I feel lighter, happier, calmer – pretty surprising given that I’ve just spent the weekend camping in a field and am so tired I feel like I could sleep for a week. But the three days at the Just So Festival at Rode House in Cheshire really did something magic to my soul – I can’t think of any better way of putting it. I’m actually still too floaty and dazed to write the review I planned to, so a more practical post about the festival – the bits we loved the most and festival-going with kids in general – will follow, but for now I just want to try to celebrate what it was about Just So that, for me, made it so very special.
BEAUTIFUL – From the design of the website to the whole festival site, everything at Just So pleases the eye. Bursting with energy and bright colours, every detail is designed to delight from the teeny tiny fairy steps in the Fairy City in the woods to the strings of lights that sweep across the whole area.
INSPIRING – I’ve come away with a head crammed full of ideas and things that I want to do at home with the twins. Large scale painting? Bring it on. Junk modelling? Yes please. Den building? Can’t wait. We don’t do enough of this at home, and I can’t wait to keep up the momentum from the festival.
JOYFUL – The sense of community and enthusiasm throughout the whole weekend was impossible to miss. Organisers, volunteers, performers and attendees – there was a constant stream of smiles and friendly greetings and the general atmosphere of positivity and happiness was infectious. There is no better medicine for stress than a weekend where you smile so much your face aches.
CALM – I learned to slow down and go at the kids’ pace, stopping whenever something caught their eye that they wanted to explore. We discovered how to guide, but not dictate. This didn’t come immediately – Saturday saw me trying to race around, scared we’d miss something and be full of regret but by Sunday we’d found our family rhythm and went with it. It felt wonderful.
MAGICAL – I’m aware that I’ve used this word a lot over the weekend, but that really is the best word I can find to describe our experience. Watching the twins so completely engaged really was breathtaking. Whether it was a creative task (making sheriff’s badges, constructing a space rocket, balancing stones) that had hooked them, or they were gazing in wonder at a performance or installation, I want to bottle that sense of innocent amazement and breathe it in whenever I need a boost.
INCLUSIVE – Just So is small enough for you to really feel a part of what’s going on. You are welcomed into the collective before you even get to the festival – no pressure to be cool, to party til the early hours, to catch the world’s biggest bands on a stage in the distance. You’re right there at the heart of it, you see the same faces around, the volunteers recognise your kids. You feel carried along on a wave of joy and enthusiasm that scoops you up and propels you towards days filled with fun and laughter.
A more sensible review of the Just So Festival will follow in few days when I’ve come back down to earth, but for me this weekend was all about the heart and soul of an event, and how it can gather you up and take you on a simply spectacular journey.