Dear mummy, it’s not everyday you get invited to party with Dizzee Rascal, Everything Everything, ShyFX and Dub Pistols but over the first weekend in July we did just that! We were invited to Blissfileds to review the event from a family perspective. Families make up a huge part of the feel of Blissfields, as local families first organised this festival over a decade ago, and it has gone from strength to strength now incorporating different ages of festival goers.
We headed to Blissfields Festival on 1st & 2nd July 2016 at Vicarage Farm, near Winchester in Hampshire. It’s our local music festival and only a 5 minute drive from our house to ‘their house’. We went last year for our first time and enjoyed the experience but my second visit was much better. The weather behaved itself on the last day and the sun shone. Even in the rain it didn’t dampen spirits for us.
We had a trusty lanyard programme which really helped plan as much as we could, so we tried to squeeze in as much as possible. With 6 main areas, we sampled each one to see what Blissfields had to offer for all the family. The Manor was the main stage, The Den was the second stage in a big top style tent and the third main music area was The Larch. Not forgetting other stages and disco areas which came to life at night like Blisscotheque, The Bay and behind The Hidden Hedge with Area 51, Elysian Lounge, The AV Sanctuary, Dome of the Unknown and lots of pop-up areas with music. We listened to ‘soon to break big time’ acts, alongside the cream of the local scene. Blissfields makes a great feeder festival for the likes of Glastonbury and IOW Festival. We couldn’t see everything, so these are our main highlights from this years Blissfields.
It’s a beautiful site, there’s no denying it. Even though Blissfields had rain on Thursday set-up and Friday day, the site wasn’t waterlogged or really muddy. The ground dried out on the Saturday leaving only a couple of muddy high traffic spots. We loved the craft area at the east of the site which gave a great view of the main stage. We were inspired by the wonderful array of skilled artisans and chilled out in the relaxing garden space. The main stage is nestled in the gentle curve of the site’s valley surrounded by beautiful fairy lit trees proving welcoming shade from the hot July sun.
We think Blissfields pulled off the “House Party” theme really well, they had built an amazing ‘Our House’ set in the middle of the field and it was the biggest art installation/venue crossover ever. During the festival they hosted slumber parties, garage raves, retro living room discos. There were some people in fancy dress and we managed to spot Mr Blobby and Noel Edmonds walking around the house.
The line up was great this year and the last 4 artists on Saturday at the main stage flowed from one to the next increasing the energy in the crowd. They all complemented each other and unlike the previous year the crowds stayed at the main stage from 5pm all the way through to 11pm. Mercury Prize-winner Dizzee Rascal headlined the main stage to a massive crowd as the sun set on the last day of Blissfields Festival. The London rapper has had huge international success and is the first household name to have headlined Blissfields. Artists such as Dub Pistols, Shy FX and the great Beans on Toast got the crowd on its feet dancing on Saturday following Everything Everything on Friday evening. My mummy even made it to the front barrier while watching Dub Pistols, whom she loves.
Half way through the Dizzee Rascal’s bonkers set my folks sat on the grassy verge with a drink in their hands listening and watching the crowd and pyrotechnics, it was a great view and as a family you can still have a full immersive festival experience even after dark. This area gave us a great view of the stage and performers while allowing little ones the freedom to dance around on the grass without being in anyones way. We all sat on a tree stump and had a giggle.
Kids Area – Angel Gardens
The kids area was decorated beautifully and at the south of the site run by Angel Gardens. It had bell tents for the activities with blackboards outside displaying timings and programmes. It was a real feast for the eyes especially in the bright sunshine against the blue sky. Large bubbles from bubble nets glided across this area, hula hoops scattered across the grass ready to be picked up by children and little tables and chairs for crafting activities and clay making were easily accessible with no queuing. I helped make a seed bomb, a tutu and a clay mixture figure. I was also mesmerised by the graffiti wall, kids dj’ing and spray painting which the teenagers loved! The only queue we encountered was riding Rasta Pony, the famous rocking horse with dreadlocks!!
A brief shower saw us retreat into the Angel Godmothers Tiddler Tent, where we listening to guitar music on soft blankets and cushions, it was like a bedouin village inside the festival. Perfect for under 5’s like me with changing mats, play mats and loads of story books and toys to play with! They even had a bath time hour there!
The theme this year in the kids area was Snow White and the 700 Dwarfs. All the children got to participate in a parade and help save Snow White from the Evil Witch Queen. And the precession took the children through the heart of the festival in their costumes chanting and singing hi-ho. Other festival goers joined in and it was a very pleasant atmosphere. The ending happened at the ‘Da House’ in the middle of the field where performers acted out a rescue in a massive ‘dance off’ – saving Snow White and heading back to watch her wedding to Prince Charming in the kids area village green. The nightly fire show was amazing and a lovely way for families to spend the evenings together.
A new area this year was a man-made beach and DJ shack called The Bay, with deck chairs, summer beats and fruity cocktails, located at the side of the main stage. This area wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be and the signage could have been better to direct festival goers inside especially in the early hours – my folks stayed there until The Bay closed at 2am. During the day, I played in the sand and sailed the boats while my folks sat in deck chairs and took in the afternoon sun. Later that evening a man on a kayak stole the show during Dizzee Rascal’s set by crowd surfing on it!! I got there first however and was bouncing around on the ‘said’ vehicle earlier on the day.
The Hidden Hedge
After the headliner had finished my folks explored the wonders of The Hidden Hedge, while I was tucked up in bed. Again the standard of set design and art installations was fantastic and very eye-catching. My folks enjoyed the Ska beats at The AV Sanctuary with the brand new Boeing 737 stage dancing around like loons with other festival goers.
Dance of the Dead
Next up was the Dance of the Dead in the Dome of the Unknown which had been running fun performances and activities during the day. Every song they played was by a deceased artist – like MJ, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Nirvana, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Bob Marley, 2Pac, Queen, INXS, David Bowie and of course Prince (to mention just a few). My mummy loved the Day of the Dead face painting stations and painted her face for the disco. The Fiery Latino compere who hosted the party games such as: chilli eating competitions, Tequila Shots, Taco Battles and the piñata smash-up was awesome and my folks enjoyed the cabaret performers.
In the evenings The Blisscotheque always seemed busy and was a great nightspot for festival goers and saw DJs from all genres playing to the crowds until the early hours.
There were so many great food outlets and we were really spoilt for choice. I loved the candy floss stall called Faeryfloss Boutique. As we were packing up the tent on Sunday morning the amazing breakfast wraps and fruit smoothies at Quenchers helped my folks soak up the alcohol and we were really thankful they were still open the morning after the night before!
Blissfields could have done with more loos this year though.. ones each side of the main stage would have helped and another adult toilet near the kids area would have helped parents run to the loo while their children played as opposed to dragging their kids away from the action, half way up the site.
Parking was good and easy, even arriving late and leaving earlier there was no bother and the field was still muddy but caused no real problem. A tractor was on site! The marshals and security seemed happy and relaxed when we saw them floating around, it seemed they were also enjoying the festival! This year’s ‘house party’ theme celebrated dance culture from every decade, but the festival retained its family atmosphere with entertainment for all ages, we even saw the staff dancing! I even managed to park my festival cart onsite!
Camping areas were rammed and next year maybe they could extend the perimeter to allow for more room around tents which seem to be getting bigger and bigger, especially in the family areas.
The whole family had a blast this year and my folks relaxed a lot more and kicked back. It’s a fine balancing act to get a major music festival to incorporate family friendly activities and provisions and I think Blissfields got it spot on this year! Well done. We’ll definitely be back! A real family friendly vibe with some amazing acts!
Love Bella x
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Fancy joining us next year? Super early bird tickets for 2017 are already on sale now at http://www.blissfields.co.uk/tickets