The word ‘festival’ normally conjures up images of sodden swampy fields, rain, and drunken, drug-fuelled music lovers… I frequented quite a few of them in  my youth – and they weren’t the sort of places I would have wanted to have shared with kids. However, what attracted families wasn’t exactly on my radar at that time – but now that has changed.

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The likes of Camp Bestival, Latitude and Shambala all have huge sections dedicated to parents and their children – it’s this new generation who still want the festival experience but want to be able to go with their offspring. Back to more local pastures, you only have to search your own area to discover lots of family friendly festivals on a much, much smaller scale, which is why I was happy to stumble across Bounce Festival a few weeks ago for the Urban Monkey Guide.

img_0010_2What appealed was this festival was purely aimed at children under the age of 12; that there were lots of organised activities for kids; and Peppa Pig and George were going to be there. I was sold…

We rocked up fairly early, the doors opened at 10.00am. But concerned about the looming black clouds overhead, we decided to forgo the queue to meet Monkey’s piggy heroes – and go and explore the tents strewn across the Old Deer Park in Richmond. Monkey was remarkably okay about this as he decided he wanted his face painted. We even managed a quick hello to Cathy over at Mummy Travels, who was there with Minnie waiting patiently to cuddle Peppa.

Fotor081822036Once we wandered over to the face painting, Monkey changed his mind after he heard the music coming from the Big Stage tent. There were several shows put on during the day from the likes of the Go! Go! Go! team from Nick Jr, and we had a little dance before all deciding we were peckish – well, it was lunch time…

Fotor081822061According to the website, you’re not allowed to bring food and drink on to site, but I don’t think the security was particularly stringent, as I saw several families tucking into homemade sandwiches. We, however, conformed to the rules and had to purchase our dinner there. We had quite a good selection to choose from – a crepe and a wrap stall, and a mocktail bar serving smoothies and juices. We opted for a mac and cheese stall, which was doing brisk business. Typically, as soon as we ordered our food, the heavens opened and it chucked it down. We had to find shelter in a nearby tent, as did everyone else, and wait for it to pass.

It didn’t last long and, after 10 minutes we managed to grab our food and find a covered corner to eat it in. It was delicious but how hard can it be  to get cheese and pasta wrong? It cost a pretty penny, too. Just over £11 for two pots.

Our bellies full, we had to endure one more torrential downpour, but this time, we took Monkey to the Mister Maker tent, where I helped him create a masterpiece with PVA glue, tissue paper and some glitter. He wasn’t as enthusiastic as I was – he was, however, fascinated with the rockets outside the Science tent, and watching the older children riding bikes on the cycle course.

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Fotor0818221549What really made our day was Kimmys Mobile Petting Zoo. Monkey spotted the meerkats and was fascinated by the ‘Oohs and ahhs’ coming from inside. It was a veritable tent of creepy crawlies and lizards. And a brilliant way to introduce kids to exotic wildlife and close up, too. Monkey wasn’t even phased by touching a Leopard gecko; a chameleon (which hubby was allowed to have put on his arm); and the biggest and best, saved to the very last, a boa constrictor, which felt cool and smooth to touch.

We also got to pet some sheep at the Sheep Show, and to do a bit of potting at the garden stall, where a lovely lady was teaching all the kids how to sow seeds properly.

Even though we didn’t get to watch some of the shows, including a uni-cycle troupe, or take part in some of the workshops, including fencing and cookery demonstrations, which were really aimed at older children, Monkey enjoyed himself and wasn’t even upset that we had missed Peppa’s storytelling hour as we were too busy stroking lizards.

Fotor0818222344The bad weather affected the turnout of the day. Not that I am complaining, as at no point did it feel crowded. But we felt we’d seen enough after three hours – so my suggestion if Bounce is to return next year (which I hope it does) organisers might want to put on a few more educational tents; and make a larger play area for both the toddlers and the older children, as they looked a bit bare.

img_0023_2Bounce is a lovely, friendly festival which are clearly run by enthusiastic and smiley staff, who were always on hand to chat and help. I liked the idea of a special treasure hunt for the kids to participate in. Once they visited each tent they received a stamp and were entered into a competition.

Would we go back again, definitely. There were some real gems there, and for a small, local festival which is still in its infancy – they did a really good job.

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We were given free entrance into the festival for the purposes of this review, but my opinions are completely my own.