2 weeks into summer – camping, festivals & family fun

We’ve just got back from an amazing week camping at the One World Festival in Somerset.

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This festival has a very special place in our heart. Chiswick Daddy and I have been going for 12 years, long before Chiswick Boy was a speck in our eye.


Growing up at a festival

Chiswick Boy has grown up there. He’s attended drumming workshops with us, strapped to my chest in a baby carrier at six months old.

He’s toddled around the creche, beguiled by giant bubbles at two.

He’s performed on stage wearing fairy wings at four, with a crowd of other equally cute wing-wearing tots.

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He’s improvised, learnt to juggle, painted pictures and played with tons and tons of lego in the kids village marquees.

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Every year he seems to break in some milestone.

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Going feral

This year was no exception – Chiswick Boy reached yet another milestone.

At 8 and a half years old, this was the first year that he was allowed to have a bit of freedom, and roam around the camp on his own.

(With boundaries. He was allowed to go the 3 minute walk from our tent to the ditch that the kids gathered at because it was so fun to jump over. And from there he was allowed to walk the two minutes to the kids village.)


Heart led learning in the kids village

The kids village has a ‘heart’ system which shows how much freedom kids there can have.

If a child has a heart on their name badge it means they aren’t allowed to leave without their carer. And they get allocated a volunteer who stays with them all the time, 1:1, accompanying them to any of the kids’s activities in the area.

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Finding your freedom

This was the first year we let Chiswick Boy attend without a heart on his name badge, leaving him free to walk between the afore-mentioned ditch and the kids village (and only between these places).

In this smallish festival of 400 people (most of whom come every year), the kids roam around together in little groups. And giving Chiswick Boy this little bit of freedom was as much a test of what I could cope with as what he could cope with.


Do you remember when we could play out?

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It got me thinking that this is what life was like for my brother and me growing up.

Kids knocking on the door and asking if we could ‘play out’, and us trotting off with a promise that we’d be back by 6pm.

Those days are long gone – in London at least.

I still insist on holding Chiswick Boy’s hand when we cross roads. And even when we visit the parks we know well I won’t let him run ahead out of view.


Bonding time

We did lots of stuff together at the festival of course – Chiswick Boy and I went to bushcraft workshops in the afternoon and the sense of joy and achievement when he carved four tent pegs out of logs was indescribable.

(His joy – I was a nervous wreck watching him wield a hunter’s knife, along with all the other kids, under the instructive gaze of the Bear Grylls-like instructor from Survival Skills).

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We also performed together in the Camp Panto which Chiswick Daddy directed – Chiswick Boy as a mini Mad Hatter and me, ahem, as the White Rabbit (and you’ve guessed by now that it was Alice in Wonderland).


Story time by the fire

Every night Chiswick Daddy told stories by the campfire at the storytelling slot, alongside his fellow storyteller Hazel – clad in a leather coat painted with swirls and clasping a wooden staff. A sea of children in onesies, and their equally attentive parents, listening to old Norse tales and Celtic sagas, and more than a few made up tales.

Chiswick Boy sat by the fire entranced each night.

As the dusk set in we’d eat cheesy chips from the cafe, listen to music in the cafe and Chiswick Boy would jump ditches until his eyes couldn’t stay open any longer.

There was a lot of red wine. And bacon and eggs cooked over our camping gaz in the morning. (The rest of our meals were catered by the festival – macrobiotic, gorgeous food).


Improv for fun and parenting

I also taught workshops throughout the week – musical improvised comedy which as you may know is one of my ultimate passions.

There’s a great mantra in improv which is an equally good mantra for parenting:

  1. Listen
  2. Say Yes
  3. Commit

Listen and pay attention to what is being said, not pre-empting what you think  is being said.

Say yes – accept the offers that are given to you, in the spirit they’re attended. Just say yes and see what happens.

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Commit – go for whatever you’ve agreed to 150%.

How does this work in practice?

In improv it works like this:

  • LISTEN – You’re really focused on what the other improviser is saying so hear them when they say ‘hey it’s a long curvy yellow fruit’.
  • SAY YES – You accept this offer, and pretend to be a banana. (You don’t say – no I’m not, I’m an apple)
  • COMMIT – You live and breathe that apple 100% even if you think it makes you look like a fool. You stand up and curve your body, you say ‘don’t let that monkey eat me’. Anything to commit and move the story on.

In parenting it works like this:

  • LISTEN – Your child is speaking and you hear them say that they are bored and want you to play with them.
  • SAY YES – You say yes.
  • COMMIT – You get down on the floor and play with their figures, or lego, or whatever it is. Even if you tell them it’s just for five minutes – you spend those 5 minutes 150% engaged in what you’re doing together.

Easier said than done I know.

But with four weeks left of the long and glorious summer hols, that’s my little tip.

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And if you want a great family festival to go to next year – you know where I’ll be. One World Festival. (We’re doing Peter Pan as the panto next year).

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What have you been up to this summer? What’s your favourite festival? Did you play out as a kid? 

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