Did a muddy Glastonbury look like tough going? Imagine doing it with a five-month-old baby in tow.
By Christine Jeavans
I had this really nice image of a sunny day at Glastonbury and me in Earth Mother mode with a baby on my hip. I've been going to the festival since 1993 and last year, when I was pregnant and the event had a year off, my husband Stu and I thought we should try and go again with junior... or Finn, as he might like to be called.
We had always seen plenty of people there with children and knew it was a family-friendly festival, but when we managed to get tickets (not for Finn because under-12s are free), we did start getting nervous about it.
'Can't we go any faster?'
I didn't know how Finn was going to react to big crowds and my main concern was that he would get too hot. As it turned out that was the least of my worries. The forecast wasn't good and it was raining in the weeks leading up to it, so we knew it wasn't going to be a dry festival. The 2005 floods were all too fresh in the memory.
Before we went, I checked some online festival forums for people talking about taking children. Some of them were going to camp but I didn't fancy that and we got a caravan. When packing, Finn was the priority and there was more stuff in the car for him than there was for us.
Out went the usual Glastonbury cargo of booze, in went carry-cot, nappies, anti-bacterial hand gel and enough wet wipes to clean the Pyramid Stage.
We also packed a pair of child-sized ear defenders because we were worried about the noise levels. I'd seen them on Apple Martin who was wearing them in Gwyneth's arms in the front row of Live 8, so I bought some on the internet.
Ear wear inspired by Coldplay...
We arrived on Friday evening and it wasn't raining. We put Finn in a papoose and at first he was quite excited by all the lights and activity. Before long however we discovered his nappy needed changing but where to do it? The best spot seemed on the bar next to the beer tent. We managed to change him without a problem but as we picked him up a girl spilt her pint on his leg. She was very apologetic but it did make us feel like terrible parents. Not for the first time we asked ourselves "What the hell are we doing?"
His first Glastonbury band was the Arctic Monkeys and we stood on the edge where it wasn't very crowded, but even with the ear defenders on it was too loud for him and he screamed his head off so we left after one song.
The next day we decided to change tactics and put him in a pushchair so he could sleep. We put bin liners underneath him and put the rain cover over him as well, so he was well protected, then headed down to the site. This meant tackling the mud and at times it did feel like more of an endurance event than a festival. The buggy has two big wheels and two small wheels, so it does cope with off-road conditions, but this was an extreme road test, for it and for Stu. At one point the wheels were three times their normal size, caked in mud, wood-chippings and straw.
FINN'S GLASTONBURY REVIEW
Arctic Monkeys - too loud
Lily Allen - smiley
The Killers - asleep
Iggy Pop - dig the entrance
Shirley Bassey - Glasto gold
We did see other parents with babies and felt like saluting them. Most people had pushchairs, although I saw some with double-buggies. Lots of people at the festival came up to say: "It's really nice to see a baby". One bloke took a picture "to prove to his girlfriend it was possible".
No-one was scary and I wasn't worried for his safety although I did see the festival with fresh eyes, being totally sober amid the mayhem.
Halfway through Saturday we needed a break so we went to the Kidz field as I knew that Mendip NCT had a tent there. It turned out to be a haven for bedraggled parents like us. They had baby baths and lots of other people in the same situation, which was reassuring - there was even a younger baby than Finn!
Back out at the music, Finn liked Lily Allen, it was sunny and we took him out of the pushchair for her. He slept through Iggy Pop - waking only for his entrance - and The Killers but on Sunday he really enjoyed Shirley Bassey.
I knew it was going to be a very different festival than normal so we didn't see that many bands. A lot of the time we were trying to get from one point to another because negotiating the hellish mud with the pram was extremely slow-going and tiring.
There were points when I thought "What are we doing?" and ideally we could have better got through it having either a baby or mud but both together was difficult. All the same, I'm really glad we did it and he was fine. He had lots of attention and lots of things to look at, and all his primary needs were met.
...and the highs
I would take him again but not until he's quite a bit older. So if it's on next year, he'll be going to his grandparents. But I hope that he will in the future think "Oh, that's quite cool, my parents took me to Glastonbury when I was five months."
A selection of your comments appears below.
Hey, it's great for babies and children to enjoy live music.... but a suggestion... a cloth baby sling would be much easier to get around with than a pram. The cloth ones distribute the weight really evenly so don't do your back in like the ruksack types. Look for 'babywearing' on the internet for tips.
Yah boo sucks to all the killjoys who bang on about 'innapropriate environments' and the like. It's not like they left him in a corner of a field while they went off for a crafty smoke... Finn may be small but he has already started writing his own story, and he has his parents to thank for that.
Alison, London, UK
I saw plenty of babies and kids there this year, and I think it's great and adds to the experience and atmosphere for everyone. The whole thing about Glastonbury is that everyone from babies to pensioners are welcome there and can participate and have a good time. Of course, they'll not remember anything about it when they're older, but so what, keep bringing them and each year the kid will get more out of it.
Glastonbury is ten times more stimulating for children than sitting them in front of the television like someone has suggested. Four months might be slightly young but all the kids in Glastonbury this year seemed really happy and enjoying the mud (what five-year-old doesn't). The green fields area is perfect for kids to explore in a safe environment, unless you deem the smell of weed inappropriate of course!
How lovely to have babies being changed on the bar next to a beer tent - it seems to me that parents spend too long thinking about whether they can, they never stop to think whether they should! Did it not occur to them that other patrons, who paid for their tickets, were not there for the sound of screaming babies??!
As a single parent with no parents of my own I have no-one to leave my child with. Anyway, I don't want to leave her, I want to live life with her. So, since before she could walk we've regularly been camping together. Going to a festival is just an extension of that. She's seven now and very used to camping and we're going to a music festival in a fortnight. As for mud and rain, whats the big deal? In this country you get lots of different weather in just one day. The real responsibility is not to leave kids out of living life but to be prepared, have the right equipment and make sure the childs needs are met AS WELL as your own needs. Compromise, not neglect or self denial.
Jane Langley, Worthing
You think this couple are mad... I have friends who took their four-year-old, two-year-old and one-year-old twins to Glastonbury this year. They had a fantastic time. Although they did say it was tiring........
Well done you! It's the sort of thing I did 30-odd years ago, and it's great that current misplaced anxieties re hygiene, safety etc aren't stopping you getting out there and living!
Why would anybody be so selfish as to take a baby to a festival like Glastonbury??? I'm not one for wrapping kids in cotton wool, but to put a baby in surroundings like that totally disgusts me.
Andrew Roberts, Cheshire, UK
Perhaps a bit young for your son but still well done to you and you hubby. It's nice to see you getting your son involved , even though he'd probably be equally pleased to go to his grandparents and get spoilt. Best of luck to all three of you.
As locals we get Sunday tickets and our kids had a fabulous time partly because of the mud which 5 yr old Toby spent most time pulling his wellies out of when he wasn't getting his face painted and having his hair braided with his sister Emily 7. Our life is kids at the moment so our festival was seen through their eyes - but they did love Shirley Bassey!
Helen, Chewton Mendip, Somerset
More people should include their children in their lives and interests. Our son attended Knebworth three times before his fifth birthday. He was also at the Queen tribute concert (with ear defenders!) a few days after his third birthday. He loved every minute of these events and the attention! Children are part of our lives, and providing their needs are met and they are safe, I think they should share as many experiences as possible, especially in the early years. I have always thought that sending the children to carers, no matter how loving, when they are inconvenient is irresponsible.
Fantastic, I was very impressed. Surely it is better to try things than do nothing at all. We have two children, the youngest just having turned one. We have talked about taking them in two/three years. Hats off to you for trying so soon.
Beverly Dixon, Felixstowe
You all look like you are having a fantastic time and in terms of taking a baby to Glasto I think each to there own! How you choose to bring up your child and what life experiences you choose to have with him are entirely up to you, well done and I hope you definitely take him back again!
Yet another example of inconsiderate parents forcing their kids upon adults that have no interest in them. Just like the inconsiderate parents that insist on taking babies with them on campsites so that everyone has a broken nights sleep listening to them yowl. I'm sure everyone trying to enjoy the Arctic Monkeys got a real thrill out of listening to your boy scream.
I have ten month old twins and I was wondering what it would be like to take babies to a festival. It sounds very hard but well done for doing it. Mud and prams? Mmmmm....... He is an adorable baby by the way.
You are now parents, you children come first, not your idiotic idea of a good time for young babies and he is only a baby!!!!!
What an inappropriate environment to take a child, especially one of such a young age. Given that you have been to Glastonbury practically every year since the 90's, was it really that necessary to do it this year. Do you not own a TV?? Pure selfishness if you ask me. Grow up and be responsible parents.
What is all the fuss about, was the baby harmed in anyway? No. The parents did a splendid job. Baby came first all weekend. They might not do it again for sometime but don't criticise. IT'S NOT YOUR DECISION.
As for how your decision was 'madness' or 'utterly stupid,' different parenting styles for different folks. Besides, from the photos, Finn looks like he quite enjoyed himself!
Michael, Charleston, SC, USA
Surely there are more appropriate festivals to take a young child, if you have to. The Big Chill, for example is much more geared towards families, with plenty of children present and no need to get close to the stage to enjoy the bands. Deliberately taking a young child to an environment where the noise is too loud even with ear defenders seems a bit foolhardy to me.
What an awesome idea! People should take into account the fact that you're such "selfish" parents that you left a gig when it proved too loud for him, bought "ear defenders" (love it!) for him, and at all times went out of your way to make sure he was happy and safe. Hats off to you, and everybody else take note - life begins with babies, not ends!
Samantha Mitschke, Birmingham, UK
Have to take my hat off to you. He looks quite the happy chappie and a great introduction to music. I've a 4 month old son Jamie, and he listens to quite a bit of music with me. Who knows maybe next year we'll take a trip over. PS loving the ear defenders :O)
Rory, Co Wicklow Ireland
Don't understand - why????? Fair enough for those old enough to enjoy the atmosphere and music but what exactly does a baby get out of it. 2008 - use the grandparents or better still, stay at home and watch it on telly - sometimes responsible parenting means making compromises!
Just a quick comment to say as a parent of a three-month-old, hats off to you. I would never attempt it. Also where did you manage to buy the ear defenders and where did you get the hat in "the lows.." picture? Thanks and Congratulations on getting through the weekend
I loved the picture of the baby looking out the window, he looked so cute. Very brave decision to take a baby but it will be great to look back on in years to come - and everyone loved Shirley Bassey!
Jackie, Maidstone, Kent
We were seriously considering taking our four-month-old twins at one point - your article has made me very glad we didn't
Jon C, Manchester
I took my 3 month old baby, Josef to the Leeds festival last year, which was irony, as he was conceived at Leeds the year before! We braved it in a tent... I'm a single Mum so had no partner to help me and we had an absolutely WONDERFUL time! I wouldn't like to take a more "mobile" baby who would be into everything, eating mud etc. But what an experience! There should be more festival babies!
Alada Murray, Co Durham
Taking a kid to Glastonbury, madness in my book, so don't moan about the mud.
Gav Smith, Sheffield
We've always taken the view that our son came into this world to live with us, not for us to completely revolve around him. OK, it's hardly the same level of deprivation as Glastonbury, but we had 3rd row seats for Eric Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall when my wife was 8 months pregnant. He (our son) must have been impressed as he popped out a few weeks later on Eric's birthday!
Art, Hertford, UK
What a charming baby, and well done you two. I wouldn't have attempted it. A wonderful picture of Finn smiling, what a lovely little boy! Well done all of you.
Ros Johnson, Exeter, UK
You must be mad - it was nothing to do with him, only your selfishness... perhaps later in life you will realise that your children come first!
We have a two-year-old and are planning another soon. Still haven't been to Glasto so I was quite excited, reading through this, until the brave lady said she wouldn't take Finn again until he was older. I guess another couple years wont hurt...sigh.
S, Congelton, Cheshire, England
Brilliant!! Great to know you don't feel like life has ended just cause you have a little one. Instead you are making new memories with him in them. Bravo to you.
Leonie Field, Braintree Essex
I can't think of a more inappropriate environment for a young child. How utterly stupid.