Baby’s first festival – Standon Calling 2017
Until this summer, the most recent festival I went to was Sundown in August last year and, to be honest, I thought that would be the last one.
Since going to my first festival in 2012, I’ve been to four each year since – including Wireless, Global Gathering, HD Fest, Garage Nation, SW4, Holi Festival – with the exception of 2016 when Sundown was my only outing.
As time has passed, it’s gotten increasingly difficult to rally any troops for events, especially ones like Sundown which involve a road trip and an overnight stay. As a result, last year it was just two of us that made the pilgrimage to Norwich.
It was my mate Billy’s first time at a festival, so that in itself was a novel experience as I initiated him with the necessary drink-from-the-moment-you-wake-up rite of passage.
After Jenna fell pregnant with a due date of 5th June 2017 – round about the time festivals start running – that wrote off any glimmer of hope that another day drinking session in a field surrounded by inebriated revellers would take place any time in the near future.
That’s until I came across Standon Calling 2017.
I’d only vaguely heard of it before, but really and truly I should have been more familiar with the event since it’s a 25-minute drive from my front door to get there and is now in its 12th year.
It piqued my interest even more because it’s positioned as a family-friendly event, with children, babies and even dogs allowed.
I just had to convince Jenna that we should take Roma – and in two months I haven’t been able to talk her into a family cinema trip, so what chance did I stand of getting her on the Standon Calling hype? Actually it was a lot easier than I thought – she took the bait and said she was game.
Although the festival itself was spread across three days, we made a beeline for the Saturday and got there at around 1pm, a few hours after things kicked off.
If anything, it was the weather that was of most concern rather than the event itself. Festivals in the rain aren’t the best of fun, so a festival in the rain with a baby would have been less than desirable.
According to BBC Weather, on our arrival we were to be greeted by sunshine for three solid hours, but the reality was that it was spitting when we pulled up (nice one, Beeb). Having decided we’d leave the pram in the car in favour of my newly acquired LILLEbaby all seasons carrier, we strapped Roma into my chest and entered.
“It was as though we’d fallen through the rabbit hole and entered Wonderland – I’d certainly never been to an event like it.”
It soon became clear we were very wise to abandon the buggy – not only was the event set against completely grassy terrain, there was a monstrous hill to descend on the way into the main area, which Jenna had enough trouble negotiating in flip flops, without us rolling down it in a heap with a pram in tow.
Once entering, we were met with a host of small bohemian-style tents full of merchandise and music – such as an open mic event that rewarded participants with a bev for their efforts. There was also a long row of food vans that ran along one side of the field, with everything from chicken wings to Chinese and burritos to brownies on offer.
It was as though we’d fallen through the rabbit hole and entered Wonderland – I’d certainly never been to an event like it. Even the grey skies above couldn’t dampen the colour found in every corner.
Apparently there’s a theme each year at Standon Calling, and this year’s was Tales from the Enchanted Valley, which meant lots of oversized fairies and elves roaming around in packs, all hoping to win the best costume competition.
We’ll be ready in 2018 – Roma loves dressing up…
Being there with Roma gave me a wonderful sense of freedom – which is ironic considering I was only allowed to have one pint and couldn’t even go to the toilet.
That sober state of mind meant I was able to take everything as it came, soaking up the eclectic costumes people had donned; the parents chaperoning their wide-eyed children running around and those keeping babies under wraps as I was; the various breeds of dogs keeping their owners company, sniffing at the many passers-by.
What I noticed, and something I particularly enjoyed, is the carefree attitude everyone seemed to have.
“Regardless of who could have been performing, Standon Calling is much more than its acts”
It wasn’t an environment that called for everyone to hit the gym for weeks on end to walk around in next-to-nothing – which is just as well because that would have done nothing for my ego after packing on some daddy weight – but one where you could walk around in a bin bag and let loose without worrying what anyone else around you is thinking.
That’s especially true having gone there as a parent with a baby. My main worry was that Roma would wake up screeching or let off a poozooka over me (again), but somehow, someway, she slept through our time there! Even she must have been soaking up the good vibes radiating throughout the place.
The music line-up on the day had the likes of Clean Bandit and Laura Mvula among the big names, but of course we didn’t see any of those because they were on well into the night and, aside from having Roma to factor into the outing, I can barely keep my eyes open through a DVD at home once night falls right now.
Still, regardless of who could have been performing – and Skinny Living were great by the way – Standon Calling is much more than its acts, which I can’t say about all of the other festivals I’ve been to. You could quite easily go there just for the festivities themselves.
Outside of the drinks and vast amounts of food to choose from, Standon also boasted a Kids Area. It came complete with the likes of graffiti classes, storytelling, sandpits, arts and crafts and plenty more, making it a winner for parents that need to give their children something to do in case the boredom creeps in.
“In my opinion as a new parent, Standon Calling ticked all the boxes – not just for babies, but in the way it caters to families overall”
There were even baby changing facilities available, though I’m over the moon we didn’t have to experiment with those thanks to Roma’s sleepiness.
And while we needn’t have worried about dietary requirements for the gummy bear at this point, those with older children will be pleased to know the area had a kid-friendly food service offering fish fingers, spaghetti and the usual suspects guaranteed to appease the fussiest of sprogs.
Also of note was the nanny service available for any parents who feel they need some downtime, which is something that could also be secured at the Summer Sensorium, an outdoor relaxation area with yoga, hot tub, sauna and so on.
We kept moving, exploring as much as possible and happened across the Lordship Lawn, a beautifully maintained garden that came complete with booming speakers, swimming pool, a cocktail bar and pop-up pub with dance classes – the ideal area for those seeking a chill out from the main activity of the festival.
In my opinion as a new parent, Standon Calling ticked all the boxes – not just for babies, but in the way it caters to families overall, welcoming them with open arms. I’ve got three nephews under ten, and I know for sure that they would love it too.
And even before parenthood, I’d have loved to have partied there, so I’m pretty baffled why it hadn’t happened sooner!
Jenna’s already said I can be the one to go diving in amongst the chaos of the pool party with Roma when she comes of age, so I’ve taken that as gospel that we’ll be making our way back year after year.
So roll on Standon Calling 2018 – tickets for which are on sale already.