumping around I got a lot of approving glances and ‘ahhh isn’t she sweet’. A whole mixture of ages and people in the crowd made this a very welcoming festival. We felt part of the family.
The weather Well they did say it never rains at Blissfields. We had glorious sunshine during the day and an amazing lightning show on Saturday night and still no rain dampened our spirits! Many didn’t notice the storm in the early hours which threatened to ruin the festival but my mummy and daddy watched it in its full glory as the lightning lit up the sky. It was hot! Maybe too hot, at one point as temperatures reached 30 degrees during the day! My mummy was constantly running around trying to put suntan lotion on me! Luckily the site had plenty of natural shade provided by large trees. It was also quick to walk around the festival, around 15 minutes from end to end with a toddler in tow dodging the crowds.
Where do we start? So many great artists we couldn’t see them all but a special mention goes to Rhodes for a stunning performance bringing people to a standstill in the sunshine on the Singularity stage. Such a pure voice, we think he’s going to be one to watch! He’s due to release an album in September and we’ll be one of the first to download it.
We were glad we caught the full Ghostpoet set and saw Songhoy Blues. It was so relaxing listening to live music on the grass infront of the main stage. We also enjoyed The Horrors, Simian Mobile Disco and Grandmaster Flash which drew in the biggest crowds. Singer/songwriter John Grant was a surprise for us and we enjoyed his songs immensely having never heard of him before *shock horror* He was articulate, funny and his songs struck a nerve with my mummy, definitely one to remember!
Angel Gardens (Kids Area)
When we weren’t enjoying the music, our days were spent participating in craft activities and watching circus performers. The team at Angel Gardens kids area were friendly and welcoming and always checking to see if we were having a good time. It also helped that they were having a good time too and it showed in their big smiles and relaxed manner during the festival. We made lots of things from glittery crowns to seed bombs and Activist signs. It was a lovely way to spend quality time with the folks. We joined in with the kids disco and played musical instruments. When it got too hot we sheltered from the midday sun in the beautiful bell tents.
During the daytime the kids activities were great and there was plenty to do however Angel Gardens wasn’t opened early enough for early toddler risers and on a couple of occasions we waited for the team morning briefings to finish so we could come and play. Keeping little ones amused before 10am was easy for us in a sea of tents and with a lot of imagination, however it would have been nice to have a breakfast club at Angel Gardens, with toddler yoga or wake & stretch to wake up sleepy heads and keep kids amused until the rest of the adults woke up. This would have bought my mummy or daddy an extra blissful lie-in 😉
The large bubble wands were a crowd pleaser, even for the teenagers waking past the kids area. My daddy and I also enjoyed the games and circus activities. We were taught how to juggle and swing a hula hoop around, however we gave up after seeing the professionals show us how it was done. I never knew my daddy could juggle?!
There was so many things to do for children and families. However the Angel Garden area was so popular that it became a bit crowded and shambolic at times so we moved to the to the quieter and more chilled out Craft Area nearer the main stage in the afternoons. In the craft area there were paid for activities and my mummy grabbed an hour to make a flower garland, it was very relaxing and therapeutic! It’s still a work in progress though, as she didn’t manage to finish it before I woke up! We enjoyed watching the crafts folk busy at work and the live demonstrations and it was a perfect way to spend an afternoon with bands playing in the background.
Up by the craft area there was a hungry hippo popping out tennis balls which kept me amused and my folks entertained. We found it fascinating that this reclaimed/upcycled hippo bin could bring some much joy to so many kids – an ingenious idea by the Blissfields crew.
If we could live on a diet of Snowcones and Pancakes then we would have done. They were amazing and a real treat. At one point when we were all sat under the large oak tree by the main stage, a warm breeze on our faces and great music wafting through the air, eating Snowcones on our picnic blanket it felt like we were in heaven. Truly a Blissfields experience made even more enjoyable by the many stall holders and crew!!
When I went for a long day nap in my buggy it gave my Mummy and Daddy a break to chill out and have a drink. The prices of alcohol were reasonable for a can and £3.50-£5 is the price we expected at a festival with soft drinks ranging from £1-£2.
In the mornings we had a real treat of breakfast wraps which contained a whole breakfast! We also cooked a lot of our food and boiled our own water on stoves to save the £2 for a cuppa (that could have got expensive the amount of tea my folks drink!) We enjoyed eating juicy pasta bolognese and pizza and ate spicy samosas and had burgers and chips (not at the same time though!). The prices ranged from £5 to £9 for portions and were reasonably sized. I especially liked the Bolognase from the Italian stall.
We arrived early afternoon on the Thursday to ensure we got a good pitch. There are lots of large trees which provide a great deal of shade. However we opted to camp by the woodland edge by the fencing as opposed to the trees due to the lightning that was predicted during the weekend. We had lots of space and even managed to get a gazebo up between the two tents to provide a communal area for our friends. We went with another couple and their toddler daughter (my friend) who also enjoyed the festival immensely. This allowed babysitting duties to happen so both sets of parents could go out and explore during the evenings while us little one’s were fast asleep. The family camping is the furthest away from the car park but closest to the main festival entrance/exit. Doh! A bit of a trek, so be prepared. Luckily we had our festival cart to wheel stuff in and daddy hired a trolley for £10 to get our heavy tents to our pitch! Family camping would have been better placed by the boutique camping or by the live-in vehicles where it would have also been a bit quieter. We wouldn’t have minded walking to the arena everyday.
Also family camping isn’t quiet. Expect festival goers partying until the early hours…this is a music festival after all. Thumping music was playing until 4am. The Blisscotheque seemed to be the loudest and Friday night was unbearable at 1am when conflicting stages were in full swing. A mishmash of noise. Everything is close together and not like Glasto where you have to walk miles and miles. The downfall of that is that stages are close together and being in the bowl of the festival it just sounds like a wall of sound and very noisy at night. We’ll fully recommend earplugs and an open mind. Little ones actually don’t seem to mind the thumping beats. I went to bed at 8pm and slept through until 7am while we were there. Family camping is right on the entrance to the festival arena called Gates of Dawn which also got very busy and noisy, it was handy though as it was a stones throw from Angel Gardens, just a shame that the kids area wasn’t open at 7am when we needed it!
Even though it’s reassuring having security walking around the campsite some are not the friendliest bunch! Almost menacing. Late night patrols to stop would-be gate crashers scaling the fences were highly amusing as we saw at least 2 attempts by teenagers foiled by the dogs unit right behind our tent!! Something out of a Carry On Film! It’s also worth noting that they had onsite medical staff who were occasionally called upon throughout Friday and Saturday when the heat was at it’s worst. There was no drama and the ambulances simple drove into the festival, collected their patient and drove off. My Mummy and Daddy kept reminding me to drink lots of water so I didn’t suffer from heatstroke. I hope I remember that when I grow up!
Posh wash, wasn’t so posh after 24 hours. Actually after the portaloos had been cleaned on Saturday…they were cleaner than the paid for ones (NB Take plenty of loo roll as there didn’t seem to be any in the portaloos in the campsite). Come Saturday night it seemed the posh wash staff had just given up! However we never needed to queue for long to use all the toilets dotted around on site which was a blessing with a toddler in tow! In the kids area (Angel Gardens) we even had our own toilets and no adults were allowed! If they were caught they were named and shamed! hehe! The site was clean and their wasn’t much litter around which was fab too as I gave up on shoes towards the end.
Creatures of the night
At night the pace changes from lazy days to full-on raving madness! The Hidden Hedge, which is a completely separate area to the main festival area and set in the woods came alive. With a rave dome called Area 51, performance artists walking around breathing fire and upcycled trampolines used to project light displays on it was truly magical! Some of the art pieces floating around were a bit creepy for a toddler, so it’s a good thing I didn’t pay much attention to them. There was a fire pit and comfy chairs to kick back in and soak up the atmosphere. Festival goers in costumes filled the crowds and not once did we see anyone angry or upset, plastered or paralytic. There was just a very happy vibe well into the night.
The Blisscotheque was where the party was at…. until 2am! It was just like a nightclub outside and however it drowned out some of the acoustic bands playing in ‘The Larch’ and the big top ‘Now & Den’ Stage which was a shame. It seemed all the teenagers were out to dance!
The day after the night before
On the Sunday we saw a lot of very tired teenagers and lazing bodies sprawled across the campsite, nursing sore heads and tired feet! Having an extra day to pack-up and relax before heading back to work was another bonus. Blissfields festival was a Friday and Saturday event with the option to set up on Thursday afternoon for an extra £18. It meant that Sunday the site was still open to pack-up our tents. The food outlets were still open in the morning to allow revellers to have breakfast and lunch before they went home. Very wise to soak up all that alcohol too! While my folks were packing up their tents I enjoyed running around one of the large trees with my little friend and playing hide and seek. There was no urgency to leave and the Sunday was a very relaxed affair.
All in all, a brilliant, compact music festival which supports local acts and is a feeder for new music. This is NOT a family festival…it’s a MUSIC festival and one of the best in the country. A great introductory festival for adults wanting to expose their children to decent music. We can see the Angel Gardens area going from strength to strength over the next couple of years. It is very family friendly during the daytime it just needs to be more family friendly ‘out-of-hours’ for the early risers! Blissfields is great value for money with so much to see and do. So what are you waiting for? 2016 super early bird tickets are on sale now!
We would go again in a disco-beat.
Love Bella x (age 2)
Disclosure: We received tickets to Blissfields in order to write an honest review, yes its really long but we hope you enjoy reading it!