Deershed isn’t a cheap way to spend a weekend, so Harrogate Mumbler went along for the first time to see if it is worth it. What can I say? we absolutely loved it and have been raving on about it ever since. Is it for you? Read on to find out…
To set the context, I’ve been to plenty of festivals in my time, throughout my misspent youth, and even as recently as Download in June 2018, however never before had I considered (for a second!) taking the kids. Honestly, I had always viewed the festival experience as my away-time from the kids, a chance to listen to loud music and basically, well, not be mum for a weekend!
It was impossible not to hear the buzz about Deershed though, it’s only about half an hour away from Harrogate, near Thirsk and many of my friends already go year on year. I decided to give it a try with the famalam and managed to blag the motorhome off my parents (you can read about our 2017 adventures in “Dora the Explorer” here)
Deershed isn’t a day event, the tickets are for the whole weekend. You can either camp, take a caravan/ motorhome or if you really like a proper bed, it’s close enough to drive home each night (not that I’d recommend that- there were far too many delicious gin cocktails on offer… more on that later!)
My two daughters are 7 & 9 years old and they were incredibly excited at the prospect of going to their first festival. We had done our prep and had purchased glitter & hair mascara- Even Mr Mumbler’s beard got the festival treatment! My first impression of the site was how colourful, welcoming and relaxed it felt. The camp sites are all just outside the main arena and within easy walking distance. The campsites have porta loos and (chargeable) showers. It’s not glamorous, but as a seasoned festival goer I can report that as festival loos go, they were as clean as I’ve ever seen. The campsites were well spaced and they were quiet after dark- everyone is in the same boat of wanting to get their kids to sleep after a full day of festival fun. Basically almost everyone who goes to Deershed is a family- from brand new babies right up to teenagers and every age in between.
Inside the arena, it’s big enough to keep everyone entertained without feeling vast or unsafe. I was able to give my two girls a bit of freedom without feeling like they would get lost or overwhelmed. Moreover, the younger children are given a specific coloured wrist band and if a member of staff spots them alone, they will help re-unite you (for once, my girls actually didn’t test this facility!)
The main stage is situated at the bottom of a gentle hill which ensures that everyone has a god view. Families wisely took in camping chairs, rugs, sunshades and the true Deershed professionals took lights and decorations for the fabulous little pull-along carts that you can hire. (These are invaluable for pulling along little-ones or allowing them to snooze when they’re legs are done in)
The mainstage, wasnt actually the highlight for me though, whilst I really did enjoy the bigger bands, it was the smaller stages that did it for me. Sitting in the sunshine while the kids did some crafting, listening to some immensely talented young musicians whilst sipping a gin was just perfect!
Keeping the kids happy and entertained was where Deershed excelled. Our 4 favourite bits were as follows:
1. The Wilder Wild. This is a smallish area off the main stage in the shade. Mainly for crafting (most of which was free) my girls could have spent the full weekend in there. Particular highlights were the clay crafting (free) the Willow Weaving (free) and the free junk modelling (mercilessly shoving the kids aside, I made an amazing jellyfish model- I love a bit of crafting! ;)) My daughters also made a vinyl record mirror, leather bracelets and rode a cart pulled by a beautiful Newfoundland dog, they also listened to a fantastic interactive bedtime story around the campfire before bed.
2. The Science Tent. What a cool place! With everything from programming, bodies, planets, music, Meccano, slime making, VR, and so much more (again, most of it free). I embarrassed myself by not being able to order the planets correctly (My nine year old could do it of course: “There’s a nemonic, don’t you know Mum … My Very Enthusiastic Mother Just Served Us Noodles”- alright sweetie, no-one likes a show-off…” )
3. The comedy tent. I loved this! Some of the acts were pretty risqué, but they went entirely over the head of my 7 year old. My 9 year old however, thought that the acts were hilarious- any mention of toilet humour or body parts and she’s a fan.
4. The Food & Drink. What can I say, Wow, just wow! I had intended on making packed lunches and generally economising on refreshments but this idea went straight out of the window when I saw the quality and variety of the food on offer. Naturally, only because I want to give a thorough review of the offering, I sampled as much as possible…. From Greek food to Indian, Churros, Pizza’s Burgers, Cheese on toast, Fish and chips, fish finger sandwiches (yes, a whole van dedicated to the provision of this awesome food!) Tibetan, Tacos and just about everything else that you can think of. And it was ALL amazing! With regards to the bars, they were plentiful and the offering was varied. There were plenty of beers, cocktails I could go on at length here but i will give you the idea that I’m some kind of lush, who sits in a field at a festival drinking copious amounts of gin… ahem. Anyway, the bars were great- one was actually like someones front room, complete with sofas-a-plenty!
I’m running out of space now, to tell you more about this amazing festival, some of the things that I haven’t even mentioned are the MASSIVE sports arena, which hosts tons of sports. All of the time. Quiddich anyone!? More traditional activities included Yoga (it was lovely to see our favourites, Go Yoga there, crazy & disk golf, football, parkour, sock wrestling ( I have no idea what that is either…).
There was tree climbing (with harnesses right up into HUGE oak trees) and walk about entertainers seemingly everywhere. I bumped into this BRILLIANT marching band on my way back from the loos.
I haven’t even touched on the DJ’s, the theatre, the shows, the cinema (showing family favourites such as The Greatest Showman & Moana) the poetry & spoken word, the canoeing on the lake, the shopping or any of the pre-bookable workshops.
What I really loved was the attention to detail for families. The NCT were there and they hosted a group “baby bathtime” They also had bottle warming facilities, equiptment seterilising facilities and highchiars. You could even buy nappies on site if needed. The toilets had hand wash at 2 heights to ensure that little hands got cleaned too. There were swing ball sets all over the site, which allowed you to sit back and watch while your kids played safely. There were ear defenders on sale and the whole place had a total “families completely welcome” vibe.
Don’t get me wrong, taking your kids to a festival is never TOTALLY relaxing. By the end of the Sunday, you could see parents nerves were getting frayed (or maybe that was just me, trying to stay cool and all festival-chic” whilst nursing a slightly throbbing (and totally deserved) gin- hangover.) but all in all it was completely memorable and a brilliant experience.
Would I go back? Absolutely, in a heartbeat. I spent more time with my kids, crafting, playing and just chilling than I ever normally do; even at a weekend away somewhere.
If you’ve ever wondered about festival-going then I can’t recommend Deershed high enough. It’s just fabulous.
Deer Shed Festival began as a one-day, 1000-capacity event in 2010, in contrast, 10,000 attended Deer Shed Festival 9 in 2018 to witness its biggest ever music, arts and science line-up, with household names like Goldfrapp headlining the music bill and James Acaster headlining the PG comedy big top tent.
Deer Shed 10 will for the first time, allow general ticket holders to say on Sunday night. Previously, the Sunday night offering was an additional extra, with the festival proper closing at 6pm to allow families to get home at a sensible time.This new change means more bands, more acts, and the biggest Sunday night party Baldersby Park has ever seen, all at no extra cost to the festival goers!
2019 dates are 26th-28th July (one week later than usual) Deershed is at Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire
Disclosure: Mumbler was lucky enough to receive press tickets to this festival for free however we pinky promised to only write a truthful account of our weekend. Phew, we LOVED it! (otherwise that could have been awks!