As summer draws to an end we’ve been reminiscing about our favourite family adventures of 2016. There have been so many fantastic times, but when I asked the kids what their most memorable adventure was, they both shouted
The theme of total chaos starts before we even enter the sprawling world of BoomTown. None of the crew seem to have a clue what’s going on, no one has a map, and the elusive ‘family camping’ seems to be a bit of an inside joke when you ask where it is. A slightly worrying start with two kids in tow. We like a challenge however, so not disheartened by our rather disorganised first impressions, we grabbed this book by the cover, and delved right in to the adventure.
BoomTown is an arts festival of around 60,000 guests and held each year in a gorgeous valley in the Hamshire countryside. We’d done a little research and the general consensus amongst 95% of people we spoke to was that we must be mad to consider taking the kids.
Well, they’d be right then!
I did have a couple of very minor moments of ‘what have we done?’ over our wild weekend. The first was when it took us so long just to past the test of getting in to the festival, but it was so worth it. The challenge is all part of the cities immersive theatre experience it seems!
If you can make it on site, manage to get wristbands, and find somewhere to camp before losing the plot (or the kids), you have passed the test. You are officially a Boomtowner and may begin your wondrous weekend of non-stop madness.
And so it begins…
We jumped several bizarrely shaped hoops to find a spot to park our van and eventually ended up on the edge of KidzTown camping which we’d been told was already full. Considering there are very few kids at this festival we thought that was rather strange.
Friends who had been to Boomtown before told us to avoid the areas known as Downtown after dark. The festival is split up into districts laid out like a small city and each district is totally different. Like most festivals, BoomTown has many sides to it. We’d heard stories of drugs and other things unsuitable for families, but this was not our experience at all. The whole experience felt safe and completely out of this world.
According to the kids ‘Boomtown is the best festival in the world!’
We stood and admired the view from the top of the hill across the site and I literally had pre-rave butterflies I hadn’t felt in 20 years. The kids shrieked with excitement, the thumping bass filled the air, and the atmosphere was totally electric. WOW!
Although the Boomtown website says under 16’s are not allowed Downtown after 7pm, we couldn’t resist flying straight down the hill to start our adventure. We literally skipped for joy!
Downtown districts include Barrio Loco, Sector 6, ChinaTown, and the red light District 5 with its interesting window shopping, robot pole dancers, and the darker side of the festival. Much of the entertainment here is not family friendly but to be quite honest, the main reason we decided to avoid it with kids and as adults at night, is that it is just so busy. We found so much more fun to be had in other areas of the festival so we left the Downtown madness to the teenagers all weekend.
Bang Hai Palace lit up in at night was a totally awe inspiring sight and worth our busy trip through the chaos on the first night. Even though Hunny was tired, she stood mesmerised by this sky-high structure.
The kids were pretty overwhelmed with it all and the busyness reminded me of Glastonbury years before the proper fence went up. There were just thousands of people shuffling around, not a family in sight, and as we didn’t even have a map, we got lost very quickly. Hunny was quite concerned about the campers sleeping in tents so close to all the thumping sound systems. As soon as we got our bearings we headed back to the sanity of our van and bed. What had we done?
Friday morning arrived and we fell in love with Boomtown. The kids loved every part of the weekend. They aren’t fazed by big crowds and noise so we explored the whole festival but Kidztown was a favourite for Hunny.
A mini Boomtown for beginners, even this small corner of the festival has so much thought and creativity crammed in to it. The most exciting thing for us as a family at Boomtown was that every door and window hide an adventure. Our kids wasted no time getting fully immersed in the theatre. They earned Boomtown money from the rich pig banker when they knocked at the bank, then they spent it on glitter tattoos and henna in the tattoo parlour across the road.
.Kidztown had its very own stage with performers and we were so proud when Daisy ended up on stage with a fantastic gymnast. He couldn’t believe that she could do all of his acrobatic tricks and he kept challenging her to more.
Hunny loved the bouncy castle where the kids got drenched by water pistols. There was also a lovely covered sandpit for little ones, puppet shows, craft and lots of workshops including make your own pizza. Considering there weren’t actually that many kids at BoomTown, the kids area was fantastic
One of the highlights of the weekend for them was climbing a huge tree with the APE project in the woods, then launching themselves from the very top or the highest branches.
‘It felt like I was flying!’
Uptown was home to my favourite areas of the festival, The Old Town, The Wild West, and Mayfair. When you first enter these areas it really does feel like you are stepping on to a film set and these mazes of bonkers goings on provided endless fun and entertainment for us. Our whole family walked around for hours just taking in this theatrical spectacle with strange happenings behind every door. I have no idea how many actors take part in the festival but as everyone is in fancy dress all weekend anyway, it does feel like you can become any character you want.
We’ve never experienced such creativity at a festival. We couldn’t help jump right in and become part of it and we’d arrived well prepared. We’d crammed some much fancy dress and silliness in to our campervan there was little space for food or anything else. Luckily for us, the sun shone all weekend and our adventure was full of nothing more than fun and laughter. Even when the kids were exhausted at the end of the day, there were no moans and they made it back to their beds. Exhausted and full of magic, madness and memories.
We have so many wonderful memories it’s hard to write about them all. Here are a few things we discovered when we knocked on doors and peered through windows together at BoomTown.
Cream cakes and capturing wild animals for taxidermy – Hunny helped some crazy poachers capture a wild blue beast and cage it for Mayfair’s fur coat shop. Unfortunately the beast escaped and the taxidermist got very cross with her. At only six we did have to keep reminding her it wasn’t all real as she disappeared across the festival with the poachers!
The kids tried desperately to get in to the French patisserie for cake, the floozy outside pretended to be sick when she saw the kids and told everyone she thought children were disgusting, which Daisy though was hilarious. When we reported her to the BoomTown news desk next door our story made the front page of the BoomTown news!
Wild West trial for dad – We accidentally stumbled through some saloon doors and ended up in the lawless hall of justice. Before we knew it, Rob was put on trial by the kids and found guilty of crimes against glitter monkeys and too much tidying up. He ended covered in custard pies and stuck in the stocks.
Gun powder, smugglers, body parts and fireworks – The Old Town exploded when we were caught up in a pirate battle of epic proportions and a talking head tried to barter with the kids for any spare body parts they had.
Visiting the job centre and beating the banker – After earning BoomTown dollars performing silly tricks, the kids deposited their winnings in the bank before visiting the Job Centre.
Rob was branded unemployable and officially stickered ‘dole scum’. The bank mistook Hunny for a princess and invited her to meet the manager who challenged her to an extremely intense game of Buckaroo!
VIP wishes, fortune tellers, terrifying magicians and a real mouse house – every door at BoomTown really did hold a new adventure. I can’t image any two people would have the same experience, and if you’ve never indulged your family in immersive theatre, then this festival is an explosion on the senses.
We had the most fantastic weekend as a family a Boomtown. We laughed so much and discovered so many crazy things. When we wanted to escape the non-stop madness we headed to the Whistler Green area which is a peaceful corner in this crazy metropolis.
It was easy to forget we were at Boomtown in this calm haven and we took several much-needed rests in this beautiful area. Laying in the shade under a huge tree we talked for hours about our adventures. These are the most special memories. Enjoying our own little family bubble, making up stories about the bizarre characters we’d met that day or what might happen tomorrow. The imagination of my two little flowers is boundless. I adore their little minds and the stories they create. I hope I can hang on to all the special memories of the make-believe worlds we’ve visited in our imaginations. I believe that taking kids to festivals opens their minds to more that just music, art and theatre. It inspires them to seek out adventure in every day life. To challenge what they see and find magic around every corner. The world doesn’t have to be as it first seems and nothing is boring if you have your imagination.
Boomtown is a totally crazy city of non-stop fun. It might not be the right festival experience for every family as it’s big and bonkers, but we fell in love with it. We enjoy the more bizarre side of life and hope our kids will remember their festival adventures for many years to come. If you’ve never taken the plunge and tried a festival as a family, here’s my top tips on festivals with kids. Give it ago and take the challenge. You won’t regret it, the kids will remember it forever, and just think, what cool parents you will be in years to come!!
See you in a field somewhere next summer