Arriving at the Just So Festival in Cheshire you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in the wrong place. There were no mile long ques back down the road, no lines at the gate, any checking of bags or confiscating of liquids. We were met with the smiling face of an attendant who directed us to a parking space. We unloaded the car into the buggy and strolled up to the ticket booth where we exchanged our tickets for wrist bands and the crossed the festival boundary into a world of fun and make believe.
We had debated our decision to take prawn and salad rolls for our lunch as neither of us fancied a bout of salmonella if the prawns got a bit hot in our bag but we need not have worried. There must be something about knowing you have a picnic lunch about your person that makes you want to eat it – immediately. The prawns never even had chance to get luke-warm. They were gone before half ten but finding food was not going to be a problem at the festival. The Social had food stands a plenty from cakes and tarts to tofu pittas, pad Thai, pies and pizza. There was a beer wagon selling local ales and ice cream vendors serving up unusual flavours.
Just So is split into areas of imagination and wonderment with enchanting names like wild things; jitterbug; away with the fairies and lazy days. My favourite area was the high seas next to the lake. Here you could train to be a pirate, learn the art of stone balancing, listen to fables, join in with singing sea shanties or descend in to the belly of the steel whale and to be serenaded by a love sick mariner.
The whole festival is jam packed with activities designed to get kids imaginations firing and their hands [faces and knees] dirty. The trees were adorned with brightly coloured chairs, huge clocks, magic wands, lanterns, bunting and flags. There were big games to play like hide and seek and a small cinema to relax and watch a film in. Dads could release their inner boy scout and help the little ones build a den from sticks and ferns (or anything else you could find in a forest), find bugs and sing songs around the camp fire. You could hitch a ride around the world on the Submercycle.
You can learn to make bread, do family yoga and have an Indian head massage. You could swing dance, jive, do ballet or simply get your disco on. There were pots to be made, physics to be learned and levitation to be mastered and so much more.
If it all got a bit too exciting there was plenty of coffee and cake on offer, hay bales to relax on and even a book swap if you managed to finish your favourite read. If a snooze was the order of the hour your could head to 40 winks, hop in a hammock and settle down.
I think it is probably safe to say that one of the most popular market stands in the festival was that of the bubble sellers. They had everything you could imagine to create bubbles big and small and the air was thick with glistening spheres catching the sunshine and bursting at the tiny fingers of excited children. If you bought a bubble wand you were like the Pied Piper.
There is so much to do at Just So and we didn’t manage half of it in a day. As we sat in the sunshine in the footlights area listening to some music and eating our delicious Thai food we were regretting not coming for the whole weekend. We missed out on the lantern parade, bedtime stories, the bonfire. the midnight feast and much more.
The festival was a sell out but at no time did you feel overawed by the crowd nor jostled out of the way so someone could get a better view. You could always be entertained, be left alone, get a drink or something to eat and, if there was que it was a good natured one. The toilets were quite clean and there was no litter.
I love the air that surrounds a festival. You can be who you want to be. I approached a man dressed as a dog about where to buy a programme assuming he was a festival volunteer, he wasn’t. He was just a man dressed as a dog. Why not?
This morning I got up, a bit deflated thinking how lovely it would have been to have woken under canvas to a breakfast of freshly made smoothies, Georges Marvellous music or maybe a bit of Tai chi. Roll on next year.