My Travel Monkey’s guest writer Barney Harsent had a blast at the recent Alfresco Festival and is happy to report that you really can go clubbing with your children in tow…
Among the scare stories handed out to prospective parents before they give birth is that babies signal the end of your social life, kicking grown-up fun into touch along with sleep and the likelihood of finding a top without baby food on it.
The key, of course, is to carry on doing what you were doing before just with the kids in tow. But while that works for holidays, restaurants and forgiving pubs, what about clubbing? The Alfresco Festival, a brand-new, family-friendly affair in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, that ran over May bank holiday, aimed to prove that club music needn’t just be for the grown-ups.
With the runaway success of child-friendly parties like Big Fish, Little Fish, family clubbing is big news, but Alfresco is no ‘home-in-time-for-tea’ affair, we were in it for the three-day-long haul. So, as soon as we could after arriving, we set off in search of fun for kids both big and little…
Our group included four adults and four children: Nat (9, likes: Doctor Who, Vikings and sharks); Alice (5, likes: cartwheels, Wham! and Milo); Milo (5, likes: Star Wars, Angry Birds and Alice); and Reuben (18 months, likes: pretty much everything it would seem).
Kids are an unforgiving lot and are not prone to sparing blushes. If things aren’t right, they’ll soon let you know and often at a volume loud enough to rival some of the on-site sound systems. They were, frankly, spoilt rotten. In the family area, which is where a large part of the 1,500 or so revellers seemed to spend most of their time during the day, storyteller Mark Fraser (below) kept the little ravers entertained around the clock (well, until evening at least) with the winning one-two of engaging manner and terrific tales. There was also a seemingly never-ending weekend sports day on the site: football tournaments, sack races, tug of war, and a three-legged race that two of the grown-up members of our entourage decided to enter, with predictably chaotic results!
Still, hula hoops and a straw maze proved the biggest hits across the weekend, proving, if nothing else, that allowing kids to be kids and imaginations to run free is still the best way to keep them happy and entertained. That and the excellent range of food. My son, Nat, and I worked our way through pretty much the entire menu, taking in gourmet salads, burgers, paella, crepes, bratwurst and Thai curry – all at decent prices and all delicious.
The whole area was perfectly judged and a wellspring of good feeling, helped, in no small part, by the sunny weather and the warm smiles from the rest of the crowd. There was also a roller-skating rink that proved a massive hit.
It was one of the very few activities that cost extra, although with a weekend pass for £15 available in advance, it was amazing value. And actually, while we’re talking about value, £49 for a weekend adult ticket and £20 for each child was a steal. Add on the £30 for a weekend camping pitch and there can’t be too many festivals that could compete in the value-for-money stakes.
Of course, with kids in tow, you’re moving at about a mile an hour, so there was much we’d like to have seen that we missed, however, with four stages hosting DJs throughout the day, one of these in a picturesque wooded glade, we were never far from something worth seeing. Parents and children danced hand-in-hand, much like massive wedding, but with no tears and an infinitely better soundtrack supplied by some of the very best DJs you could hope to hear, including the fabulous Don Letts (pictured below) and some absolutely brilliant bands.
As night fell, families decamped back to the family area, or their tents to put tired ones to bed, and negotiated babysitting favours so that they could let their hair down with the grown-ups – going with friends is recommended for exactly this reason.
Plans are already afoot for 2017 and every single member of our group can’t wait to go back. Ticket prices have risen a little, but for those in the know (and that includes you now) there’s a special link to earlybird tickets for next year that include some great savings.