Event organisers realise music lovers don’t want to forgo their annual festival fix just because they have children, so most venues now have designated child areas with face-painting, puppet shows and music lessons.
Seasoned concert-goers firefighter PJ McNamara, 35, and youth worker Bonnie Boyle, 34, have three children. Electric Picnic was the first big event to which the Co Clare couple took their children, in 2009.
“We have taken the kids to small festivals before, but the first major excursion was three years ago, when we took them to Electric Picnic,” says PJ. “Luckily it was a very positive experience, but bringing kids wasn’t taken lightly by either of us and we felt some help might be needed, so we brought a friend of Bonnie’s with us.
“When we arrived, Bonnie looked after the kids while I looked after haulage — being a regular concert-goer, I had pre-inflated air mattresses and other luggage duck-taped to a large, fold-up hand trolley. I would advise any parent going to a festival to bring a small wheelbarrow — kids just love being brought around in them, and, being Ireland, you need a bit of everything — from the factor-50 sun-cream to rain gear.”
At their first big festival three years ago, PJ and Bonnie brought their two children (Ethan, 14, Meanoiche, three) and were delighted with the facilities for families — they are planning to take their youngest child, Paidi Che, one, with them next year.
“The Picnic has an amazing kids’ section, like a crèche designed by the mayor of Wonderland — it has to be seen to be believed,” says PJ. “It is an over-18s and under-12s event, so there aren’t really any teenagers roaming about and the kids’ section is constructed with the same imagination as other adult areas.
“Ethan really enjoyed the music and while Meanoiche loved the play section, she was in her element with our camping-neighbours’ kids.
“This year, we are going to miss our first Picnic since 2004, as we spent our money on an old campervan. But we will be back in 2013: Ethan won’t be able to come to the family section, as he will be 15, but Meánoíche will be four and our little toddler, Páidí Che, will be two-years-old — so, on their behalf, I can accurately say ‘we can’t wait’.”
French-born Celine Moskalyk and her partner, Derek Elliott, from Dublin, are both 39 and have a one-year-old daughter, Evelyn. Celine (who works as a financial analyst) has been going to concerts for years and plans to indoctrinate her daughter into the music scene.
“I was 12 when I went to my first concert, with my older sister,” says Celine. “My parents dropped us off and collected us after and it went fine, because we were both pretty streetwise.”
Celine has become used to seeing children at concerts and says, as long as they are aware of their surroundings, a music festival is a great place for them to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy a fun event with their parents.
“There have always been people in our entourage who brought their children to festivals,” she says. “I have a friend who is 20 years older than me who brought her two children to Slane every year, until they became teens and wanted to go alone.
“Most venues try to cater for, and attract, families with face-painting or small shows for kids. So I would have no issue taking Evelyn to an open-air festival now, as long as we can come and go as necessary — and I would get some ear protection in case music is too loud.
“Festivals attract all sorts of people, with different tastes, so kids are exposed to many different styles and cultures. There can be a dance-music corner, a rock one and a traditional, all at the same venue. Exposure to different ‘worlds’ is always positive. Evelyn might even find a passion for country music if she got introduced to it. ”
Shane Dunne, of Indie Pendance Fest, says many music festivals are suitable for children, but parents should make sure they research the venue before booking tickets.
“Indie Pendance is totally suitable for families with a designated campsite, kids’ activities and free entry for under-12s,” he says.
“We provide wrist bands for children to wear, which will have their guardian’s phone number on them on the off-chance that their child does wander off.
“We also recommend a decent pair of ear protectors for the little ones. But, most importantly, parents should research any festival they are attending before they bring their children to make sure it is suitable — INDIE 12 definitely is.”
Lindsey Holmes, publicist for Electric Picnic, says the event is family-friendly and safety is priority. “The ‘soul kids’ children’s area at Electric Picnic is a wonderland for children and has a reception for babies, toddlers and children up to 12,” she says.
“It is programmed with all sorts of creative workshops, kids yoga, chill-out space for parents and games. For safety reasons, anyone wishing to stay in the family campsites must be accompanied by children of 12 years or younger — no adults without children will be admitted entry. The family campsites are restricted in space and must be reserved solely for families with children. Extended family, or relatives without children, must camp in general campsites.”
Neil Guerin, of Jack of Diamonds Rhythm and Roots Festival, also says that most music festivals are suitable for children.
“I do not feel that anyone, including children, should be excluded from any type of festival,” he says. “Be it music or whatever, it should be available to everyone, young and old.”
Liss Ard Festival, Cork, Aug 4-5.
Indiependence Festival, Cork, Aug 3-5.
Jack of Diamonds Festival, Dublin – Aug 17-19.
Electric Picnic, Laois – Aug 31 – Sept 2.
¦ For more information, visit www.musicfestivals.ie