16-20 July 2014
Reviewed by Amanda Hayes
What a fabulous time we had at the Larmer Tree Festival, which was held at Larmer Tree Gardens, around 15 minutes south west of Salisbury. We have been to a few festivals in our time and generally they can be a bit disorganised but this is definitely not the case with the Larmer Tree. My dad lives 40 minutes away from the festival so we were lucky enough to get a babysitter for the first night, and so after leaving my son, we headed off for the short drive which was superbly signposted. Although as you got closer you didn’t need the signs as the venue was lighting up the sky from miles off!
We had come straight from work, leaving Sussex for the journey so it was fairly late when we arrived on Thursday night but we were greeted straight away and directed to the box office to pick up our wristbands. The box office was extremely efficient and sorted out our permits, wristbands maps and guide book within a few minutes. After umming and aahing a bit over whether to take raincoats we stuck with shorts and headed off straight to see Squeeze who were just about to start playing on the main stage. We checked out the bar first and was pleasantly surprised to see that the drinks prices were really reasonable, so we grabbed a couple and went to the main stage which is set apart from the rest of the areas, with its own bar and coffee/snack bars. When Squeeze started the crowd went crazy and we were soon all dancing to various hits such as Up the Junction and Cool for Cats. The sound, amazingly, was great as it can be a bit weak in outdoor venues. We watched the whole set which was great and then set off for a wander around. In the main area there were a couple of shops open, a fab artists shop full of prints and a music shop selling CD’s of all the bands over the weekend. The Squeeze album was going like hot cakes as the band had arrived for signings, I didn’t queue but a did get a few good pictures before setting off to find the Comedy tent. Most of the other shops were closing up as it was around 11pm but all the food stalls were still open and they smelt great.
The comedy acts in the Arc, a large domed marquee, went on until 1.00am so we decided to stay watch all the remaining acts and then head back, luckily we managed to find a space on the floor inside as it absolutely chucked it down with rain and although that stopped later on in the evening the thunder and lightning carried on for hours. It was one of those days I was glad not to be camping!
The following morning we set off back to Larmer Tree with our toddler in tow. He was fascinated by pretty much everything, and there was so much for children of all ages to do. There is a whole area dedicated to children, with its own café, play area and shows, there is even a baby changing tent. There is also the Youth Zone for older children aimed at 11-17 year olds. Activities ranged from baby massage to toddler music to good old fashioned card games. We had brought our son some ear defenders so we could relax and listen to the bands knowing the music was not too loud, it did take a while to convince him to wear them though!
There are eight different zones in the festival, The Main Lawn, which has the main stage, The Big Top, which has a large selection of different bands throughout the festival, The Arc, which has new bands and comedy acts, The Pavillion, showing films and talks, The Social for an eclectic mix of music, Youth Zone, Larmer Parler for 0-10 year olds and the Lostwood and Water Garden for chilling out. The Pavilion showed some classic films such as Bugsy Malone and American Graffiti which was a fun way to take it easy for a couple of hours. The Socials stays open really late, with DJ’s starting around 1.00am after the bands finish so you can party hard if you want, to be honest it was a bit loud for me, which is showing my age I know!
Over the next couple of days we visited all the zones, as we listened to new bands in the Arc and The Social, saw comedy acts, joined in with some of the family activities such as Bollywood dance, shopped at the vintage market and the bazar and tried all sorts of food. The food selection really is great from curry to pizza, seafood to sheep’s milk ice cream. There really is something for everyone. If you are camping there is even a shop selling basics like milk and bread and a locker area so that you can keep your valuable safes, which can sometimes be a problem at festivals. The camping is spread over a large area so there is plenty of room to spread out and there is security patrolling and a booth on entry which gives peace of mind.
It was disappointing that due to work commitments we could not make it Wednesday night to see Tom Jones and had to leave Sunday before Tom Odell, but we still had a fabulous time. Everything was so clean including the toilets, and really well organised. If you are intending to visit next year, which I highly recommend, don’t forget that Saturday is dress up day so bring your wackiest outfits as everyone is wearing something weird or cool or a combination of both.
The Larmer Tree is definitely the best festival we have attended as a family and I really hope we can make it back next year. It will be their 25th anniversary and they are promising something extra special so don’t miss out.
For more information or to book SUPER EARLY BIRD TICKETS for next year (15-19 July 2015) visit www.larmertreefestival.co.uk.