Raver Tots Outdoor Festival 2018: The event party-loving parents have waited for
Back in May, Jenna and I took Roma to an event called Tot Fest, a so-called festival for babies and toddlers. It was the first of its kind and left much to be desired. For us it was okay because Roma wasn’t walking then, so wasn’t quite so adventurous as she is now and we had food appropriate for her – though, foolishly, nothing for ourselves and card payments weren’t accepted.
But for parents with older children with bottomless stomachs and in need of more stimulation, expectations were higher. Extensive queues for pretty much everything, toilets few and far between, a shortage of food and drink vendors had guests ranting and raving on the event page. And if you listen carefully, legend has it you can still hear the furious typing of a mum who feels wronged by the day likening it to a school fete while demanding a refund.
So when the prospect of the Raver Tots Outdoor Festival came to my attention, I immediately had higher hopes, not least of all for the fact that there was a stage dedicated to old school garage music on the line-up.
If you’re unfamiliar with Raver Tots it’s a business – not entirely unlike Big Fish Little Fish – that throws “big raves for little people” to effectively let families go and party with their little ones.
Held on Bank Holiday Monday at Garon Park in Southend, as we walked the roughly half mile from the car park to the Raver Tots Outdoor Festival entrance – there were parking spaces nearer, we were just too late to get any of them – we heard the distant rumble of bass-rich tunes banging their way across the field.
“With three full-sized tents – two complete with vibrant stages, pumping sound systems, club-worthy lighting and confetti cannons, and one with soft play areas – the organisers weren’t messing about.”
From the minute we arrived to have our tickets checked and bag searched, I was convinced we were onto something good. With just the juniors receiving the wristbands and adults left bare, it was for good reason. We were instructed to add our names and numbers to Roma’s band so someone would be able to contact us with ease in the event she somehow gave us the slip.
Rather than a mindless ogre on the entrance doing a search, a friendly bloke who made the search quick and painless gave me and the bags under the pram a quick sweep and sent us on our way but not without reiterating the importance that we have our phones about us and on loud at all times, just in case, while wishing us a good time.
And we were in.
If it wasn’t for the kid-centric attractions like the carousels, trampolines, go-karting track and crazy golf course, we really could have been at any boutique adult festival. This wasn’t a glorified fete as Tot Fest was dubbed, it was literally, as the name suggested, a festival for parents out to rave with their nippers.
With three full-sized tents – two complete with vibrant stages, pumping sound systems, club-worthy lighting and confetti cannons, and one with soft play areas – the organisers weren’t messing about, they had everything covered. As if there were any doubt we hit the garage tent first of all, holding Roma then letting her stretch her legs as the fidgeting intensified, the latter of which proved to be chaotic.
Within five minutes of being there, she was accidentally wiped out by one of the older kids – and not for the last time. I was less worried about Roma, knowing that she’s robust enough to handle it and falling over is commonplace but more concerned about the new jeans she was wearing getting covered in mud. Typical.
Then playing a weird game of hokey-cokey of her own design, she repeatedly ran in and out the tent shaking it all about like a maniac, which resulted in her getting clocked in the face by a rogue hula hoop on one of the outs as she tried half-inching it from an older girl mid hula. The brief arrival of tears brought on by the clash led the three of us to do some exploring to get a feel for the lay of the land, acting as an opportunity to both distract and calm her down – the missus, that is.
Bypassing the carnage of the rides so Roma didn’t have a chance to start any vigorous pointing in their direction, we checked out the soft play tent. Aside from a few hardened toddlers to battle against, there were no oblivious hoop-wielding, ball-booting big kids to contend with, so Jenna and I could rest relatively easy in the knowledge that less harm could come from the ball pit and inflatable slide.
After burning off some energy – jokes, she has a limitless supply – we left the tent and, once I’d explained it would collapse if she kept trying to yank out the pegs, we moved on to get some food. There were plenty of places to choose from – burgers, chicken wraps, noodles, café food and so on – but we landed on fish for madam.
At £4.50 for a children’s meal, a fish finger sandwich with fries and a drink, it was a price you couldn’t argue with. Jenna joined her and went with a fish finger sandwich also, while I went slightly more exotic and chose the Caribbean stand where I went for a lamb patty – alright, two lamb patties – which were only £2.50 each.
And while we weren’t drinking on the day, so I can’t report the bar prices, the bar was DEAD, so anyone caning it would have been living their best life.
One thing that really impressed me is the gazebo put up for baby changing. And it wasn’t just a token gesture, tables were put out with changing mats and even nappy bags and wipes. Very impressive indeed. Understandably there weren’t any nappies there though because, let’s be honest, they’d have probably been nicked.
With our bellies restocked and fresh pants on, we continued the party back in the garage tent for another hour or so before heading off 20 minutes ahead of the 6pm closing time to beat the rush out of the field and the car park.
Even Jenna, the worrier of our dynamic duo, admitted how much space there was at the venue and how well organised it was. Having conquered Standon Calling twice now, which in fairness is a festival for all ages, she said that Raver Tots was definitely preferable and it’s easy to see why.
Standon is great for its diversity and is a solid day out in but the Raver Tots Outdoor Festival is strictly geared for people who all have one thing in common: parenthood.
So if you’re a fun-loving, albeit knackered, parent not yet ready to sack off your skanking shoes just yet, maybe wanting to relive the feel-good vibe only a party like the old days can bring, all the while sharing that nostalgia with your kids and making new memories in the process, Raver Tots Outdoor Festival is where it’s at – just check my Instagram highlights if you need more evidence.