Sarah - Wild Rumpus
Just So Festival – a reflection on the past nine years
Photo Credit: TenEight
Just So Festival is an annual weekend-long camping festival for children and their families. The festival takes place in the grounds of Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire and provides a magical experience where art, music and literature are embedded and entwined in a beautiful and wondrous landscape. Sarah Bird, Director of Wild Rumpus, talks to us about the creation of the festival
Just So Festival had its first outing in 2010 for an audience of 2500 people at a scout camp in Staffordshire. We set it up, myself and Rowan (Hoban), because we wanted to play outdoors for a weekend, to sing, dance and have creative adventures with our families and other like minded folk.
We loved the atmosphere at weekend music festivals, the freedom it offered and potential it created for making family memories, but we felt like there was a bit of a gap for a festival that was completely focused on families, where they were the main event and where the programming budget was being spent.
That was nine years ago now and heading into our 9th Just So Festival in the UK, plus editions of it in Brazil and in New Zealand; we have learnt heaps and refined our concept and our vision and hopefully upped our game quite dramatically from that first year when we were making it up as we went along.
We’ve learnt loads about programming, logistics, marketing and audience development, much of this down to the networks we’re part of like Big Imaginations and Without Walls, amongst others, and the collaborations that spring out of those networks. We’ve developed some wonderful partnerships with inspiring artists, and built invaluable relationships with sponsors and funders. But what was perhaps the most surprising thing of all to us was how much we learnt from our audiences.
I think unlike in that first year we now recognise going into the festival that our job is to build a creative environment, to take people out of their everyday world, to surprise and delight them with incredible performers and inspiring workshops. However, it’s important to remember that once we’ve done that, we rely utterly on them, our audience, to arrive, to create the momentum and enthusiasm, to participate and engage and to throw themselves into the festival with gusto – no matter what the British weather has decided to serve up. Without them and their incredible creativity, their amazing costumes, and their energy and enthusiasm the festival would be flat and uninspiring. So our job is mostly about creating the conditions and giving them permission to throw away their inhibitions, to be ridiculous and to join us for a weekend of incredible mischief making.
Sarah Bird Director
This year’s Just So Festival will be taking place 17 – 19 August 2018 justsofestival.org.uk