27th-29th July 2001
Rivermead, Reading, Berks.
There were loads of kids at this years WOMAD festival. Everywhere you looked there was a buggy, a bottle or a runny nose. We took our four year old with us and camped with friends who had a five year old and an eight year old. We certainly didnt feel different as couples wandered around with their children in tow. Perhaps this is the safer alternative to the bigger festivals - it certainly felt like it. The site isnt very big and even when we briefly lost one of our kids we knew that they couldnt go far. The entertainment areas even had no-smoking signs that were generally adhered to which made it feel like a kid-friendly event.
Kids were provided for by WOMAD with two large tents dedicated to their entertainment and craft making and workshops in the Rivermead centre. There is also access to the pool in the centre - though it was terribly busy by all accounts. There was a fun fair too, with rides suitable for most ages and the Sunday procession was a favourite for all ages.
We were rather disappointed by the kids provision in general. For, although the festival organisers had catered for them, it was only to a limited degree. When we wanted to make something we were told we couldnt because the tent was full up. Each make-it tent was cordoned off by barriers, so that only small numbers of people could get in. Tickets were being passed out for events, rather than there being a come and enjoy atmosphere, it was a come early, get a ticket and then still queue for twenty minutes atmosphere - in other words, it became rather fraught with frustrated children being appeased with other entertainments - principally sticky lollies and drinks in the exasperating weather. When we sneaked into a craft area to make something we were amazed by the amount of stuff there to be done and the amount of space. Our son had a great time as he did sticking and painting and eventually got to drum in the drumming workshop. I hope all the other parents that were turned away sneaked in to the plentiful space available.
Of course there were always the funfair rides to entertain the kids, but at £1 - £1.50 for each turn it was far too expensive. We only have one child to entertain, but if you have more than one, such rides can be an expensive business, particularly when youve spent a good deal of money on your tickets. If your children are entertained by music, then you are in for a treat as the tented areas provided good shade to watch the performances. Beware though for grumpy adults who we noticed constantly asked kids to sit down when they were dancing or trying to see the stage properly. It was lucky there were no real festival kids running riot or these boring middle class farts would have had apperplexy.
Despite the fact that this festival provides two kids passes per ticket and is clearly attended by numerous families the festival programme makes no mention of the kids facilities other than listing their entertainment. There is a Found Kids area, though the programme sternly states that children left too long will result in child care agencies being informed. There were no kids loos or sinks, which would be supremely helpful in the main arena - particularly after painting! My final complaint is that the kids wrist bands, which cleverly provided the space for a mobile phone number were made of plastic which meant any writing rubbed off within five minutes, rendering them useless.
Overall, our kids had a great time, but this was because they enjoyed the music, the camping and the fun fair. We felt that the site was good for kids as it was small and lacking in the nutters you get at more popular music events. I would say that its a good family event, but I would also urge the organisers to think about their kids provision more - if youre going to give them space, then make it accessible to all and please can we have a kids exclusive loo and sink?
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