Family-friendly festivals - Deer Shed

Family-friendly festivals – Deer Shed

There’s no doubt that a decent music festival is, at its best, an enjoyably classy way of passing a long weekend, offering as it does equal parts high culture, great outdoors, and the occasional moment of face-melting hedonism. Even though there are and will forever be rough-and-ready, pills ‘n’ beats ‘n’ beer festivals (T In The Park, Leeds/Reading, even some bits of Glastonbury – I’m looking at you), recent years have seen the rise of a subtly different breed of music festival. All too often tagged with the infuriatingly smug epithet “Boutique” (who actually uses that word with a straight face?), what these events actually are is smaller, calmer, more dignified places, with the emphasis on quality, rather than quantity, of the music, refreshments, and punters alike. Inevitably appealing to the, er, more mature end of the festival-going public, which in reality simply means a welcome lack of arsonist teenagers and career crusties.

These are places where the trials of festival going extend not to the risk of contracting trench foot, or being knocked unconscious by a flying bottle of piss, but maybe that the hummus has gone fizzy in the midday sun – in other words, rather a different set of priorities.

The demographic shift in audience introduces a physically small, but very important new factor – kids. The late twenties/early thirties discerning consumer of the new breed of posh alt-fest inevitably has dipped their toes into the water of family, and is the proud owner of one or more mewling mini-mes. How are they to be accommodated at events which are traditionally adult entertainment? Shrewdly, many events feature a distinct kids’ strand; a full catalogue of events to keep the childers entertained whilst one parent (inevitably Dad) slopes off to catch Lanterns On The Lake’s latest opus. Such is the demand for this sort of thing, that some festivals even go so far as to make the kids’ activities the raison d’etre of the whole shebang. Jealous much?

Deer Shed festival, held – where else? – in beautiful North Yorkshire, is one such event, even going so far as to give the weekend a natural climax on Saturday night, making Sunday a coffee-and-cake day, with only gentle entertainment to wind everyone back down to earth before the drudgery of Monday comes round again. Apparently, Friday last year was quite a relaxed affair, although this year it’s hotted up a bit, but still only optional, for those who don’t fancy more than one night camping with the little darlings. The music needs to make no apologies; being a small but perfectly formed card, there are many gems on offer. Retro dreamy pop headlines the Friday in the form of Saint Etienne, a rare chance to see the fragile beauty of Villagers tops the bill on Saturday, and wrapping up the whole event is the honest, heartfelt songwriting of Cherry Ghost on Sunday afternoon. A fine trio of headliners is lubricated with a handful of the usual suspects (Houghton, Uncles, Field Music).

Personal recommendations include: brassbound Mancunians Janice Graham Band come highly recommended from those in the know in the North-West, proper English eccentricity overflows from Leeds’ Moody Gowns, and purveyors of Glaswegian electronica Laki Mera apparently were a strong highlight of last year’s festival and are back for 2012. And there’s loads more good stuff.

Phew. And in a way, the music’s only at Deer Shed to distract the adults while the kids have fun. There’s a beach. There’s snakes, spiders, lizards, and massive toads. There’s a cardboard box playground, junk modelling, and as much jewellery making as they can handle. There’s graffiti, paintball art, and sockpuppets. The theme this year is Monsters – all sorts of gribblies will be in attendance, with the opportunity to create even more with monster-making workshops. Not to mention the famous, home-made versions of That Game With A Tennis Ball On A String – surely the adults won’t be able to keep their hands off that?

On a serious note, with kids one has far more to worry about – safety, cleanliness, hunger… they’ve thought of all of that. With extra-size portaloos, a changing area, microwaves available for heating food, child-friendly stewards on the lookout for strays, breakfast deliveries to tents, and a campsite storyteller in the evening, all the little details have been taken care of to give all the family a fun, safe weekend. Tickets are selling out fast, and with just a couple of hundred left at the time of writing, anyone wanting to give their kids a great start to the summer holidays should head over to http://deershedfestival.com/ without further ado. And if you don’t have kids – well, one day, like it or not, you probably will… so don’t forget the name Deer Shed.