Hands up if you like the idea of taking your kids to a weekend music festival but are apprehensive that it could be a big expensive messy mistake? Honestly, you are not alone! For years I have admired photos on Facebook taken by friends who made festivals with kids look relaxing, effortless and fun!
At the beginning of the year I pledged that we were going to experience a weekend music festival as a family. In May we enjoyed a day at Geronimo Festival. It was a gentle intro to festivals as the headlining acts were all CBeebies characters. (Hardly rock and roll but our boys loved it!) In June we attended Wychwood Festival as day guests. We enjoyed the kids activities and music acts during the day but wimped out of camping at the festival and instead returned to the peace and comfort of our own beds!
Livestock Festival this weekend was therefore our first full on, three-day festival camping experience and I am delighted to say that we absolutely loved it. (Our boys also managed to sleep through all the middle of the night festival shenanigans too, including the couple who tripped over our guy rope at 3am!)
In the run up to the festival I wondered what we had let ourselves in for. I kept having flash backs to our weekends at V Festival pre kids… The HOURS sat in festival motorway traffic, the long slog back and forth from the car park to the cramped camping fields carrying camping kit and provisions, the rain which resulted in EVERYTHING being covered in mud. As a young couple these ‘experiences’ just added to the excitement of the festival but with kids they could be an absolute nightmare!
I am pleased to say that our weekend at Livestock Festival was a complete contrast. Firstly, the drive to the campsite was an absolute breeze. Located ten minutes from the M50 and well signposted, we had no issues finding the site. We arrived at dinner time on the Friday and made our way straight to the box office. As we had VIP tickets, (more about these later – well worth the additional £60!) we were told we could pitch where ever we wanted to.
With three huge flat grass camping fields to choose from (VIP, main field and quiet field) we selected a scenic spot in the VIP campsite away from other tents and parked our car conveniently alongside. (This may seem like a minor detail but not only does it save the walk carrying camping kit, it also makes it so much easier for storing belongings and freeing up space in the tent. Also useful for applying makeup in the morning ladies!) Fortunately the weather over the weekend was AMAZING so we also avoided being covered in mud!
Our first impressions
Set over 40 acres surrounded by the picturesque Malvern Hills the Livestock Festival site is a great location. My photos do not do the festival site justice, but the video on the festival website captures the scenery perfectly.
After setting up camp and having dinner cooked on a camp stove we took a walk around the festival site. Normally a working farm the festival had a rustic feel to it. We loved the colourful flags, the fairy lights in the trees lighting up the paths and the handmade quirky signs. The hay bales set out around the stages were also a nice touch.
We were surprised at how quiet the festival was on the Friday. Couples lay stretched out on blankets watching the music and comedy acts, kids ran around laughing and playing. My fears of having to queue for toilets and food vanished and I immediately felt at ease!
Livestock Festival background and lineup
Livestock Festival launched last year in 2015 and attracted a crowd of 2,000 people. This year the festival doubled in popularity attracting 4,500 attendees. This may sound like a lot of people but as the festival spreads out across three camping fields and three stages (main stage, woodland stage and comedy stage) it never felt busy.
The festival was officially opened on the Friday night by Reef. We would have loved to have stuck around to watch the show but our boys were exhausted. I’m not sure how they managed to sleep through the crowds going mad for Reef’s hit song Place Your Hands but they did!
Along with lots of other families we kept our boys up to watch Saturday nights headlining acts – the thoroughly entertaining Reverend and the Makers and The Fratellis. Charlie and Harry absolutely loved rocking along, especially to my favourite song Heavyweight Champion of the World!
The festival closed on Sunday night after performances by my teenage music idols – Chesney Hawkes and Jason Donovan. Watching Chesney perform I am the One and Only was my highlight of the festival. He absolutely belted it out and the crowds went crazy! (I have posted a video on our facebook page if you wish to check it out!) He came across as a genuinely lovely bloke too. Chatting between songs, keeping the crowds in suspense for his big hit!
Livestock Festival kids entertainment
My boys were absolutely spoilt for choice. We spent ALOT of time in the dedicated kids area which was close enough to the main stage to be able to enjoy the acts whilst keeping an eye on them. My eldest son Charlie (5 years old) just kept running from one kids activity to another, he was so excited and just wanted to experience it all! He particularly loved learning to build a fire during the bush skills session, practicing his rugby skills with Rugby Tykes and the climbing wall.
There was lots to do for kids of all ages, especially 2 to 10 year olds. My youngest son Harry (2 years old) loved the story telling sessions by the Dragon Whisperer and would not leave the giant tortoise alone during the animal encounters. He also had a blast (and made a complete mess!) during the arts and crafts sessions.
As parents, Richard and I, loved the fact that the majority of the kids entertainment was included in the cost of the £1 kids admission (yep you read that right just £1!) All of the classes and shows were free, as were the climbing wall, pony rides and animal encounters.
The kids activities you did have to pay for were very reasonable i.e. £1 entrance into the Hall of Mirrors, £3 for one go on the bouncy castle and inflatable slide or £5 for all day. Face painting only £3-£5.
A unique feature of Livestock Festival is the ability to buy a VIP wristband to gain back stage access and have the opportunity to mingle with artists in the VIP cocktail bar. VIP tickets cost an additional £60 per adult and include access to the exclusive camping field with shower and toilet blocks and also front row access to watch the artists up close and personal!
A word of warning for parents – We selected to stay in the VIP camping area located close to the woodland stage, where the festivities continued until 3am! In hindsight we should have taken the advice on the festival website and stayed in the quiet camping area which had patrols and enforcement of quiet after dark.
What we loved about Livestock Festival
As novice family festival attendees we particularly loved the laid back atmosphere, the inclusive entry ticket which included a weekend of camping, the stunning setting surrounded by the Malvern Hills, the variety of kids entertainment (especially considering the cost of the kids tickets) and the fact that we didn’t have to queue for anything!
We felt completely at ease allowing Charlie to run around from one kids activities to another whilst we sat nearby chilling on a picnic blanket. We spoke to a lot of other families over the weekend and found everyone very friendly and like-minded. Families were there to enjoy the music, comedy acts and also enjoy time as a family outdoors, toasting marshmallows, chilling out around the campsite etc. We also found the staff friendly and helpful, especially with our boys, and they were clearly having a great time working at the festival.
The food stalls were also of a high standard and charged reasonable prices. They sold everything from burritos, wood fired pizzas, halloumi burgers to our particular favourite food stalls – Olive in a Bus and the USA sweet shop!
The not so good bits!
For any event of this size there are bound to be teething problems. The feedback from attendees for the first Livestock Festival last summer was that there was not enough to do for families. The organisers clearly took this feedback seriously because this year the kids entertainment was spot on!
There were only a few minor issues that we feel need to be addressed for 2017 – the showers and the nettles in the VIP camping field. We chose to camp in the VIP area passing up the opportunity to have potentially peaceful nights sleep in the ‘quiet camping’ field. We weighed up the pros and cons and decided we would prefer to have a nice hot shower in the morning! Unfortunately, we found that the water tank was only big enough to store water for a few showers, leaving many campers either waiting around for the tank to refill or like we did, making do with a flannel wash.
The uncut grass in the camping field also caused us issues. Worried that our boys would sting themselves on the many knee-high nettles (or they would pop our air bed which would have been a disaster!) we spent half an hour pulling nettles up from around our pitch when we first arrived.
Final verdict – Livestock Festival 2016
It was our first time at Livestock Festival but it will definitely not be our last. We would recommend Livestock Festival for other families, particularly novice festival goers who wish to avoid the large crowds of bigger festivals.
We would also particularly recommend Livestock Festival for groups of friends who wish to enjoy a festival together. Unlike other festivals the organisers of Livestock encourage attendees to bring as many tents as they like. In fact on their website they state – “Group tents into a massive personal campsite with your friends. Just pick your spot and stake your claim!” We noticed a few large groups of friends at Livestock who were clearly having a fabulous time. One hen party spent most of their time in the VIP backstage cocktail lounge, not a bad way to celebrate the last couple of nights of freedom!
Need to know – Tickets to this years festival: Adult weekend camping tickets – £110, £1 for children under 10. Adult day tickets – £35, £20 for 11 to 17-year-olds.
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Disclosure – My family and I were provided with weekend VIP tickets to Livestock Festival in return for this honest review. All opinions are my own.
Copyright – All images copyright Travel Loving Family