Our First Family Festival -Cornbury Music festival 2018

I never thought I would take my children to a festival. No, scratch that. I never thought I would ever go to a festival, but we have just come back from Cornbury Music Festival in the Cotswolds, our first festival ever and we LOVED it!

Pixie Lott at Cornbury Music Festival

 I was guilty of thinking festivals=drugs and discomfort. I was wrong.

One national newspaper once described Cornbury as one of Britain's poshest festivals, it is billed as England's most civilised gathering and it is aimed primarily at families so my previous vision of young folk roughing it and partying with the help of mind-altering substances could not be further from the truth at this particular event.

Here's the official description of Cornbury Music Festival:

"The Cornbury Music Festival is one-of-a-kind: a lovingly crafted, top notch, very English open air party, tailor-made for the whole family.
Like the best of England, The Cornbury Music Festival is civilised, charming and irresistible – a homespun melting pot where music-lovers share pies and a glass of champagne with superstars, toffs, rockers, crooners, Morris dancers, farmers, urbanites, fashionistas, gourmet chefs and little old ladies who make exceptional cakes.
In short, The Cornbury Music Festival represents classic summer entertainment for a friendly crowd from all walks of life. A country fair with a rock ‘n’ roll twist; a farmers’ market with a dancefloor; a local carnival with a classic contemporary soundtrack."
That describes it to a T.

Accommodation-wise there was a range of accommodation options from basic camping, quieter camping and glamping and there's a separate area for motor homes and caravans too. Or you could book one of the many local brick built options from luxury hotels to farmhouse B&B's.

We opted for general camping and I was a bit worried having heard horror stories from other festivals about tents so close you could roll over and actually touch the shoulder of the person in the next tent. This was not the case at Cornbury.

sunset at campsite at Cornbury Festival, Great Tew park

To be fair, in the most popular camping areas with good access to the Festival entrance, loos and showers and the campsite entertainment tent, bar, food stalls and shop, space was tight.

We arrived just after the camp opened on Thursday afternoon and picked what seemed like a spacious plot only to have it filled in by smaller tents with inches between them. However Cornbury's new home in Great Tew Park means there is plenty of room to camp if you want more space as long as you are prepared to walk further, including when you are pitching up as no cars are allowed in the campsite.  (parking was free though and well organised)

Trolleys or similar transportation aids are a must and I saw lots of people taking advantage of the barrow hire option.

After pitching our tent in blazing sunshine we went off to seek refreshment and bumped into fellow blogger and Tent Sniffer Naomi and her daughter.  After a pleasant hour or so of chatting about pancakes, veganism, blow up beds and tit-glittering we ambled back to our tent to find we had yet more new neighbours.

As it transpired, meeting Carley and Sophie was a highlight of the weekend and we whiled away hours together listening to music, chatting about our children (17 between us) and maybe, just maybe enjoying a few alcoholic drinks along the way.

Now those of you who know me know I'm not the sort of person who makes friends on holiday. I also don't shout at the stage at pantos or expose my stomach away from the privacy of my own home.

But there is something about that festival vibe which smooths away your inhibitions and before long I was walking round the Cornbury site in a crop top and shorts, chatting to random strangers and not only singing along with the bands but dancing and at one memorable point even pogo-ing. Then I remembered I have had seven children and my bladder is not too strong and stopped pogo-ing before the parched grass got an unexpected sprinkling.
UB40 at Cornbury Music Festival 2018

I was not surprised that my children took to the festival life like ducks to water. They didn't even really mind the patchy mobile phone signal or the inevitable loss of battery (although you could pay £6 for a mobile phone charge up if you were desperate).

I was however surprised to see my husband abandon his FatFace T-shirt in favour of a loose striped linen grandad collar tunic and later spotted him wearing a pair of cat ears.

Meanwhile my theatrical son ( did I ever mention he performed in the West End last year?) transformed himself from Home Counties boy to festival pro with a pair of baggy trousers and a bandana making him look like he was born to party in a field.

madmumof7's teen son in festival gear

And party we did. From UB40 to Alanis Morissette we could enjoy all types of music from three stages across the site. One of my personal highlights was  Jimmy Cliff (I Can See Clearly Now, Wonderful World, Beautiful People and You Can Get It If You Really Want it) who worked the stage and the audience like the professional he is.

Pixie Lott earned my respect with a bouncy set which really got the crowd involved and Deacon Blue provided the perfect finale for our festival experience with a fabulous interactive crowd-pleasing set. The acts actually carried on long after Deacon Blue on Sunday but y'know, we had to deal with bathtime, bedtime and then school run in the morning so we missed Squeeze which was a shame.

Talking of the kids, I was delighted to discover how much there was for them to do. My 12-year-old daughter loved the arts and crafts tent with lots of activities from pottery to mask making. There were also magic shows, circus workshops, giant den building sessions, a drum circle, drama workshop and shakti, Bollywood and Bhangra dance classes.

There was "The Rig", an interactive musical installation, face painters and a host of street theatre shows and walkabout acts. We very much enjoyed watching a short film in Audrey, a restored vintage cinema bus. Check out the website for details about the bus and where you can see her or even watch a free film in her. Edinburgh Festival-goers are in for a real treat as live comedy shows will be staged on the fabulous bus.

Teens were well catered for with their own chill out zone with scheduled activities for those who wanted to do more than charge their phone at the free charging points in there and share pictures of their henna, braids or glitter on social media.

I was worried my 17-year old would be bored with some of the bands from well before her time but she had a great time. The two of us went ahead to set up camp the day before my husband brought the younger children along and I really cherished the wonderful time we spent together.

Back to the teen tent. My older children watched a jam session in there, got hands hennaed and my 13-year-old son made the most of the console session. My 17-year-old had a go at making harem pants and they all played pool on a mini table in the Mayflower Teen Tent.

In the campsite but open during the day to all was the comedy tent (which also hosted a Ceilidh and some local bands). We only saw one act because there was simply so much to do we couldn't fit it all in. In future I'd sit down with the programme and make a proper schedule.

Onto facilities. There were plenty of toilets which on the whole were OK. Those portable toilets are never wonderful are they but there were only a couple of occasions I had to hunt for one with paper and no visible poo.

The showers were actually rather good and as long as you didn't want to shower between 7-8am-ish were not too busy. They stayed clean and with hot water throughout our four day stay

The camp "pit shop" was handy with useful things like bacon, bread and milk through to condoms, fly spray and tent pegs. There were cold drinks and sandwiches, crisps and batteries with prices ranging from reasonable to ridiculous. Captive audience and all that.

The Pit Shops at Cornbury Festival campsite

I was very impressed with the service from Milk & More who offered a nice cool bag stocked with brekkie essentials which worked out good value for money, especially in comparison to the festival's other breakfast offerings. For example, £5 for one bacon roll from a stall or £10 for a pack of traditionally dry cure bacon, a dozen free range eggs, salted butter, fresh cold milk and orange juice and 6 soft tasty sandwich thins? You did have to cook it yourself obvs!

Milk & More festival breakfast

You could book your breakfast from them via the Cornbury Music festival website before the event or onsite up until 9pm at night for the following morning and the good news is they will be offering the same service at other events during the summer- check your festival's website or look out for the stand at the event. You can also sign up for their at home delivery service of guess what? Yup, milk and more.

I was also impressed with the FRANK water scheme which allowed festival-goers the chance to buy water bottle which could be refilled endlessly with filtered chilled water throughout the event or a wristband which entitled the wearer to have their own bottle refilled all weekend. 100% of profit from FRANK goes to the charity's lifesaving work in India and Nepal where they provide marginalised communities with access to safe clean water and toilets.

FRANK water charity

We bought wristbands at just £3.50 each and it was great to know we were doing our bit to help those communities as well as cutting down on plastic waste - last year FRANK volunteers served around 19,000 500ml servings of water which potentially saved many thousands single use plastic bottles being thrown away.

Fresh, cold water was very welcome as we were lucky enough to be able to enjoy the whole of the Cornbury Music Festival with only about three drops of rain falling. I appreciate this might have coloured my view of festival life somewhat - I'm sure torrential rain and a muddy site might have made for a less pleasant stay but I still maintain we would have enjoyed the experience.

People watching (one of my favourite pastimes) was entertaining. Day 1 saw lots of middle aged people arriving wearing more Per Una, Cath Kidston and Next than you can shake a middle class stick at. By Day 3 the linen dresses, polo shirts and white trousers had made way for elephant print baggy trousers, clothing made from alpaca wool and lots and lots of glitter.

It was like watching a conference of teaching assistants transform almost overnight into circus performers and I loved it.

This festival was billed as "Cornbury Returns" after organisers previously said they wouldn't organise any more after the 2017 event. I hope they thought it was worthwhile because it would be shame to lose such a family friendly event.

Cornbury Music Festival flags at dusk.

Disclaimer: I attended Cornbury Music Festival and camped free with my family for the purpose of this honest review.