taking the kids to Beautiful Days

Beautiful Days 2010 review

published: Thu 26th Aug 2010

around the festival site (people 1)

Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd August 2010
Escot Park, near Fairmile, Devon, EX11 1LU, England MAP
£100 for adult weekend, 10-16 years £60, 9-5 years £30, under 5s £5 - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 12000
last updated: Thu 19th Aug 2010

Our kids love Beautiful Days and this being our sixth, we kind of know what we're in for. Rather than making it boring, a comfortable pair of shoes, or predictable, Beautiful Days is pretty much the opposite.

Yes, we know the colossal thought that's gone into making sure we're all fed, watered, entertained and safe for the weekend, but there are a few delicate ingredients that most festival organisers aren't able to add to their melting pot. I know it sounds like a bit of a cliché, but the people are really what make most festivals and Beautiful Days has a great selection of people all getting stuck in and entertaining each other in the quieter spots between bands.

around the festival site (panoramas)

We arrive on site and park up during one of Friday's shower free periods but weather wise, a beautiful day it isn't. A theme set to last for most of the weekend. Fridays rain makes the day feel like someone is following us with a plant sprayer set to fine mist. It's OK though, it's warm enough and we're not getting a soaking (and actually far better than forecast). There seems to be more metal road set down in the car park than previous years and with the forecast rain that's pretty comforting (having pushed our car out of the field for several consecutive years previously). It's a 5-minute walk down from the car park to the family camping area where we set up camp with friends (and neighbours from last year)! As we wander down we notice that there are no signs on the family camping field. From our perspective this isn't too much of an issue as our kids will sleep through pretty much anything and they're not too noisy first thing in the morning, but I can imagine it might be tricky for those with light sleeping children. Additionally, the hardcore party animals out all night heading back to their tent might find it difficult getting a bit of shut eye with loads of kids running around being…. well kids really.

Given the amount of rain over the previous weeks and the number of heavy vehicles on the site required to put a 12,500 capacity festival together, the ground isn't churned and is holding up pretty well. The other essential for a successful festival (for us anyway), are the loos. There seem to be a fair few more in the family camping field, and as we wander around, we notice quite a few more provided elsewhere too. I'll try not to dwell on it too long but the presence of urinals nearer the stages alleviates queues for 'turdis' portaloos so we're all a bit happier.

Levellers (acoustic)
We take a wander down to see Levellers (acoustic) and there is no way to get into the Big Top, it's absolutely rammed! Instead, we take the opportunity to catch up with friends who we haven't seen for a while and sample the fine selection of Otter Ales from the bar.

As their set comes to a close, we wander through the kids' field and notice the usual abundance of things for the nippers to swing on, climb on, hit (musically), make, and get involved with. The older kids aren't left out either with workshops on DJing and circus skills (with the opportunity to join the fire show too)!

around the festival site (5)
Our kids have enjoyed the sets of Hobo Jones & The Junkyard Dogs over the years. They've played the Big Top, busked on the hill near the Main Stage, and played in the Bimble Inn. To see them open up the Main Stage is magical. They look pretty nervous as they tune up but play a blinder and our nippers bounce around excitedly to 'Gordon Is A Moron' – dedicated to our former Prime Minister, Green Day's 'American Idiot' and their very own 'Tyburn Jig'.

A walk around the non-family camping area on the other side of the hill and the Tiny Tea Tent is situated in one corner of the campsite and is a welcome haven from the elements. There's also the body and soul area, offering massages and treatments. In what looks like a secret garden (apart from a whacking great big sign), the Pixie Chill Zone is hosted. It's a real tranquil haven to get away from the hurly burly of the rest of the festival and we sit and take 5 before getting back on it again!

around the festival site (4)
Back at the Main Stage, we all enjoy a bounce to Easy Star All Stars. Our kids especially like the Pink Floyd - Dub Side Of The Moon tracks as we listened to it in the car on the way to the festival. In a similar vein, we're all expecting to enjoy dancing to The Wailers but after a long journey coupled with fewer Bob Marley tunes than we had anticipated and we head tentwards.

Saturday's rain is pretty intermittent and easy to cope with in its bite sized chunks, and whilst on that subject we enjoy a trip to see a welcome addition to the festival: The fantastic River Cottage Canteen. A mouth-watering menu awaits us as well as the opportunity to get involved in their workshops. They serve meals throughout the day with extra-special bacon sarnies, mackerel, mutton burgers, delicious brownies, and their very own speciality 'Festival Mess' similar to the lovely Eton Mess dessert. We spoke to quite a few other people who all enjoyed the delights on offer.

around the festival site (2)
Musically our Saturday highlights include The Wurzels (apart from one band member dropping his strides to reveal a skimpy thong – nobody needed to see that), The Alarm whose energy lifts us to early evening and Show of Hands. I was sceptical before my maiden voyage to see Show of Hands a few months earlier, expecting a finger in the ear style traditional folk music but not at all! They're lively with a mixture of beautiful delicate sounds and more upbeat blues and rock and the double bass of Miranda Sykes adds a depth to their sound with her strings and voice.

3 Daft Monkeys are firm favourites with our kids so we head over and sit outside on the dry grass and enjoy the sound emanating from the Big Top while tucking into sausage and mash from The Mash Shack. Bloomin' lovely it is too.

around the festival site (7)
On the way back, we stop to take in the fire show in the performing area next to the main arena, meaning we can also hear some of New Model Army. The fire show is amazing. Seasoned twirlers and novices are welcomed to take part in the show. Some of the kids have never even tried poi or fire staff before but they've been having a go all day, and you can see the look of delight on their faces as they perform in front of the assembled masses. They are really closely supervised and given rapturous applause for their troubles.

My highlight of the day is James. Having been a fan since the '90's, it's brilliant to hear their greatest hits set. It's a shame they clash with Don Letts for two reasons: I'd really have liked to see him, and for a couple of the quieter James numbers, I can hear him over James. The sound bleed from the very nearby Dirty Davey's Bandstand is noticeable over a couple of their tracks and at a couple of other points through the weekend. The idea of the Bandstand is great and it replaces the very popular Spiegel tent (which was a nightmare to try and get in to after any of the main acts finished). Just a bit further away from the Main Stage next year would be great. My favourite James track 'Laid', gets an outing as does 'Come Home','Born of Frustration', 'Sometimes' and they come back on and play 'Sit Down' though they tell us the rarely play it any more.

I help to take the kids back to the tent and I'm let loose to go and take in some of the late night dancey bleeps. First stop is the Little Big Top. Adam F is coming to the end of his set but we manage to catch some of his ripping drum and bass and jungle set. Bounding over to the Leviticus tent we find some psy trance buffeting the air. Leviticus used to be known as Exodus and was huge on our local free party scene. Their set is great but I can't really get immersed. I'm not normally a huge fan of MCs anyway but they really don't seem to go with the psy trance. After a short while we head back to the Little Big Top for some breaks courtesy of Sub Focus and MC ID (I know he's an MC but it seems to go pretty well with breaks and he's brilliant; the selection of tunes from Subfocus is pretty good too. His two-hour set seems to disappear in a flash and we head over to the Bimble Inn. The trippy projected images on the trees look amazing and bring the skyline to life.

around the festival site (panoramas)

Sunday begins with a real shocker: We're forced out of the tent by the heat and into beautiful sunshine (OK there are a few clouds in the sky but we'll take sunshine as we didn't think there would be any over the weekend). It gets pretty wet later on but unexpected sunshine is great so we get up and cook breakfast.

There is a kids' area in the campsite that offers a bouncy thing (it's definitely not a castle), climbing frames, the popular Little Library, a fudge stall, and a café serving delicious breakfasts and welcome caffeine. Our youngest enjoys a bounce while I resist the urge to go back to sleep after my late night.

around the festival site (3)
Stilt walking ballerinas, the comedy wardens - issuing ASBOs and parking fines for loitering buggies, an amazing giant baby and the ever-popular el-wire men all keep us entertained over the weekend with their walkabout performances.

Over the entire weekend we hear no talk of thefts from tents – this is welcome news indeed and although uniformed police are patrolling the site, they seem to be doing so in a much less overtly hands on capacity than in previous years. We spot one in furry rainbow leg warmers and another with a flower stuck to his hat.

around the festival site (9)
Sunday's fancy dress theme is stripes. A fantastic effort has been made by loads of the crowd with Billy Bunter, Bagpuss, Tigger, prisoners and Beetlejuice among the many. There is also the traditional Leveller v Kids football match that as ever draws a huge crowd. Somehow the kids' goal seems a fair bit smaller than regulation size and there are a few helpful boots from parents.

Making the most of the dry skies, our boy takes his Diablo to the circus skills workshop to learn some new tricks, while our youngest is happy colouring in and writing her name. Older kids are getting lessons in stand-up comedy and beat boxing.

around the festival site (1)
There's the china smashing stall, puppet shows, belly dancing workshops, bush craft and bottle rocket making, and the totally bizarre Babyoke (we did a double-take when we realised that the dancing baby was actually a real baby in a bouncer, and not a puppet!!). The kids are also encouraged to make striped things for the fancy dress. To be honest, the list of kids' entertainment goes on and on. Many festivals cater for kids by putting on a few expensive fairground rides and leaving it at that. Not Beautiful Days. Their only frustration is the choice. As if that's not enough, there are bedtime stories up near the campsite for a few hours as well!

Sunday's musical highlights for us are Port Isaac's The Fisherman's Friends who hurtle through a set of brilliant sea shanties and make us chuckle along the way. The kids join in with 'The Drunken Sailor' before we even get to the stage.

We love the reggae sounds of The Aggrolites and the ska sound of The Slackers. Unfortunately, it's raining for Dreadzone but their upbeat dubby sounds really get everyone on their feet. Earl 16 doesn't arrive on stage with the rest of the band but Spee stands in brilliantly until the big man makes a grand entrance.

around the festival site (4)
Our boy loves the Levellers and although he has fought off sleep to see the start of the set, the rain gets harder three or four songs in and he's pretty desperate to get back to the tent and spark out. We regrettably oblige (though we're pretty tired of being rained on too), and we put both kids to bed and listen to the rest of the set from under the gazebo. It's been a great festival and the fantastic firework display ensures it ends with a bang.

It's with a heavy heart that we pack up on Monday morning and head to the car park to see what last nights deluge has left us to cope with. Having pushed our car out of a few previous Beautiful Days, I'm delighted to see that even though we get back to the car fairly late on in the morning, the ground still seems pretty firm. Car packed, we move slowly to join the queue. It's great to see more stewards ushering vehicles off site than ever before. Although one of the car park exits has flooded, everyone keeps calm and cool and we're off site within the hour. I'm sure the added metal track has helped the situation but hats off to the stewards for getting us out without having to push or get covered in mud! It's been a great weekend!

Before I wrap up, I would like to thank the St Johns Ambulance medical tent. One of our friend's young children has been pretty poorly over the weekend and they have done a superb job of helping her out and reassuring her mum and dad that she'll be OK.

I'd recommend Beautiful days wholeheartedly as a family festival with kids young or old. The variety of music, entertainment, site art and the general laid back vibe all attract a great cross section of people who seem to smile and share a laugh with people they've never met before. The diverse food selection caters for the fussiest of pallets and the range of workshops on offer mean that artistic or not, you can get stuck in and make something or learn a new skill. Somehow Beautiful Days captures a years worth of magic and unleashes it over a fantastic weekend. We'll be there again next year. Our kids wouldn't have it any other way.

around the festival site (panoramas)

review by: James Tayler

photos by: Andy Pitt / Danielle Millea / Karen Williams

Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd August 2010
Escot Park, near Fairmile, Devon, EX11 1LU, England MAP
£100 for adult weekend, 10-16 years £60, 9-5 years £30, under 5s £5 - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 12000
last updated: Thu 19th Aug 2010

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