Way back in 2009 contributor Amelia Wells visited Lounge on the Farm in Kent for Amelia’s Magazine. She was duly wowed by this small scale family orientated music festival and wrote a glowing review, so I promised myself I would make it along one day too. It’s taken me a mere four years to fulfil that promise, but this year my little family finally made the trip down to Merton Farm near Canterbury, mega pop up tent in tow (Quechua 4.2 seconds family pop up tent since you asked: can’t recommend it enough). How things have changed for me since 2009! Back then it would have been all about the late night dancing. Now my festival needs are somewhat different – I’m looking for a laid back atmosphere with space to relax with my baby, plus lots of things to keep him entertained. Lounge on the Farm does this admirably, with a dedicated childrens area called the Little Lounge full of wonderful willow structures, yurts and a miniature big top playing host to entertainments aimed at the wee ones. All this and a wonderful space hosted by the local NCT group: a haven for breastfeeding and nappy changing.
Lounge on the Farm by Jennifer Dionisio.
We arrived on Friday evening, and were directed to pitch our tent in the ‘quiet area’ rather than in the designated ‘family area’ at the top of the hill. Camping in the quiet area was an unfortunate choice as it turned out, since it was also a cut through from every other part of the camp and during the first night it seemed as if half the festival tripped over our (dark coloured) guy ropes and nearly crashed wholesale onto our slumbering bodies. In between this and constant breastfeeding (he’s teething, that’s the latest reason at any rate) I didn’t get the greatest of sleeps. But enough of the griping, we had a wonderful time.
Lounge on the Farm by Marianna Madriz.
Once we’d unpacked we headed into the festival to see what was on offer, a big eyed Snarfle in tow. After an impromptu tour around the working part of the farm we feasted on Merton Farm burgers, 0 meat miles. These were cooked in a kitchen at The Farmhouse Restaurant staffed by chef Rob Cooper, one of the founding DJs, and coincidentally the brother of my NCT friend Christine. It’s a small world, and growing ever smaller: his wife Vicky founded the festival 8 years ago with her friend Sean and nowadays works closely with a lovely ex student and ex intern of mine, James Penfold, who books all of the bands.
Lounge on the Farm by Emma Russell.
Everything at Lounge on the Farm has been lovingly thought through: there was a full Victorian funfair with helter-skelter and big wheel, hay bales aplenty to relax against and artwork everywhere I looked: lasercut painted sculptures and brilliant illustrated cutouts of festival goers from wonderful illustrations by Maddy Vian. The main site was split across three fields bounded by striking beech hedges, with plenty of space to rollick around: I hate it when festivals get stupidly busy and this was never a risk, though the music stages became packed enough to generate the ideal atmosphere for good bands. All the food we ate was delicious and in the main organic and local as well as very reasonably priced. Special mention must go to the fantastically tasty wild venison and wild boar burgers served up with duck eggs by Phil the Gameskeeper at the Godmersham Game stand: all hunted from the wilds of the Kent countryside. At The Farmhouse Restaurant the beer and ale had all been produced from Kent hops. The festival aims to support ‘the local arts, culture, agriculture and economy‘ and does so admirably.
Lounge on the Farm by George Morton.
I didn’t know many of the bands playing during the day time, but as always made some impressive discoveries: on Friday we were treated to Lucy Rose, a diminutive blonde with a guitar and a big voice. Sadly I missed the headliner Seasick Steve as it was early to bed for me: there was no way Snarfle was going to sleep with so much stimulation going on so we were tent bound by 8pm on both nights (and most handy when a huge thunderstorm struck on Saturday night).
On Saturday my big discovery was the lilting sounds of a Southampton based outfit called Pale Seas on the Farm Folk Stage: I loved the combination of evocative melodies from the lead singer, with backing vocals contributed by the unassuming female drummer. My other big discovery was the astonishingly tasty fruity drinks at the Sunshine Smoothies van behind the NCT tent – who would have thought that lavender would work with cherry? We visited the NCT tent on numerous occasions, where Snarfle enjoyed the Baby Sensory classes and free access to bedtime books. Outside there were toys to play with, edible gardens to make, bushcraft shelter classes, drumming, juggling and much more. The film tent (complete with popcorn stand) hosted a singalong Jungle Book showing.
At The Playhouse we enjoyed comedy excellently compered by John Robbins and cabaret from Lekido, Lord of the Lobsters (above).
Lounge On The Farm by Zo Bevan.
On Sunday I treated myself to a lovely massage in the obligatory Healing Fields, and enjoyed music by the Snowdown Colliery Band, Intensified and Aswad. I missed Margate based rapper Mic Righteous but heard good things. Sadly we missed Soul II Soul because after a long weekend of partying Snarfle was starting to fray at the seams. This was a massive shame since they are the sound of my youth (summer of 1989, ghetto blaster, Clapham Common, Brixton, The Fridge) and it would have been the perfect end to an absolutely glorious two days of sunshine, but we drove off into the Kentish night refreshed and just a little bit more in love with this beautiful and abundant part of the UK.
Lounge on the Farm by Rose Hudson.
What I love about festivals such as Lounge on the Farm is how they happily cater to all age groups – this was certainly the perfect boutique festival for London and Kent based families, but it was also thoroughly enjoyed by a younger local crowd. As night fell it seemed as if half the teenagers of Canterbury were thronging around the dance orientated Hoe Down tent in heightened hormonal anticipation. I may have seen far fewer bands than I would have done in years past (Snarfle was not always a keen wearer of protective headphones) but I had a wonderful time adapting our visit to the needs of a little one. We definitely plan to return next year, need I say more?
Categories ,2013, ,Amelia Wells, ,Aswad, ,Baby Sensory, ,Breastfeeding, ,Brett Anderson, ,Canterbury, ,Child Friendly, ,children, ,Emma Russell, ,Families, ,Family Orientated, ,Farm Folk Stage, ,George Morton, ,Godmersham Game, ,Healing Fields, ,Hoe Down, ,Intensified, ,James Penfold, ,Jennifer Dionisio, ,John Robbins, ,Jungle Book, ,kent, ,Lekido, ,Little Lounge, ,Lord of the Lobsters, ,LOTF, ,Lounge on the Farm, ,Lucy Rose, ,Maddy Vian, ,Margate, ,Marianna Madriz, ,Merton Farm, ,Mic Righteous, ,NCT, ,Pale Seas, ,Phil the Gameskeeper, ,Pop-Up Tent, ,Quechua, ,review, ,Rob Cooper, ,Rose Hudson, ,Seasick Steve, ,Snarfle, ,Snowdown Colliery Band, ,Soul II Soul, ,Sunshine Smoothies, ,The Farmhouse Restaurant, ,The Playhouse, ,Victorian funfair, ,Vine, ,Zo Bevan