Posted by: dancinginmuddypuddles | August 21, 2013

Just So Festival 2013


I’m feeling somewhat inspired to resurrect my neglected blog in order to tell you about our amazing time at the Just So Festival.

It’s our third year at this family arts festival which takes place in the beautiful surroundings of the Rode Hall estate in East Cheshire. The programme promised a plethora of arty, family activities, including live music, poetry writing, book sharing, interactive theatres, circus skills, puppet shows, clay sculpturing, stone balancing and water gun painting, and it didn’t fail to deliver this feast of creativity.

There’s something distinctively middle class about the Just So clientele as children run across fields in a sea of Boden, Joules and Hunter wellies, while being papped by parents armed with SLR mega cameras, these are families enjoying the good life (while collecting and sharing the evidence, of course). Despite feeling like the poor relation in my Asda ‘Wellington boots’, we once again entered the ‘good life spirit’ and thoroughly enjoyed the arty, family friendly merriments at this rather unique event.

I think for me, Just So’s distinction is found in the detail, its the four poster bed floating in the middle of a lake, multicolour umbrellas hanging on trees, the quirky signage ‘Deep water, watch out for hungry penguins’, or ‘ don’t climb on the wall or you might have a big fall’, along side a huge paper mâché Humpty Dumpty. Basically, on arrival you’re immersed into a world of wonderment, designed to unleash the imagination. Our first activity (post the painful, whole family, attempts at tent installation) was to explore the woodlands discovering lamp shades hanging from trees, and steps leading to a small glade where a table was set with china tea cups at which my 6 year old was invited to write poetry on edible paper and then to literally ‘eat her words’.

The festival is divided into 16 thematic areas, Ella’s (6) favourite area was ‘The High Seas’ ( think all things pirates and explorers) mainly because this is where the Pif-paf theatre company resided. After finding her passport ( the leaf which most looked like her face) , a quick check that she had her imagination packed, she was then taken on a Flight of Fancy. She returned from her 4 minute venture bubbling with exciting tales about a trip to Spain, beaches, sips of Sangria and a disco!

There was much rejoicing from the Carter family as we realised that ‘Buckets and Spades’ was back (a favourite from 2011). For us parents, this is the festival area most reminiscent of our own childhoods (well, the elements we want to share with our children!), with a large sandpit and seaside style entertainers, a Just So funked up version of traditional, old fashioned fun. One of the highlights was enjoying the Mr Alexander magic show, actually the ultimate highlight was watching our children watching the Mr Alexander show; giggling, belly laughing and spontaneously applauding the flamboyant magician and they only asked ‘how did he do that’ a few hundred times.

George (3) was a big fan of the Peekaboo area (despite being on the older end for the ‘littlies’ area), especially the Shiny tent in which everything shone (obviously), crunched and rattled, oh and some, presumably non-parent-of-small-child, had included a collection of silver trumpets which George blew incessantly with great delight. He was also very excited to become acquainted with the Gruffalo during the weekend, and even became familiar enough to pull his whiskers which resulted in comedy jumping and raucous three year old boy laughter.

Alan’s favourite was ‘Footlights’ the stage section of the festival where we could listen to live music and dance pretending we’re cool, carefree punk rockers ( with, in my case, flowers in my hair). Of course it’s no coincidence that Mr C’s favourite area was next to the area full of gut busting, top quality food. I’m currently in detox hell, trying to atone for my time in the den of dieting inequity called ‘The Social'( there were healthy alternatives available, but… wood stove pizza, crepes, fresh croissants… Lead me not into temptation festival organisers, it’s all your fault)!

Oh and for me, my favourite had to be, ‘The Spellbound Forest’, especially lit up at night, with stories around the campfire and a lantern parade past a cardboard candlelit fairy city crafted by the children (because how could there not be magical folk inhabiting such an enchanting environment).

Now, last year we returned from the festival with a few grumbles but this year, well not so much. The organisers had clearly listened to previous year’s minor complaints and everyone we spoke to was in agreement that the festival had got even better. There were more food suppliers catering for a wider range of budgets and the number of activities on offer for all ages had definitely increased. The usual mumbles could be heard around the camp site about the toilets but we kind of expect that from a festival and in comparison to other similar events we think it’s another area in which Just So excels. Toilet roll does occasionally run out ( we carry our own supply, because we’re clever like that), and sometimes the taps run out of water ( wipes in bag, we’re geniuses) but there’s usually a steward, beavering away trying to fix any problems.

As the mother of one turbulent whirlwind that is a Three Year Old Boy, I have to question some of the merchandise on sale. My boy really doesn’t need to be provided with a weapon and then unleashed on to the world,(ok, they were wooden toys in keeping with the pirate theme, and purchasing them was optional). I tried not to recoil as children toddled in front of the stage haphazardly waving their swords. I suspect I’m the only festival person ever to feel the need to grumble about this and even my general observation was how well behaved the children were (my experience at Soft play areas over the years has demonstrated that my tolerance levels are somewhat limited in this area, so this really is a compliment). In fact there was a real sense of community and a shared affinity among us festival goers.

The festival finale was the Wild Rumpus Parade in which everyone congregated into their chosen tribes and proceeded around the woodland site, chanting, singing, beating drums and sticks, all in fancy dress ( of course), before the winning tribe was declared (we’d been collecting golden tokens for tribal efforts all weekend) For us, in tribe Owl, this was an opportunity to learn that oh so important life lesson, ‘it’s the taking part that counts… unless you are going to WIN, in which case celebrate like crazy while poking fun at those lesser beings ( foxes, frogs, fish, lions and stags in this case) who didn’t achieve such grandeur’ (it might have just been our family that got a little carried away in our triumphant celebrations). Our children were quite amazed at the amount of noise they were not only allowed but actively encouraged to make. The excitement was all too much and the Carter clan had to retire to our blow up beds after this (missing the evening’s music fest), all deliriously triumphant but thoroughly exhausted after three happy, exhausting, magical days.

So, for 2013, this family of rather smug owls, have packed away our ornithological outfits, dismantled the tent without too many threats of divorce and landed back from our flight of fancy with an unwelcome bump. But, as we sink back into the mundane our imaginations remain, unleashed, (at least for now) and as I tackle the mound of washing it’s not too hard for my mind to escape back to Just So wonderment and of course I have the 400 photographs to look through. Now, job for this week, I really need to go get me a pair of those Hunter wellies.






Posted by: dancinginmuddypuddles | February 4, 2012

A Parenting Prayer

‘Heavenly Father, teach us to understand our children, to listen with patience, to speak to them kindly. May we be as courteous to them as we would have them be to us. Help us not to ever ridicule or shame them. May we never punish for our own selfish satisfaction. Help us to always demonstrate your goodness, grace and love.

Thank you for our two precious, outrageously amazing gifts.


Posted by: dancinginmuddypuddles | December 11, 2011

A little rant from this (lovely?) Motherrrrrr.

I love the “Christmas  adverts”. Like many others I got that ‘wohooo’ feeling when the cocacola advert was shown  (in er mid November) and i felt a little emotional when i first saw the John Lewis boy longing to give his gift, but there’s one advert above all others which has caught my attention this year, that bloomin’ Littlewoods advert – “My, loverrly, loverrly, motherrr”.

It’s one of those that makes me glad i’m not teaching at the moment, because i can imagine ‘certain’ classes singing the tune, again and again and again until sticking your head in a blender becomes a viable alternative career option. (teacher friends am i right? has it ‘caught on’?)

 Apparently there’s been over 700 official complaints against the advert because it claims that mother puts the gifts under the Christmas tree rather than Santa Claus, which we all know isn’t true.

But personally, I think that’s the least of the advert’s problems. The children are on stage for what would have traditionally been the nativity but it’s been replaced by a never ending wish list of greed and wanting. There was a time when granddad was happy with a pair of socks now it seems mother is expected to buy him a D&G watch  (hmm, classy) or a laptop.  All the gifts are ridiculously expensive but it’s fine because you don’t have to pay for it, it’s all available on credit. A particularly dangerous message in our current climate. Oh and not to mention the incredulous stereotyping in the advert, of course it’s the black kid who raps, because that’s what  all black kids do ,yeah? (*bangs head against a brick wall, starts thinking about that blender again). And of course Motherrrr is only as lovely as the gifts she can buy, can’t afford a fijit (aka plastic tatt) = inadequate.

I think the thing that ‘grates’ the most with me, is the location, something as innocent as a child’s nativity being used in this celebration of greed and materialism. But then the Christian nativity, or Christian anything, isn’t really very popular in TV land. It usually slotted into a dreary spot on a specific religious TV programme (cough, songsofpraise) and certainly doesn’t make an appearance in any t.v adverts.

These Advent weeks, Christians prepare to hear again, the wild and glorious story again, that the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, came down into our little planet, enfolded Himself in humanity, visited a broken people and gave them hope. Divine Intervention by divine incarnation. For me, as an (attempting) follower of Jesus, the gift we receive at Christmas is incredible, even more extravagant than granddad getting a laptop.  The message of Christmas gives me hope, the story of a God who loves us so much that He came as a helpless babe to serve, to liberate, to save. God incarnate, God is here.

Posted by: dancinginmuddypuddles | December 4, 2011

Just testing…

So i’ve just entered the blogasphere, apparently.

Soon to come will be my musings about motherhood, life, God, spirituality, cake and boobs, er, yep there’ll probably be much mentioning of boobs.

Hopefully i’ll speak with grace but also honesty. I don’t plan to hold back so things might get controversial 😉