We’ve had a summer packed with adventures of one sort and another, but the standout weekend for the whole family was the one we spent in a muddy field outside Thirsk. Even the unpredictable English weather didn’t dampen our spirits during our first foray into family festivalling at Deer Shed 8. In fact Deer Shed is the perfect family festival, whether you’re novices like us or old hands. Here’s why we loved Deer Shed 8, and why we’d wholeheartedly recommend buying tickets for Deer Shed 9 pronto when they go on sale on 12th September 2017.
You get to go to a festival!
It’s obvious, but this is the biggie. You get to go to an actual festival! As a family! Make no bones about it – this is a real festival with proper music, big stages and musicians that you’ve heard of (the wonderful Divine Comedy were this year’s highlight). Your kids will be introduced to the sights, sounds and smells of a real festival (portaloos included, which our kids absolutely loved for some reason) but in a relaxed, inclusive family-friendly environment. There’s camping and mud and music and laughter, lots of walking and plenty of chilling out. And you’re doing it with your kids. That’s pretty awesome. Our children (7, 5 and 2) spent pretty much the entire weekend grinning from ear-to-ear as though they couldn’t believe their luck. They then spent the rest of the summer campaigning to go again next year.
It’s not just for little ones
You might think that a family festival is just for little ones and that big kids will be bored, but that’s not the case. Our seven year-old could have spent all day in the science tent or on the sports field. The activities on offer in the science tent in particular – most of which were free – were creative, engaging and huge fun. We loved the enormous marble run, the virtual reality activities, making our own souvenir keyrings, making water bottle rockets and much more. He also loved the things we stumbled across like hilarious poet Paul Cookson performing silly songs with his ukelele, Kate Pankhurst talking about her book Great Women and the chance to get involved in making a cardboard city out of boxes.
The provision for little ones is seriously impressive. We’re talking separate tents with activities for babies and toddlers, spaces to chill out and feed your baby and even an NCT tent where you can bathe your baby! How amazing is that? Our two and five year olds loved the Mud Pie Arts session on Where the Wild Things Are, and all three enjoyed watching a new Hoglets’ play for little ones. It’s great quality, engaging entertainment without a Peppa Pig or Paw Patrol character in sight.
When you’re travelling with kids, excitement’s high and your car is packed to the rafters with camping gear, every minute counts. So it’s a real bonus that Deer Shed is so close to York. We got there in well under an hour, and the traffic and parking system was so efficient that we were parked up and unpacked really fast. Bet you don’t get that at Glastonbury. This should be the go-to festival for all families up north.
There’s tons to do
If we had one grumble about the weekend, it’s that our energy ran out before we managed to do everything we wanted to. From workshops to music to book signings to BMX riding to yoga to running to movies, there’s a HUGE amount to do and it all sounds incredible. Next year we’ll make a plan and attempt to stick to it. In theory. In reality, there’s a lot of pleasure in just going where the mood takes you. Wherever you end up, you’re guaranteed to have a good time.
Deer Shed was the first time we’ve camped with all three of our kids and it could have gone either way. It turned out to be brilliant. There’s plenty of camping space to choose from (keen beans get there really early on the Friday but we didn’t bother) and we ended up with a lovely spot on a hill with a great view of the site. The kids revelled in staying up late, sleeping in the great outdoors and chilling outside the tent during the day when we needed a break. They even rewarded us with a lie-in once or twice. There are tempting glamping options available if you want to reduce the faff factor.
They’ve thought of everything
We can’t say this enough: when it comes to family festivals, there’s nothing that Deer Shed hasn’t thought of. It’s a family-run event and it shows, making it a really enjoyable experience for everyone. Sometimes, things with the ‘family’ tag can be a bit primary coloured and, dare we say, naff. Deer Shed is the opposite. It’s really cool. It’s not just for kids and it’s not just for parents: it’s a cracking weekend for the whole family, and one you’ll remember forever, mud and all. No wonder so many families return year after year.
Our Deer Shed top tips
- Book in advance to take advantage of the early bird rates
- Think carefully about where you camp: close to the action is fun but noisy; far away is quiet but tired feet might struggle
- Buy a programme when you get there and plan, plan, plan. But don’t beat yourselves up if it all goes out the window.
- Take plenty of snacks. Festival-going is hungry work.
- Take ear defenders if you’re worried about little ears
- Take a look at the workshops and book in advance. There are some brilliant things that need pre-booking
- Hire a trolley to make shifting stuff from your car easier. You can also rent them for the whole weekend to pull the kids around in if they’re little and you think they might need a rest once in a while.
Deer Shed 9 takes place at Baldersby Top, Thirsk, on the weekend of July 20 – 22 2018. Visit the Deer Shed website for more details
Thanks SO much to Deer Shed for giving us a brilliant weekend. As always, our reviews are entirely independent and genuine, and we only recommend things we love. And we really did love Deer Shed.