Kaleidoscope: The festival that is Electric Picnic for families

Pictures: Ruth Medjber

Children will be spoilt for choice at the inaugural Kaleidoscope festival this weekend, writes Ciara McDonnell

It’s 15 years since the inaugural Electric Picnic, when our collective perceptions of what a music festival was meant to be were blown to smithereens and the landscape of Irish festivals was changed forever.

Since then, the organisers have grown up and started families of their own. This weekend, the team behind EP are producing Kaleidoscope Festival, the first ever music and arts festival for families in Wicklow’s Russborough House.

Sorcha O’Reilly, one of the festival’s creative directors, says Kaleidoscope has been brewing in their collective imaginations for a number of years now.

“A big part of the thinking behind the festival was that there are lots of ‘family events’, but in most cases, this really means a kids event, so you have the kids catered to, but the adults aren’t.

Or you have an adults’ event that has a kids area added on as kind of an afterthought.

Together with Richard Seabrooke, the festival’s other creative director and EP alumnus, Sorcha has created a programme that appeals to the whole family, from babies right up to granny and granddad.

Over three days, Kaleidoscope will present performances from artists including Bell X1, Imelda May, the Riptide Movement, and Tom Odell across 15 stages. Their creative programme has been tailored to suit what the organisers view as the modern Irish family. There’ll be programmes streamed for ages 4-8, 8-12, and 12-16, as well as offering complete family friendliness at all main stages.

They’ve teamed up with Fighting Words and Science Gallery and animal enthusiast Collie Green to offer workshops and activities that children actually want to take part in.

With an emphasis on ease, Russborough House was an easy choice of venue for the team, says O’Reilly.

Accessibility wise, Russborough House is incredible. The car park is side by side with the campsite and right in front of that is the beginning entertainment space, so you’re talking about five minutes to get from car to campsite.

With car to campsite sorted, facilities were next on the list. “When you are planning a family event, the facilities are just as important as the programming. We wanted to make sure that new Mums would feel comfortable being there.

"We all know that list that we have to write before we go anywhere, and often that is the hardest part of the trip, so we wanted to make sure that there are lovely facilities in the campsite with sterilising facilities and clean and gorgeous changing facilities.”

As a mum to a two-year-old daughter, planning Kaleidoscope has made Sorcha see festivals through a new, parenting lens. “I love festivals and I think that Electric Picnic is truly the most beautiful beast, but with a two-year-old I would like the festival experience to be a little bit easier and more focused on the family,” she explains.

“My daughter is two years old and the Rumpledumple tent is basically for her. She’ll love the teddy bears’ picnic sing-along, because she loves music.

I know she’ll love the workshops that the National Concert Hall will be hosting — she loves banging things and making music.

"We’ll have her at the baby rave too; she just loves to dance.”

The Leaving and Junior Certificate exams ended over the past week or so and the team feel that it’s the perfect opportunity for these students and their families who are supporting them to unwind quickly and be able to start the summer in a really positive way.

Kaleidoscope: The festival that is Electric Picnic for families

Earlier in the month, festival organisers announced that all students who undertook the exams this summer could apply for a free festival ticket.

“It’s a relatively new concept to be able to bring your teen to a festival in many ways,” says O’Reilly. “I think that it is such a brilliant bonding experience for teens and their parents to attend an event like this together. There is a kind of levelling that happens in the field, where you become peers with your teens, and that is a really beautiful thing.”

Like most of us, Sorcha cites Bell X1 as a must-see but is most excited about the Kaleidoscope Choir. “Dublin Gospel Choir are inviting anyone who is attending the festival to join them for a rehearsal and then they can go and perform with them live on Main Stage... I think to see kids on stage singing their heart out is going to be one of the most amazing experiences.

"Over the years I’ve had the change to be on the main stage of a festival, looking out at the crowds and it is one of the most amazing experiences you’ll ever have.”

In a world dominated by screens and fear and loss of imagination, the people behind Kaleidoscope have done what they always do; reintroduced us to our inner child. What a treat to be able to share it with our own children.

- Kaleidoscope takes place until tomorrow at Russborough Estate, Co Wicklow. Tickets for Sunday can be purchased at kaleidoscopefestival.ie

FAMILY FESTIVAL SURVIVAL GUIDE

Safety first: Write your number on your child’s arm in biro or permanent marker just in case they get lost;

Choose the right camping: Consider your kids’ ages when choosing your campsite. Younger families will benefit from the quietest site, while young teens may like one with a little more life;

Get your kit right: Decent sleep makes the day more manageable. Bring decent mats, good sleeping bags, and earplugs;

Kid Kit: Consider ear defenders for children who are sound sensitive, and don’t forget to pack fancy dress.

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