Infamous for its unrelenting mud baths, drop-down toilets that, for better or worse, are open to the elements, throngs of happy go-lucky revellers, the five-day party that just doesn’t stop, Glastonbury might not seem like the most obvious place to bring a baby, but last weekend, my husband and I packed up a campervan to the brim with just-in-case supplies, strapped our 10-month old baby, Mila, into her car seat, and headed off to join 135,000 spirited festival-goers for the music event of the year.
Having attended many times before, we knew what we were in for, and we had a suspicion it wasn’t going to be easy. In preparation for the unpredictable British weather, we decided to make life simpler from the start and hire a campervan. From past experience, we knew that we could either be baked alive inside a tent by the remorseless morning sun, or end up living inside an impossible-to-clean mudfest.
Our expectations were lowered to such a degree that we were prepared to camp out in the family field with homemade egg and bacon butties, whilst our baby played with a whole basket of toys that we brought, and we listened to the hubbub of the headliners in the distance, cold can of Thatchers in hand. But as fortune would have it, we were blessed with a nice, bearable level sunshine with intermittent clouds, and instead of wading through slush, our biggest concern became the impossible task of persuading our little one to keep her sun hat firmly on.
The sublime weather made for a glorious, infectious atmosphere. Instead of huddling under those flimsy plastic macs, cavorting around in sparkle and glitter was the order of the day. It was everywhere; sparkly jackets, shimmery dresses, glitter applied thickly on cheekbones and liberally in beards. Flower garlands adorned many a head, and even the police horses’ manes had pink blooms woven into them.
Instead of hiding out in our campervan we found ourselves camped out on the grass in front of the Pyramid stage at the very back of the crowds,our picnic blanket laid out on a grassy patch within skipping distance of an ice cream van, and just close enough to the toilets to make a dash for them before the post gig throngs descended.
We watched Barry Gibb in the Legends slot, performing some of his greatest hits, obviously overwhelmed by the warm reception of the crowd, chanting “Barry, Barry, Barry!” We danced along to Chic, as we had done as a couple in 2013, and marvelled at the fact that we were now, three.
As a family, we watched Jeremy Corbyn give his speech to one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. Our baby, having just mastered clapping, joined in with the crowds, and visibly tickled those around her. We even had a chance to visit hedonists’ paradise Shangri-la, albeit in the daytime, to catch Craig Charles’s funk and soul show, because I knew the chances of seeing it in its full night-time glory were now slim to none.
Whilst grabbing every opportunity (read: nap time), of experiencing just an inkling of the Glastonbury we once knew, normally at the fringes of the crowd, sometimes whilst discreetly changing a nappy, or applying another layer of sun cream (just in case), we also discovered within its 900 acres, areas that were completely new to us: family-friendly pockets of calm, sweetness and family-friendly magic, and the opportunity to create brand new experiences instead of just trying to relive old ones.
The Kidz Field was full to the brim with free activities to entertain one’s brood, including a huge tent with different crafts to try, musical workshops and a chance to attempt some circus tricks. Meanwhile the Big Top had quite the line-up, with acts such as Dynamo performing every day to a tent packed full with kids eager to be entertained, whilst their parents took the opportunity for a bit of a lie-down.
But with a 10-month old in tow, we gravitated instead to the Under 5s area, complete with sand pit, play area replete with age appropriate toys, and an activity tent hosting yoga in the mornings, soft play in the afternoon and song-time before bed. We retreated to this area most days, in the rare moments that it rained, or to have a bit of a break from the revelry outside. The spirit of camaraderie of everyone who attends Glastonbury really plays a huge part in making the experience special. Sitting down next to other families whilst our little ones happily played in the ball pit, we made conversation with parents around us as easily as if we’d already met many times before. We were part of that special club of those brave, or mad enough to bring their babies to Glastonbury.
Whilst pushing our buggy around the site, we were often asked by strangers: what’s it like being here with a baby? Well the short answer is different. Oh so very different. Whilst our friends had planned their days down to a tee, creating their fool-proof line-up using the Glastonbury app, and fitting in some pre-planned mid-gig activities such as ‘wine and cheese time’ back at their tents, we remained eternally non-committal, simply earmarking a few possible activities which were determined by the changing moods and needs of our little bundle of joy. In many ways being led by Mila was surprisingly freeing. With no choice but to go with the flow, we ambled through the weekend, living in the moment, taking in the sights, stopping to enjoy the atmosphere whilst our little one had her bottle, or having an impromptu picnic; all three of us tucking into our cheese sandwiches, listening to a folk band and watching the sparkly world go by. It really was those simple moments that brought us the most joy.
I found a renewed appreciation for Glastonbury and the liberal, colourful, eclectic bubble it created in which regular rules no longer applied, and a new exciting world for our children seemed to be possible when we returned home. Whilst in days gone by I’d have been ready by Monday for the creature comforts, the warm bed, flushing toilets, running water, and warmth, of home, this time round I felt I could have stayed for a bit longer. There was still so much to see and experience. Although tired from the early mornings and from all the walking (so much walking), it was energising to have experienced all this as a family and knowing that we’d do it all again.
Things I Have Learned:
– If you can splash out that bit more, consider getting a campervan. A fridge full of food, hot showers and a dry space to play with toys makes the experience so much easier.
– Visit the NCT tent in the mornings. They have nappy changing facilities, hot soapy water and sterilisers so that you can get all your bottles ready for the day. And they’ll even offer you a tea or coffee! Win, win, win!
– If formula feeding, bring ready made formula so you can just tip into the bottles and you’re ready to go.
– Bring a picnic blanket. Whether it’s feeding time or you just fancy a little rest from all the walking, just set up camp and watch the world go by.
– Stay clear of very loud music. It’s not great for developing ear drums. When watching main stages, camp out at the back of the crowds and invest in ear defenders for your little one. They look quite cool too.
– Divide and conquer – take turns with your partner to look after your baby in the evenings so that you both have a chance to experience some of the night life.
– Go with the flow. Babies are as unpredictable as the great British weather so be prepared to change plans at a minute’s notice.
– Enjoy it! It really is the little moments that make the weekend special; such as seeing your baby smile and point at the sights, or be entertained by friendly passer-byes.