I couldn’t go to the common people festival myself so I sent my correspondent, sister-in-law and best friend and her family instead. Here are her thoughts on the experience. She has 2 children under 6 and goes to festivals regularly.
We are all Common People
So… Midwife and Life sorted us out with tickets to Oxford’s Common People festival. Having lived in Oxford in the late 90s we were looking forward to a spot of reminiscing and partying like it’s 1999. (As much as you can with children age 5 and 3 in tow anyway. I’ll call them Thing 1 and Thing 2).
Snazaroo, the face paint people, had booked us a hotel in Summertown. We had to catch two buses to get to the festival, but as we knew where we were going it wasn’t too much hassle. The children were totally not bothered by the architecture and history of Oxford, but they did enjoy sitting on the top deck of the bus so that’s a win.
We were excited to hear the main stage as soon as we got off the bus on Cowley Road. Getting in on the VIP fasttrack was welcome after a faff with the box office but then we were in and ready to explore! The children led the way with shouts of ‘This way!’ and ‘Lets get our face paint done!’ We wandered through the festival dancing to the Jungle Brothers until we spotted the lampshades of The Nook – our home for the weekend. Snazaroo had invited us to get our faces painted so we followed the people adorned with painted flowers and festival creatures right down to the front to their stall. It was great, we could enjoy The Cuban Brothers while we waited for our turn. We were gifted a bag full of face painting goodies, which we stashed for back at home, and got festival ready with face paint all round. The Snazaroo painters were very patient – I’d been googling face paint ideas and some of my favourites were a bit too detailed for the quick turnaround they wanted but I settled on a leopard look over one eye and was pleased with the result. Adam went tribal raver and Thing 1 opted for a unicorn (of course). Thing 2 didn’t fancy his face being painted and had a lizard painted on his arm instead. Ready to face the Common People of Oxford we set off (after a trip to the VIP loos and bar of course).
Thing 1 and Thing 2 decided it was high time we concentrated on them so we headed to the children’s field. It was far enough away from the main stage to give frazzled families a bit of space to relax in and shade for little ones to run around. There were workshops from the Oxford Playhouse, Pegasus Theatre, The Story Museum and also the Bigtopmania Circus with a bunch of huge inflatable balls, slack line tightropes and an area full of bikes, trikes and unicycles. Big kids were catered for with a mobile climbing wall and sports area and there was a big pirate ship sandpit and swingboats too. We stayed way too long and only came out in time to see General Levy on the Carnival Stage – after a detour to the biggest bouncy castle in the world! Can you guess who was in in charge of the family this weekend?
Our pint sized rulers do love a bit of Jungle though and were soon bouncing around on our shoulders near the back of the crowd. I have no idea how old General Levy is now but he was on fire and the crowd were loving it! Soon enough though our time was up and we headed back to the children’s field for more circus skills!
The Nook was our home for the rest of the evening – we enjoyed having the sandpit down the front where Thing 1 and Thing 2 played while we watched the New Power Generation. We had a view of the Jacksons that we would never have had if we were stood at the back of the crowd; and with our double buggy we would never get any where near the front so were well pleased with that. The children snuggled up in the buggy in time for us to get our groove on and having that space in a festival of 30,000 made it really easy to relax and enjoy the music.
Getting home was less relaxing as we missed the sign for taxis and failed to find a black cab to fit us and the sleeping Things in. We ended up walking into the city and running for the night bus. How we got Thing 2 home and into bed without him waking up is a wonder! Thing 1 enjoyed a midnight feast back at our hotel (at midnight rather than the 9.30pm ones we usually fool her with on sleepovers) and we gratefully fell into our beds. I was really missing our tent at this point!
Day 2 had more of an indie lineup and we really enjoyed Elvana from outside the fence as we had craft beers and a picnic before going in. Unfortunately we were frisked for contraband and had to wolf down some chicken drumsticks at the gate! They let us in with crisps and apples – and didn’t find the pitta and hummus – anything to supplement the 3 different types of chips we ate the day before!
Sunday was really humid – we were prepared for storms – and although the forked lightening flashed throughout James’ set it never rained and our face paint stayed intact. I don’t feel like we saw much music but highlights included Craig Charles, Honeyblood and the London African Gospel Choir. James were great but a bit indulgent playing at least 3 new songs – who wants that in a festival set? This means we heard my favourites Laid and Sometimes as we were walking the really long way across the park to the taxi rank. However we walked straight up to a black cab, back to our hotel and got Things asleep no problem.
Back home and Thing 1 couldn’t wait to get the face paints out. We spread them all out and debated who was going to paint who. Adam was safe at work and I was squarely in the firing line. Thing 2 started on my arm and Thing 1 was all professional using the sponges to paint me as the tiger I requested out the book. Concentrating on the work of Thing 1, I didn’t notice that Thing 2 was carefully painting my nails pink… and then his own! I think I make a fierce tiger – I certainly wouldn’t like to meet me down a dark street looking like this! I am no expert but had a good go painting a golden unicorn and a crescent moon on Thing 1 and Batman and Flash logos on Thing 2.
We had a great time at our first festival of the year and with at least another 3 before the end of the summer to come, one thing is certain – my facepainting skills are going to get better and better!
Thanks Jenny at Midwife and Life and thanks for Snazaroo for our festival tickets.
Disclosure: we were gifted the festival tickets and hotel stay in return for this post. All opinions are the writer’s own.