The Woodford Folk Festival has been something of a tradition in my family, ever since my sister and I won tickets in a radio competition as teenagers. Back then, we stalked the toothfaeries and innocently wondered what that funny smell was. I haven’t been since having the kids. In keeping with my commitment (Before Kids | After Kids challenge) to have more music in our lives, I decided this was the year to take the boys. So, donning our festival uniforms of gumboots and shorts, Master I (6), Baby E (17 months) and I set off to conquer Woodford. Or Mudford as it’s affectionately called as it ALWAYS rains. It was either going to be a master stroke of brilliance or it was all going to come crashing down in a spectacular heap.
My mum and my sister came along as well. My hubby gets twitchy at the West End markets, so an alternative music festival was never going to be his scene. Trying to manage both boys solo at a festival was never going to be mine.
I decided on gumboots for me and rain gear for Master I. I decided against the pram in favour of a baby carrier for Baby E. I decided against umbrellas. The bag I brought was too cumbersome but held all the essentials for a day with kids (which is roughly equivalent to a small house and requires the services of a sherpa). I also brought a blanket that folds into a bag.
On arrival, we were ushered into the muddy car park for day trippers. This is a different car park to previous years and a shuttle bus takes you to the main venue. I hadn’t accounted for this extra time and it meant that we unfortunately missed Rob Longstaff. So we settled into the blues tent for the next act – Kristina Olsen. She put the blue into blues telling a joke about a flirtatious man who was playing with his watch. When the object of his attentions asked what was with the timepiece he said it had special powers. The disbelieving young lady asked for proof and he replied “this watch knows you aren’t wearing any underwear”. “That’s ridiculous” she said. “Oh, it’s an hour fast” he said. I was kind of glad the kids weren’t old enough to ask questions.
My sister and mum arrived during Kristina’s set and we made a hasty exit. Next stop was the children’s festival, which was wonderful. So much to see and do. Master I had his face painted, despite the 30 minute wait (he seems to achieve a zen like patience in face painting queues). We made things in the clay tent – the irony of playing with clay in Mudford was delicious. We tried to get Master I to dance. We listened to stories. We were pleasantly surprised to find $2 sandwiches, $2 poppers and $3 cakes in the kids festival cafe.
Next stop was coffee for the adults and an almighty tantrum for Master I. There were tears, there was stomping (well, there were puddles and mud, so stomping was a given), there were threats (on both sides), there were angry shouts and angrier silences. Eventually, all was cured by the acquisition of possibly the world’s largest doughnut. The very tasty Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts placated the hangry boy and I wondered why I hadn’t employed the food tactic earlier.
Bellies full, we went off to see a lecture on the science behind mindfulness. The snatched bits and pieces I could hear sounded interesting. Apparently it’s very important for our happiness to concentrate deeply on one thing at a time. There were no tips given as to how to achieve this with children, so I stopped paying attention and went off in search of a several-headed green monster. We followed him all the way to a circus tent where Master I acquired some skills with diablo sticks. Of course, we then had to acquire said diablo sticks. These are the lovely things about Woodford – when imagination and wonder and adventure all meet.
We heard the View from Madeline’s Couch and danced to the Bossa Nova beats. My fondest memory of the day is dancing with my darling boys to those smooth sounds as the sun began to set.
There is a certain kind of magic that settles on Woodford at twilight. The lamps come on and give the already beautiful grounds a fairy-tale glow. Everyone is mellow (some assisted – mummy, what’s that funny smell?) There is the anticipation of the big-name evening gigs. And there is just a special kind of feeling that makes everyone smile.
We set up our picnic blanket in readiness for the last gig of the day for the boys and I. I had been looking forward to Kate Miller-Heidke all day. Of course, if your children tend towards cranky at seven o’clock – they don’t suddenly become beautifully behaved just because you want to enjoy a gig. The less said the better, but changing an extreme nappy, wrangling an over-excited six year old decking himself out with glow sticks, trying to breast-feed, getting said six year old to eat dinner and feed self is not conducive to listening to live tunes. Nor is it particularly endearing to those around you. As Kate crooned Humiliation, I was feeling it.
All in all, we had a fun day, punctuated with highs and lows. I think days like this are a microcosm of life – it was never going to be perfect, there were plenty of good parts, some average parts and some rough patches. The trick is to savour the good stuff, skip over the boring bits and shake off the rough patches. And to have your wonderful sister and mother along for the ride.
These are my top tips for enjoying a day trip to Woodford Folk Festival with kids
- Plan an extra half-hour for the shuttle bus. You can walk it, but it might not work with younger kids.
- Plenty of people did have prams, but I found the carrier much easier.
- Hope for sun, prepare for rain. Bring spare clothes for the kids just in case the temptation of rolling in mud gets to great. Wear gumboots. Expect to get muddy.
- Bring something you can sit on – I have a plastic-backed mat that folds into a bag that is just perfect.
- Take toilet paper or wipes with you into the bathrooms – if half of the loos have paper in them by the end of the day, you are lucky.
- Plan, but don’t plan too much. Maybe have a few acts ear-marked but know that your schedule will be deviated from. Don’t sweat it – enjoy where it might take you.
- Bring food & water – we ate from quite a few stalls but I really needed the extra snacks I brought for the kids.
- Dress kids distinctively – there are loads of people and it helps to identify your children instantly.
- Some very clever parents had pull along wagons for their kids. When they inevitably got too tired to walk anymore, they piled into the wagon.
- You will need a map – either purchase from the general store ($2) or print from website.
- Whilst we didn’t take advantage of it, there is baby-sitting available at the Land of Nod – meaning you can see the night-time gigs whilst your kids are taken care of.
- Be patient. Go slow. Enjoy the adventure.