Updated: Aug 8, 2019
Mum, Dad, 7 year old son and 3 year old daughter.
We are not seasoned festival-goers, and had never visited Wychwood Festival before. As it is only 10 minutes down the road from home, we decided not to camp at the festival, and just attended as day visitors. We have often been tempted to attend in the past, but we've always had reservations, mainly because our son (suspected ASD) regularly experiences sensory overload, and we weren't sure if the whole experience would be too overwhelming and distressing for him. My review focusses slightly more on our son's experience, so that it could hopefully be useful for those who have a child with ASD, SPD or similar.
Our overall experience of the festival was excellent. We had a really enjoyable three days, joining in with a wide variety of activities. We experienced every type of weather from very hot sun, to pouring rain. The whole family attended on the Friday and Saturday, but just Mum and 3 year old returned on the Sunday.
Some of the features of the festival, which we felt particularly suited both our children, but also made the experience far more positive for our son were:
The craft tent. This was open each day with a wide variety of craft activities which anyone was free to sit down and join in with. Most of the activities were at no extra cost, and both of our children thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
The tent did get very busy at times, which could become quite overwhelming, but we were able to find times to visit, particularly on the Friday, when it wasn't too busy.
Sensory tent. This was a bell tent set up with a calm environment inside it, with a variety of sensory toys, as a chill-out space for those who needed it. This was a brilliant space for our son to calm down, and then be ready to come and join in with the more boisterous activities again.
Aardman model making. This had to be booked early on the Saturday morning, and demand was high, but both of our children absolutely loved building their own plasticine Feathers Mcgraw under the expert guidance of one of Aardman's model makers. Our family are huge Aardman fans, and whilst both children needed some help (particularly our 3 year old), the instruction was given very clearly and at a good steady pace.There were plenty of lovely scheduled sessions, where you could pop into a tent for an hour, away from the hustle and bustle of the festival, and join in.
We found it great that the published times were adhered to, and there was such a lovely variety of activities on offer. Many were suitable for all ages, although we mainly attended those aimed at younger children.
A few of our favourites included: 'Puffins Love Pianos', a simple story suitable for all ages, with plenty of fun songs and instruments, plus a craft session where children made their own puffin puppet.
The book tent, where authors were reading their own children's books, and often included a fun activity afterwards.Watching Aardman films on a large screen.
Dancing with Chi-Chi Fit, where it was lovely to see a wide variety of ages, levels of dance experience and genders, all joining in
We found that the sound from the main stage wasn't overwhelming around the rest of the festival, although being a music festival, there was obviously a lot of noise all the time. We took ear defenders with us, which both children found useful by the end of the day on Saturday.
For those with younger children, there was a feeding/baby changing tent provided by Gloucestershire Breastfeeding Supporters Network, which was perfect for those who needed a calmer space to feed and change their young children.There was an excellent variety of food available, with something suitable for everyone. People were asked not to take food into the festival with them, with allowances made for those with young children, who could take in snacks, drinks, etc.
Some of the challenges we faced, or things which could potentially have improved our visit include:
There was no published schedule beforehand. For a child with ASD, knowing what is going to happen, and when, can be extremely useful in helping them remain calm when going into a new environment.
As we arrived we paid £5 for a printed booklet containing the timetable for all the different areas of the festival. An electronic version of this booklet published on their website would be a more environmentally friendly option. It would also have allowed us to have prepared our son more beforehand, especially as we had never visited the festival before.
Having to keep a paper wristband on a child who has sensory issues, all weekend, including at night, was impossible.
The fairground rides were an extra cost, and we felt some of them were quite expensive, especially when you've got multiple children.We would have loved more 'empty' undercover spaces, which could be a calmer space for us to sit and rest, whilst out of the hot sun, or the pouring rain.
The sensory tent was very popular, which is fantastic, and shows just how vital it was, but this meant that it was too crowded on a couple of occasions when we needed it. Maybe having either a larger space, or more than one bell tent in the future might help it keep up with the demand.
There were several occasions over the weekend where our son became completely overwhelmed and needed to retreat away from the festival. It would have been a huge benefit to us if we had chosen to camp, as we would have had our tent to retreat to without having to actually leave the festival.
Overall, we had a wonderful weekend, and we are very grateful that we had the chance to attend and review our experience.
To conclude, in the words of our 7 year old, "can we go again next year?"
Would you like to go next year? For the next week you can use this link to access the SUPER EARLY BIRD tickets. They're officially sold out so HUGE thanks to Wychwood Festival for giving us access to this offer!