Some people don't think festivals and children are a good combination. I'm still sitting on the fence. Next weekend, when I'm walking around the Body & Soul site in Co Westmeath with my children and they're loudly complaining about all the people smoking and vaping and otherwise partaking, I'm sure I'll have a moment when I'll regret not leaving them at home with the hamster.
But then the next minute they’ll skip off to create fresh flower head pieces in the Soul Kids walled garden or frolic around art installations in the woods, with no electronic devices in sight. At that moment, I’ll become a walking ad for Good Parenting, with children straight out of a really irritating Gwyneth Paltrow blog post.
We’ve been bringing them to festivals since they were tiny. Everyone always asks: but do you get to have any fun yourself? Good question. The truth is when you bring children to a festival, while packing your hip flask of high-quality tequila, you are well advised to take a hatchet to your own festival expectations.
With expectations duly slashed, finding yourself in the woods at midnight sitting on a log watching a great band, when they are finally asleep in the tent, feels like a small and much-cherished victory.
Literary festivals are another story entirely. We’ve just come back from the always brilliant Borris Festival of Writing and Ideas where the main child-related hazard was mentioning my literary heroes names too loudly. (“Holy Secret History, there’s Donna Tartt. Hold my Elderflower Fizz, I’ve just spotted Elizabeth Strout. Argh! It’s only Mags Atwood . . . ”).
My daughters don’t know what a Handmaid is, but hearing me lose my mind over certain people was enough to create mini-stalkers of them. Luckily, Margaret Atwood is one of the coolest, most approachable literary geniuses you could ever have the pleasure of pestering at a festival.
When I eventually caught up with her, inveigling myself into a deep conversation she was having with a female reader about the late science fiction great Ursula K Le Guin, I waited for my moment. Of course, like a coward, I used my children as an opening gambit, apologising if they had been annoying her for the past two days.
With glee, she relayed what they’d been saying to her. “They said ‘my Mum’s obsessed with you’,” she smiled. “And as they left, they put their thumbs up and said ‘keep up the good work Margaret Atwood!’.”
Kids and festivals? The jury is still very much out.
Some things to do with children this weekend . . .
Fantastic Mr Fox
Last year, Mill Productions wowed sell-out audiences with James and the Giant Peach and this year they are tackling another Roald Dahl classic, Fantastic Mr Fox. Book early as this is always a popular theatrical end to the school year.
Where: Mill Theatre, Dundrum Town Centre
When: June 24th
Cost: Adults €16, under 12s €14
Contact: milltheatre.ie; 01-296 9340
The sound of bicycle bells will ring out at St Anne’s Park, Raheny, Dublin, on Sunday as the Dublin City Council Park is transformed into a cycling haven for all the family to enjoy.
Aimed at providing a fun learning experience on the bike to children of all ages, the family cycling festival features events such as Sprocket Rocket, Gearing up off Road, Strider Bikes and a mini cycle track. Savage Skills, the UK’s leading freestyle mountain bike stunt team, providing interactive, jaw-dropping shows suitable for audiences of all ages, will be at Bike Fest .
Pre-registration is not required, the event is fully insured by Cycling Ireland, and all the cycling zones are supported by fully qualified Cycling Ireland coaches and instructors.
Where: St Anne's Park, Raheny, Dublin
When: Sunday June 17th, 1pm-6pm
Cork Summer Show
Any junior foodies in your life will be delighted if you bring them along to the Cork Summer Show, which is the largest food market in Munster and has been running for more than 200 years. Each year, it draws 60,000 people over two days to about 70 food stands. It's a huge celebration of agricultural and food heritage, from Bluebell Falls Goat's Cheese to Clonakilty pudding. This year, the kids' zone features a free Noddy Train, bouncy castles, crazy golf, face painting, the Jeff & Elvis Performance Theatre Tent, archery, bungee trampolines and loads more.
Where: Showgrounds, Curraheen, Co Cork
When: Saturday and Sunday, June 16th and 17th, 9am-6pm
Cost: Adults €15, children go free
Hell & Back
We did this last year – well the children did it – and they were thoroughly delighted with themselves by the end. Covered head to toe in mud, they faced their fears and pushed mental and physical boundaries to get around the largest obstacle course in the country. This weekend, the event for the five-12 age group is completely sold out but there is still a Family Hell & Back where parents/guardians and children over 10 can do a 7km course designed by award-winning outdoor specialists. There is also still availability for the event aimed at teenagers aged 12-16. Ticket prices include a goody bag on completion of the course.
Where: Killruddery Estate, Bray, Co Wicklow
When: Sunday, June 17th. If you are attending the family event, arrive at 1pm; for the teenagers' event, come at 1.30pm.
Cost: Family event: €55 for adults, €30 over-10s; teenager event €40