A review of Common People at Southampton Common through the eyes of a child.
Dear Mummy, you were over the moon to be invited to Common People Southampton over the Bank Holiday weekend. See, Southampton Common holds a very special place in your heart and was your old stomping ground when you were a child. You lived just off Hill Lane and would play in “The Common”. (This was back in the 80’s when it was safe for kids to play outside in parks without adult supervision -and when the street lights came on that signalled home time).
You’ve witnesses many memorable events at Southampton Common; Power in the Park, The Balloon Festival and amazing fairgrounds set up in this large open green space in the heart of the city. It made sense that sooner or later someone would cotton on to how great this location was to host a weekend music festival, and that genius was Rob da Bank, the mastermind behind Bestival on the Isle of Wight and Camp Bestival in Dorset (the biggest family festival in the world! – well in my opinion anyway!!).
Common People is a compact festival compared to these giants, however it still packs a punch. It’s a two-day affair that happens over the last May Bank Holiday weekend and is a 2 day event. No camping here folks and because residents live nearby the music has to be finished by 11pm. Noise levels are closely monitored to ensure everyone is happy. This means that the ticket price is greatly reduced for festival goers. There were some top acts performing over the weekend like Public Enemy, Primal Scream, Craig David, Katy B, Duran Duran and our personal favourite Ghostpoet. (I think mummy has a ‘thing’ for Craig David too ;)!)
So what did we think of the festival?
Our first impression, having never been before, was how professional and organised it was. There where two entrances to the site. One pick-up and drop off point at Hill Lane, opposite Taunton’s College. At that location it was easy access for e-ticket and wristband holders to queue to get in. We found it relatively stress free to be dropped off here with no traffic and no police present. So far so good. However we needed to sign in so we followed the perimeter to the main entrance (where the box office was situated) this was a leisurely 5 minute stroll through the trees. Inside the perimeter we could hear thumping music and lots of laughter.
When we arrived at midday there were very small queues and the bag checkers where quick and thorough. We must have arrived before the sleepy teenagers had dragged their bums out of bed, as the festival seemed chilled and manageable for a small family. When we entered the sun was shining brightly in the sky and the festival looked fresh. It was super clean – yes even the loos by the kids area were some of the cleanest we’ve seen, even later in the day. There was hardly any rubbish littered on the floor and only a little bit of dust was kicked up over the footpaths.
There was so many food outlets with hardly any queues around lunchtime. We enjoyed freshly cooked meaty burgers, a giant hot dog and french fries and found some lovely shade by the Jam Jar bar. Food was the typical extortionate price you would expect from a festival (between £5-£8 per person) so we came prepared with plenty of pennies.
The seating and picnic tables were very plush and nicely decorated but they could have done with some more of them as people curled up underneath trees and sat on tree logs trying to balance food. We came prepared with a picnic blanket which wasn’t really needed as the ground was dry and hard.
There was plenty of open spaces to roam, play and dance around and not many crowded areas that we could see apart from the thumping Uncontained stage and right at the front of the Common main stage. We were present at the main stage when Mr Motivator, clad in green spandex, kicked off the show with an aerobic dance routine. It seemed a bit strange for a music festival but a good warm up act.
Looking around we were really impressed with the whimsical festival decorations, they cast rainbows across the awnings and disguised metal poles. It was a photographers idea of heaven and the sunny weather really helped to keep everyone in the fun festival mood.
We attended Common People for the Sunday to mainly check out the kids area and this is where we spent the majority of our time, so apologies if you are looking for a music review you can find a good one here. However my mummy was slightly chuffed that she was in ear-shot of the Uncommon Stage which had great bands performing which she got to see. She was particular impressed an alternative, experimental band called These Septic Stars from Southampton.
Common People seems to appeal to everyone, old rockers watching Duran Duran, giggly girls swooning over Craig David, while the Uncommon and Uncontained stages drew the crowds that you’d find at a gig or in a club.
Now that my folks are ‘sensible’ parents we’re all about what festivals can offer families and more organisers are looking to include families into the fold. All the 90’s generation of old school ravers and clubbers have grown-up and now have kids who they want to expose to the festival life and new music. Common People Southampton incorporates this vision relatively well.
The kids area was almost dreamlike with red lanterns and tassels hanging from trees, inviting shade from the overlooking trees, it really was a safe haven for little ones and a lovely place to escape the hustle and bustle of the main festival arena.
There was a big top in the kids area with circus acrobats performing tricks which spilled out onto the lawn in front. Tight ropes and balance balls, hulu-hoops and bubble blowing, spinning places and juggling – there was so much to entertain a little person. I tried to have a go at all the circus activities!
However, throughout the day this place just got busier and busier with older festival goers seeking afternoon shade, dozing and getting ready for the evening shenanigans.
We actually found it amusing how many teenagers and young adults were actually in the kids area having a go at the activities too, until it became a fight for little ones to have a turn. They could have done with more kids area staff to monitor this. “If your age is not under 10, you’re not coming in” 😉 We enjoyed the crafting tent run by Caz and Jo’s Creative Craft Workshops and my mummy sat quite happily chatting and finishing off my sparkly festival sun.
It was a lovely thing to take home with us and the activity here and materials were free to use! One only disappointment in the kids area was the face painting, which was a bit rushed and didn’t last on my face! Within an hour my unicorn had disappeared off my cheek, luckily I couldn’t see it vanish or there would have been toddler meltdown and another couple of quid wasted.
We loved the crafting areas and the dagger making experience from Spinney Hollow was great value for money. Spinney Hollow is a 10 acre woodland project near Winchester and they run rural craft courses, host theatre events, children’s parties and woodland banquets they were down at Common People getting us reconnected with nature. We participated in a 30 minute interactive demonstration where I made my own festival dagger out of tree branches (there was also wands available) from scratch.
I was fascinated by the craftsmanship and watching the artisans sculpting the wood. I made my own dagger by helping to sand the wood and knocking the cross handle into place. I helped decorate it with fabric and ink stamps and even got a passing out parade where I swore an oath to my folks and the festival! That was really good fun and another lovely memento to take home with me.
We were a bit disappointed with the World’s Biggest Bouncy Castle, as I never got on it! On the day we visited admission was staggered between big folk and little folk which led to kids waiting in the blistering sun for the teenagers and drunken adults to disembark before they could have a go, one suggestion we’d make is have a smaller, under 5’s bouncy castle in the kids area for next year. Common People Southampton have oodles of space! We were really impressed with the size of the bouncy castle though and can’t wait to see it again at Camp Bestival.
We popped into the VIP area called The Nook to see what the crack was and it was VERY busy with nowhere to sit, apart from on the grass, which we could have done from the other side of the barriers which was a shame. However it had premium restroom facilities and great stage views with its own bar and food.
Ordinarily I would have stayed up late to watch the bands perform on the main stage but without the leisurely walk back to our tent (carrying me asleep no doubt) and threat of bank holiday traffic looming we left early. It was a great first visit to a young festival which is only in its second year and we look forward to returning again for many more years to come.
My mummy has made memories at Southampton Common, hopefully I can too…
Love Bella x
Disclosure: We gained free entrance to Common People Southampton in return for an honest review. All food and gift purchases were our own.
Saturday 28th to Sunday 29th May 2016
Southampton Common, Southampton, Hampshire, SO15 7NN, England
£45 weekend tickets or £25 for a day ticket