So, as you may know from my Instagram page we recently attended Neverworld festival in Hever, Kent. Full disclosure: I asked for tickets for this event, filled out a PR form and was gifted 2 adult and 3 child tickets to attend. We paid for Fiona, our caravan, to come along for the literal ride (£70 for a large live-in vehicle) and we also splashed out an extra 70 quid for electricity for her. Our thinking was that if we have a working fridge then we can take along all the little necessities (milk, bread, beer) that make ‘camping’ with kids a little easier. Plus food at festivals is normally astronomically expensive for the five of us (50 quid for a round of hot dogs anyone?) so we figured we were making a saving by not eating food out.
This is the first, and possibly only, event I have asked to attend for free. The reason being that we went for the day last year as a family and had a great time but because we didn’t have a base to go back to we ended up leaving before the headliner because the kids (then 2, 3 and 6) had had enough. Also, because I’d missed the ‘kids go for free’ early booking deadline this year, for the five of us to attend at full price for the weekend we were looking at over £400. I will be bearing in mind that some people will have attended at this price during my review of the festival.
We couldn’t attend on the Thursday so arrived on the Friday afternoon – the idea was to arrive Friday morning but for various reasons (lost a motor mover – don’t ask because I don’t know either) and a hastily scheduled trip to a solicitor for a marriage annulment on the grounds that we can never leave anywhere on bloody time (not legitimate grounds apparently), we finally made it about 4pm on Friday – marriage intact, just.
A common theme running through the organisation of Neverworld was a lack of knowledge from the on-site staff. Please bear in mind the aforementioned marital arguments on arrival (and therefore the heightened emotions of the participants in our car) but all staff seemed a bit bemused when we asked where the caravans go. The people on the door said we’d ‘probably spot some on the way up the hill’ which was music to the ears of my husband, Mark, who was only towing the caravan for the second time and wasn’t sure if he could turn it round if ‘probably’ turned out to be ‘definitely won’t’. When we arrived at the top of the hill of probability (on which the odds were in our favour) the second person to guide us didn’t know where to put Fiona or where the electricity hook ups (that everyone had paid an extra 70 quid for) were. So we ended up driving around for a bit, leaving the caravan somewhere, asking someone else (also didn’t know) and finally being helped out by a friendly festival goer who guided us in the right direction. Remember we were arriving a day later than everyone else (there wasn’t the option for day tickets this year) so it is entirely possible that this experience was specific to us arriving later and most people being already set up.
Anyway, we donned the regulation glitter and headed off to the festival back down the hill of probability and into the area of certain excitement. The kids were bowled over by the set up – they had no recollection of the previous year (thanks kids) and so were seeing it with fresh eyes and wanted to do everything and go everywhere immediately which was fine by me as so did I.
Last year we spent the majority of the time at the beach area dancing in the sand and glitter wrestling in a paddling pool but this year we barely went in. Instead we spent a disproportionate amount of time at a sand pit near the main stage watching the kids play with a sand kitchen whilst we drank beer. I’ve had worse days.
The sand kitchen was near a child’s play tent where they were running a nanny service 12-4pm and 8pm-midnight. I tried to find out more information for the purpose of this review but the leaflet said ask at the information desk, and the people at the information desk, although helpful, had zero information for me. I suggest that they rename that area ‘the desk’. I did however talk to the lady who runs the nanny service who was incredibly nice and well set up. She ran an art and craft session instead of the 12-4 service because no one had booked in (presumably because they couldn’t). The idea of a nanny service during a festival is absolutely genius, particularly for people really keen to see a specific act, but at £75 for 4 hours I can’t see them doing a roaring trade (Neverworld set the prices). Particularly, if like me, you have 3 children – add that cost to the weekend ticket and you’re looking at £625 for the weekend, not including caravan price and electric. I’m writing this review from the caravan in France where I am on a week long holiday with the family for not much more than that.
Verdict – extras are too expensive if people have already paid full price.
Moral – book early and get reduced rate tickets if really keen to go.
If you’re interested in the toilet situation, as my eldest child always is, Neverworld have gone eco friendly which is obviously absolutely fantastic for the planet but pretty horrific for the gag reflex. Having said that the toilets were no worse than your average public toilet – more petrol station WC than John Lewis restroom, but it’s a festival – what do you expect?
I had friends at Neverworld so on the first evening I stayed out with them to watch Clean Bandit whilst the kids went to bed in the caravan with Mark – don’t feel too sorry for him – terms and conditions applied and we made a deal that he could watch Bastille the next evening. I have to say that the atmosphere whilst watching Clean Bandit was absolutely brilliant and part of me wished that the kids could have been up to see the fireworks and dance into the early hours but as luck would have it (for them) they could hear and see the fireworks from the caravan and were up pretty late listening to it and refusing to go to bed (you can feel sorry for Mark now).
On the Saturday we were up with birds as is the curse of the parent and as a result were VERY keen to get into The Neverland so that the kids could take solace from the incredibly hot sun in the cinema which promised to run from 10am. Rather annoyingly the gates didn’t end up opening until 11.20am which meant that a large group of people were left waiting to get in. Again, the on-site staff couldn’t help with any knowledge about the delay so we just waited instead of going back to the caravan which we would have done had we known it was going to be such a long wait.
Once into The Neverland the kids had an absolute ball. That evening we all ended up staying up to watch the headliner (yep, continue feeling sorry for Mark) and every single delay, the frustration over the lack of communication and the smelly toilets were obliterated in my memory as the overriding one will always be my 3 year old, Olive, on my shoulders with huge eyes and a wide smile during Bastille’s set. Her first full festival – it was absolutely magical and very nearly makes me want to insert a J.M. Barrie quote right now but I won’t because I am anything if not predictable.
Mark and I didn’t spend our 20’s going to festivals – we spent them having children and feeling a little like we were always looking in on something that other people did. I wish I could have told my 20 year old self not to worry, that she might spend her 20’s having children but she’ll spend her 30’s enjoying life with them. Going to festivals included. Thank you very much for having us Neverworld, we had an absolute blast and will be booking early so we can return next year – kids and Fiona in tow, hopes high and glitter a-plenty.
What if I fall?
Oh, but my darling
What if you fly?
You can book Neverworld tickets for 2019 here.