How I Fell In Love Supreme
A tale of two festivals
I was a bit cautious as my only other experience with festivals and kids involved me setting myself alight on a dodgy camping stove and a thunderstorm that tore down my then 8-year-old god daughters tent that meant four of us in a two man tent playing cards, waiting for the rain to stop and the family-friendly events to start – which they never did…
When I saw Love Supreme advertised, I thought it would be the perfect event to try it out at. The line up was pretty special; it was only the other side of Brighton, and I heard from friends who had gone in previous years that it was extremely relaxed.
There was two schools of thought on this; the one that I wanted ‘selfishly’ for it just to be EI and me to have time on our own, to go dancing in fields and not have to go back to the tent at 8 o’clock for bedtime; and the one that wanted to show Duke what it was like to be sat on my shoulders in a large crowd all singing along together to classic tunes.
So I thought why not try and have the best of both worlds. But how could we manage it? Simple, break the festival in two. So that’s what we did.
Thank Funk For Friends & Family.
Having not been to a festival in years, when I was looking for for our camping gear I realised that it had all but disappeared.
Thankfully I am fortunate to have a lovely mate called Nina who kindly let us have full reign of everything we needed out of her garage – cookers, sleeping bags, tables, the works! All for the price of a cuddle and a bottle of gin (we all need friends like that).
Next, we roped in the ever reliable Auntie Kerry who came and collected Duke to whisk him away for two days of mischief, leaving mummy and daddy with the time on their hands to get sorted.
Our plan on Saturday was to get up very early and get to the festival first thing. Well, that went right out of the window when we realised that we could both have a lie-in.
After a leisurely breakfast at 11-ish and a last-minute panic about if we had packed everything, we took a drive across the stunning South Downs. The sun was shining, and the stereo was blasting out the best in Northern Soul. What was noticeable – apart from being able to play what I wanted in the car instead of nursery rhymes – was just how relaxed it all felt.
Now, I love my son to the moon and back but I did admit not having to deal with an excitable 3-year-old, get him out of the house, into the car and entertain him made for a world of difference.
We arrived and parked up in a field and started the unenviable job of unpacking and having to transport all the gear to the campsite (this is where having a pushchair and no child came in very handy #protip.) Around us were people that were having huge -and I mean huge – picnics in the car park. Some had brought tables and chairs just to pitch up surrounded by their cars – WTF?
It wasn’t too much of a walk to the entrance and the ticket queues were non-existent which was a blessed relief as the last thing you want is having to stand in a line for hours in the midday sun.
This is where we hit our first snag. We went looking for the family campsite, but after asking some stewards no one seemed to know where it was which was strange as there were loads of families around… So EI in her wisdom made us walk to the furthest part of campsite, up a hill away from any groups of what we assumed would be noisy young people (darn you fun loving kids!!). It struck me how stunning the setting was when we found the perfect spot.
We set about pitching up the tent just as the wind started up. Now this would have usually been stressful and caused an argument but because it was just the two of us we just took the p”ss out of each other’s inability to get anything done.
I heard Nena Cherry on in the background doing an unusual version of Buffalo Stance – I was gutted as she was one of the main acts I had been wanted to see. But instead, as we laid down together and just chilled, I realised I didn’t need to be anywhere else.
I felt guilty and selfish knowing that this wouldn’t have happened if Duke had been with us, but then I received a message from his big cousin, Lucy who had taken him to Legoland as part of his adventure. Knowing that he was having a better time made it a peaceful deal with my guilty conscience.
The view was stunning. I could hear some great music, I had a cold beer and there was just the two of us, and I felt more relaxed that I had done in I don’t know how long. It really was an amazing piece of paradise. This was what being at a festival was really about.
We finally got our act together and wandered down to the festival site to grab something to eat. What I noticed was it didn’t feel chaotic. I was expecting thousands of people and a crush, but it wasn’t like that at all. There was space to breathe and enough on offer so the queues for most things were non-existent. It felt so relaxed, so what to do? Do what you are supposed to do when you are at a festival, grab a beer and go and dance.
After plotting up in an ideal space, i.e. near the bar, not too far from the loos and near something like a big post so if you get p”ssed you can always find your way back in the dark later (a lesson sorely learnt after losing mates in large crowds over the years)
EI spotted some familiar faces so we ended up spending the rest of the evening in the company of some very drunk, daft and thoroughly deserving of a decent night out ladies. Gossiping how we had just seen the actress Sophie Okonedo queuing up for a pee and exchanging dance battles with our new young friends.
As me being the only fella, this was horrible and I hated every moment of it.
It felt so weird to be, for want of a better word, ‘off duty’ knowing that the Duke was being looked after and was safe; we could just forget and funk the hell out.
As it happens rather than raging all night, by 12 we’d had enough so wandered back to the tent, arm in arm. That night I got to see the girl I fell in love with, not just the doting mum, harassed, devoted wife and partner or kick-ass social worker that manages to juggle so many roles that it makes my head spin. No, just a very pretty girl with a huge grin, stood in a field, eyes shining as she got lost in music like it was the most important thing in the world. I fell in love with her all over again.
So what would tomorrow bring?
We awoke from a loving embrace to find one of the guide ropes of the tent had come up during the night letting in a horrible cold draught and that there was a leak in the porch as the heavy rain over night had discovered – it was miserable. I couldn’t believe the difference.
As festival comedowns come, it was a pretty hard one (although not as hard as the one I had after watching the Prodigy play a fantastic set at the V Festival in the pouring rain on my stag-do five years ago…).
There wasn’t time to get depressed as we had a four-hour round trip to pick up the Duke from Kent where he had been thoroughly spoilt rotten.
We arrived back at the festival site to be greeted by blistering sunshine proving yet again that God is a soul boy.
Showing the boy the tent, he was in hog heaven and ran around happily looking for monsters. Because, as every three-year-old knows, tents aren’t tents at all, but they are secret camps set up for monster-hunting. In fact, he was having so much fun it was quite difficult to persuade him to come down to the festival site for something to eat and an investigate.
We spent the afternoon hanging out on the bouncy castles, practising the Charleston in the kids’ tent and swinging off the fairground rides.
What was lovely was the amount of space around us. It gave us the option to wander without feeling hemmed in.
Before that event, there were several acts that I couldn’t wait to see and give Duke his first experience of being on my shoulders in the mosh pit while we rocked out.
Unfortunately, he had very different ideas; he couldn’t give a monkeys if Daddy’s 80s crush, Lisa Stansfield, was giving an incredible, belting performance.
So for me “Been around the world and I, me, can’t find my baby” became yes actually I can find him, he is right in front of me wanting to play football. But if you are going to play football then having the lovely Lisa provide the soundtrack so I could drop some classic dad dance moves in while I ran around giving sympathetic smiles to the people whose picnics we kept kicking the ball into was the way to do it.
One moment I will never forget, was having Candi Staton playing one of my most favourite songs, “You got the love” a song that I spent many a year raving to.
Normally speaking I would have wanted to be right in the middle of the crowd ‘experiencing’ the song for all it was worth. But instead, I looked at the happy, sweaty faces of my lovely wife and son running around, dancing, playing catch and I got a wave of overwhelming love, thinking yes, I did have the love of two very special people and I am incredibly lucky for that. It was a feeling that had the hairs on the back my neck standing up.
We spent the rest of the day pretty much doing that until our small person who was granted an extension on normal bedtime could take no more. We headed back to the tent for stories and wrapped up cuddles.
As I drifted off, I could hear the crowd going mad and singing along to Van ‘the Man’ Morrison who was the closing headline act. I thought to myself, where would I rather be? In the middle of a drunken chorus of ‘Brown-eyed girl’? Or here in a cramped leaky tent listening to the two people I love most in the world snore their exhausted heads off? No contest. I wasn’t missing anything that I could get again listening to Van – genius though he might be – but that time in the tent, their snoring reminded me of the lyrics of one of his classics.
When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch
Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this
When you don’t need to worry, there’ll be days like this
When no one’s in a hurry, there’ll be days like this
When all the parts of the puzzle start to look like, they fit
Then I must remember there’ll be days like this
All too soon it was early Monday morning and time for small people to be up and wanting to run around loudly playing – much, I imagined, to the annoyance of the tents nearby. But why wasn’t there a family camping section so all the kids could cause chaos together? Next year please, Love Supreme!!!
Thinking back now as I write this week’s later I am finding it hard to find fault. Yes, of course, the family camping situation could have been better, there could have been showers in the camping section, there could have been somewhere to charge your phone that didn’t cost a fiver (actually, this was a blessing in disguise as it meant my phone was dead so I concentrated on having fun and taking part rather than having my head buried in my phone tweeting about it).
All in all, as the first experience of weekend festivals for my son goes and the chance for EI and me to spend some quality time together it really was the perfect setting, I couldn’t have asked for more. Next time – and there will be a next time – next year as we plan to make this an annual family we will be doing the same again and I for one can’t wait.
So what are your memories of your first festival with your kids, any tips?