I can’t believe a whole month has gone since we had yet another magical weekend at the Just So Festival, but I guess at least that means there’s one less month to wait until next year. The end of the summer has been a whirlwind of holidays, festivals and parties, leaving my head spinning and my heart happy, but it does mean that this blog has fallen rather quiet. This is the first week for well over a month when I’ve had some time to potter and regroup. Today I’ve been going through the photographs from my camera, and reminiscing about the wonderful times we’ve had.
The Just So Festival is a firm fixture in our annual calendar now – this year was our third, and it doesn’t get any less special. As the twins get older, they experience the festival in a fresh way, finding new things that capture their imaginations and attention. With a packed programme of open-air theatre, music, workshops and performances, you can find yourself rushing from place to place, but we’ve learned to go with the flow, picking out a few must-see things, and taking some downtime in between.
Each year the kids are up for staying up a bit later, and this year it meant we could catch the night-time performance of the Marie Celestial – a mixture of aerial circus, acrobatics, dance, theatre both on board a moving metal ship, and on the ground. We were all mesmerised, and the jets of fire looked incredible in the darkness.
This year the kids were more up for taking part in the workshops on offer – Ez adored playing a cardboard harp with Mary Dunsford, and Fonz learned ukelele basics, and enjoyed it so much that he wanted to do the same workshop the next day. I intended to get myself along to one of the relaxation workshops – yoga, tai chi, Indian head massage – but I didn’t manage it. Next year…
Pif-Paf’s show is something we never miss, and Planetary (an acrobatic performance centred around the giant hamster wheel you can see above) didn’t disappoint. Last year’s show was quite dark, but this year there was a more upbeat, comic mood. Both were spectacular and full of energy, and Pif-Pif are a real favourite for us on the Just So programme.
While we were in this area of the festival we also made our lanterns ready for the lantern parade. I much preferred doing this in the open space, as we got really claustrophobic doing it in the dark tents in the forest last year. It was just a shame the torrential thunderstorm on the Saturday night meant that the lantern parade had to be cancelled. The twins were really gutted (and I was too, as this is often one of the most magical moments of the weekend), but it really couldn’t be helped – the rain was epic!
One thing the twins really look forward to is getting dressed up in their tribal costumes (there are six tribes – owls, foxes, stags, frogs, fish and lions – and it’s totally optional whether you want to choose one and dress up). They don’t just do this for the Tribal Tournament on the last evening – they wear at least some part of their costumes all weekend. Ez was especially keen to have her face painted, and her owl feathers popped in her hat at all times. Fonz chose frogs this year, and we kept his costume simple with a green baseball hat, green face paint and some bargain steam punk goggles I picked up in a sale.
We loved the Bullzini family’s imaginative tightrope show, and one of my top moments of the festival was getting to try tightrope walking for ourselves at their workshop. The twins’ joy and wonder at being able to do it made my day, and I couldn’t resist having a go myself, too. I’ve always wanted to go along to a circus skills class, and it’s moved its way up my bucket list after trying out the tightrope.
I think what makes the festival so special for us is sharing it with our festival friends. Some of these we only get to meet up with once a year at Just So, and the kids are often as excited about seeing their friends as they are about the festival itself. Each year, as the festival comes to a close, we make promises about camping trips and meet ups, but then life takes over, the months whizz by in a blur of school terms and all the usual commitments and suddenly it’s that time to message each other about pitching together in the festival campsite once again. Maybe next year we’ll have to carry on the Just So Festival vibe for the rest of the week with an after-party at a campsite nearby…
Early bird tickets are already on sale for next year’s Just So Festival (19, 20, 21 August 2016). For a kid-focused, laid-back festival that’s brimming with imagination and creativity, I just don’t think Just So can be beaten.