Why We Probably Won’t be Returning to the Curious Arts Festival

As I sit here still suffering from a “festival hangover* ” and unsure exactly what just happened… I have no idea where on earth to start with this post?!
An image of Leo standing behind a large picture frame with the label 'curious arts festival' on the top. A large stately home in the background.
We arrived back from the Curious Arts Festival yesterday afternoon having spent 3 days at what the Evening Standard described as a ‘charmingly reckless’ boutique festival. Having been to Camp Bestival two years running and unable to attend for a third because of other plans me and my mum started looking for an alternative. Curious Arts sounded much smaller than Camp Bestival and the focus was on literary workshops and talks.

The website states:

“Curious is a festival like no other. Taking place each July in the breathtaking grounds of Pylewell Park, it is dreamy, eccentric, fun and ultimately, irresistible.

It’s very English on the one hand – expect fabulous novelists, exceptional historians, poet laureates, dogs on leads, gin and tonics, and sitting on a deckchair with a view of the Solent (this is a little far from the truth – literally) although you are just as likely to find yourself on a secret midnight bat-walk (didn’t happen, I assume because of the weather), betting your life-savings on the snail-racing (couldn’t get near because it was so crowded), reciting a sonnet on top of an elegantly restored old routemaster (nope) or listening to some of the UK’s most exciting musicians.”

Unfortunately there was no “sitting on deckchairs” in the sun, gin and tonic in hand, as the weather had different ideas… Almost as soon as we arrived the heavens opened and the torrential rain started. Attempting to pitch a tent in strong wind and rain was… interesting. “Character building” a fellow camper called it the next morning, the rain still hammering on the canvas above us. The bad weather continued throughout the weekend with the odd break and peek of blue sky. But, we are British and we shall carry on, we will enjoy this festival NO MATTER WHAT. If I’m being honest though, the positive thinking dwindled throughout the weekend and having taken a tent that I remembered being much bigger than it actually was, the nights were the worst.

Accessibility:

An image of Leo's Nana supporting him during the 'Big Debate'
The festival offer a free carers ticket.

‘Blue Badge Parking’ was further from the campsite than some of the regular parking spaces and there was no option to park next to your tent.

The different venues around the festival were not disability friendly as they filled up quickly and there was no separate access points or reserved seating.

Special Needs Tip: Leo likes some ‘alone time’ so we took a long this pop-up cube from ikea which he loved. It meant he could be slightly out of the mayhem when he needed a ‘safe space’. Headphones would have been great but we forgot them – bad mummy!

For the Kids:

Leo standing in the large picture frame wearing his rain mac and wellies
Each evening at 7pm the Children’s tent hosts bed time story time which although packed  (probably due to the weather) it was a nice way to end the day. The people running it even gave Leo a personal reading of Where the Wild Things Are because he missed the beginning which was a lovely and kind touch.

An image of Leo listening to Where the Wild Things Are story

Another highlight for the kids was ‘Big Howard’ who hosted an original and laugh out loud (for the kids and adults alike!) comedy show.

Best Bits:

The location is beautiful.

The ‘Big Debate’ hosted by The Week Junior for the kids.

Lots of kids busy working out where they stand during questions from the Big Debate

The Acoustic Tent – Especially a beautiful performance by Irish singer/song writer Aine Cahill.

Aine Cahill performing an acoustic set to a large crowd all sitting on hay bales.

The Breakfast Club – A mixed bunch panel from comedians to journalists examine the most interesting and thought-provoking stories from the national and local news.

An image of the panel during the morning Breakfast Club

Drink prices were decent.

When we bumped into the organisers they always seemed friendly and were attempting to go out of their way to rectify issues people were having because of the weather or otherwise.

Toilets were kept pretty clean.

Criticisms:

As mentioned above the festival organisers have a number of changes to make if they want to be more accessible to people with disabilities.

For a ‘child friendly’ festival the loud music until 2am could be a problem for families.

Separate family camping would be good. We got shhh’ed by a young couple in a tent nearby when we were up and about at 7am.

The choices of food was very limited, especially for kids. Leo is far from a fussy eater but he had pizza three nights running… I love foreign food but if you’re someone who doesn’t like Japanese food or Nepalese Curry your choices would be extremely limited. On top of this the festival has a rule against bringing food and drink from outside – totally unrealistic considering the limited choices on site.

Of course the rain couldn’t be helped but there just wasn’t enough cover available for all the people there. A number of people were told to leave an empty tent during a downpour, some of which had babies!

The festival is generally not child-friendly enough. Many of the talks/workshops were not suitable for families and there was not a lot to offer as far as entertainment. Having originally chosen this festival after finding it on a ‘Top 10 family festivals’ list I have to be honest, we were disappointed.

Conclusion:

My mum came along with us so we had 3 generations to judge the Curious Arts festival and even though the weather definitely didn’t help we all agreed that we will be giving it a miss next year and heading back to Camp Bestival.

An image of Leo spinning a lampshade that is hanging from a tree.

*a state of confusion, pain and tiredness following a festival.

Disclaimer – as with all personal blogs, all of the above is purely my opinion and I’d be happy to work with The Curious Arts Festival in the future if they’d like more insight into meeting the needs of a family with a special needs child.

3 thoughts on “Why We Probably Won’t be Returning to the Curious Arts Festival

  1. Thanks very much for your comments. I’m sorry your experience wasn’t more positive. I’m disappointed and surprised about the parking – all disabled parking is immediately next to the entrance but of course that would be a further walk from the camping so I wonder whether that’s what the stewards were trying to help with.
    The family camping zone is definitely something we’re going to look into for next year, and we agree that more needs to be on offer for children and young people, especially when the weather is bad. We will also be looking again at our food provision, in line with your comments. We are learning more each year and striving to improve as we go. It was our fourth year and we’re looking to be much better for 2018. If there are specific special needs issues which we need to be more aware of, we’d be very grateful for your input at the email address below. Thanks again, Team Curious

    1. Thank you for your response and for reading my post. I absolutely appreciate that the festival is new and I’m sure that with time and suggestions like those above that things will improve for the better. I’d happily work with you on how to improve things for special needs families. Thanks, Hannah.

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