Electric Picnic: Soul kids and family fun

Baby Ally in her wheelbarrow. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Baby Ally in her wheelbarrow. Photograph: Dave Meehan


With the possible exception of the VIP area, the family campsite must be the most stringently guarded zone of the entire Electric Picnic site. On the walk from the main arena to the tents, campers are accosted at least five times, sometimes more, by strategically-placed gatekeepers in high-vis vests.

Child safety is clearly a serious concern for the organisers, and it’s one of the reasons that the whole family area – including the Soul Kids section, where small people frolic energetically in an improbably idyllic old orchard – feels like a civilized and pleasant space. No boozy parties, no random yelling.

The grass is lush and green and free of noxious substances. The toilets, if not exactly fragrant, at least have toilet roll and soap. And the worst thing you have to worry about is being woken at 5am by someone’s toddler desperate for an early wee.

Perhaps that makes things somewhat pedestrian for parents who miss their own long-gone days of heedless debauchery.

It’s certainly a bit tame for the older children, who lounge on the giant cushions in the Family Hang-out Teepee, chewing gum and watching reruns of Disney movies.

None of them are any older than 12 and so get in for free – though there are some surprisingly mature and sophisticated pre-teens wearing hotpants and vest-tops. Children grow up so quickly these days.

Some parents – usually fathers – love the whole camping adventure itself. They’re the ones with exactly the right rubber mallet for tapping in the tent-pegs with precision.

Other families take a more laid-back approach, and even though their tents may be wonky and sagging in the middle, they’re the ones who seem to be having the most fun.

Fionola Meredith

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