Reviewed by Amanda Hayes
As the Sunrise Festival is billed as the one of the UK’s most family friendly festivals by the Sunday Times, I set off with my husband and 4 month old son to Thurlstone Park, near Bath, to put the claims to the test.
It didn’t start amazingly well, the website was difficult to navigate, the picking up advance tickets was arduous and site maps non-existent, so when we got to the camping area to be told the family section was now all mixed with couples & groups of singles we were decidedly worried. We were told just find a space and pitch your tent so that’s what we did fearing the worst. We couldn’t have been more wrong, our very near neighbours, we were all practically pitched on top of each other, were all extremely friendly and ranged from families with small children to groups of young lads. There was a really great vibe around the site, everyone going out of their way to talk to each other.
We pitched, had a cup of tea, and set off to check out the site. The festival was set in a huge area of land and was separated into different themed areas. There were thousands of people there and yet it didn’t seem crowded at all due to the size of the site, a good 20 minute walk from one side to the other. There was a large main stage surrounded by eating and shopping areas, an area for alternative therapies, workshop area, children’s area and two other themed areas both with music and eating. The shops were mainly festival supplies, jewellery & clothes, with a huge selection of wigs & hats for dressing up in the evening. There was a large choice of therapies to be tried including Thai massage, reflexology and the interesting gong bath! Prices ranged from £10 to £30. There were also hot tubs were you could get a hot soak, shower and glass of champagne for £33, unfortunately they were fully booked as it looked great. Moving on from the therapy area were the workshops ranging from crafts to dance & talks on everything from politics to finances. The craft workshops were great, something for everyone from small children to adults, making pendants started at £2 each, wooden stool carving £10 and leatherwork £20 so for not too much money you could make something sustainable to take home. We spent a fun hour designing and making copper necklaces and for £2 each it seemed good value. Next to the workshop area was a large kid’s area including sandpits, skateboarding, archery, space hoppers & dressing up clothes, again something for all ages.
Alcohol was only allowed into the camping areas not the main festival site so drinks had to be purchased from the several bars around, this seemed to stop any potential trouble as I didn’t see a single person worse the wear from drink. I can’t comment on the quality of the food as we didn’t eat from any of the vendors, part of the fun of camping is cooking your own food I think, but they were reasonably priced and had a good selection, mainly vegetarian but also pizza & hog roast.
The music was an eclectic mix with everything from drum & base to modern folk and ranged from folk bands in small marquees, DJ’s playing open air sets and a large outdoor main stage with a full line up of bands. The music was a quite loud for little ears and we saw several families with child size ear muffs, they had obviously been to lots of festivals!
One of the great things about this particular festival was its green element, all throughout the main site and camp site were large recycling areas with bags for everything from milk cartons to nappies. They also had composting loos and requested sparing use of water.
I definitely recommend Sunrise whether you have a family or not. Camping is basic, no shower blocks and a mixture of compost toilets and portaloos so you do need to take plenty of water with you for washing etc… but the toilets were clean and regularly emptied. With music, dancing, workshops and play areas there really is something for everyone at Sunrise.
For more information on Sunrise visit www.sunrisefestivals.co.uk