Just So stalwart David Gibb leads the campfire singing.
Rode Hall’s Just So festival must be the only event in the country where a children’s entertainer dressed as a mad professor – recently returned from space and turned into a baby – can walk off stage and disappear into the crowd. He doesn’t stand out because most of the crowd is dressed as animals, wearing hats of varying degrees of silliness or otherwise in fancy dress. The real world most definitely does not apply.
This year’s event, the fourth at Rode Hall, was bigger and better than ever and the rain didn’t spoil the fun, though it was a shame not to get last year’s impressive thunder and lightning. (Come on you organisers, do better!)
For those who don’t know, Just So is a boutique family festival organised by not-for-profit outfit Wild Rumpus, which also organised the celebrations earlier this year at Rudyard Lake.
The festival (it started off near Rudyard, hence Just So) takes over Rode Hall, with the High Seas and Sail Cloth City down near the lake, the Spellbound Forest appearing in the woods, the Village Green in the open fields and Footlights the stage for live music, erected next to the barn familiar to visitors to Rode Hall’s farmers’ market.
The mad professor passing unnoticed into the crowd was part of The Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie’s Fantastical Flying Exploratory Laboratory, whose flying boat was probably to most complex piece of kit on site. The story had Dr Latitude trying to find the items needed to create a magical elixir. The show was mostly aimed at children but with double entendres and deadly puns for the adults.
Dr Latitude (left) and crew.
At the other end of the technical scale was the lantern-making, which saw 600 children create lanterns from dowling and tissue paper to take part in the lantern parade on Saturday night. The wind and rain deterred no-one at all as the parade, led by a giant heron and sun and moon lanterns, wended its way from the High Seas to the Village Green.
The highlight for us was undoubtedly Tales of Animalia in the Enchant Forest, people dressed as animals telling beastly and familiar fables, such as The Boy Who Cried Wolf, the Hare And The Tortoise and Town Mouse And Country Mouse as well as Raynard The Fox and Bedtime for Bruin. The show was presented by The Fabularium, a company led by Joshua Patel (Fox) and Gareth Price-Baghurst (Lion, accordion, and fan of Iron Maiden).
Town Mouse and Country Mouse.
One of the good things about Just So is that it offers entertainment for children of all ages, so over the years we have migrated from the Peekaboo baby section (baby yoga, clay baby) to the live theatre and spoken word – Ian Douglas’s story-telling went down a treat in the Enchanted Forest, as did the campfire singalong.
Next year we will try one of Just So’s strongest areas – the tribal tournament, in which visitors select a team and try to win a points competition, dressing up as their animal of choice. This year’s tribes were the Army of Frogs, Shoal of Fish, Parliament of Owls, Mob of Stags, Skulk of Foxes and Lion Pride, each with their own colourful leader, and tribe members dressed in often lavish pre-made costumes.
As well as the various children-only events there is live music, slightly more for the adults: this year saw live music in the Travelling Barn by the lake and on the Footlights stage, with bands including the local Jake Leg Jug Band, as well as bands with exotic names such as Rum Buffalo, Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers and Tell Tale Tusk. We particularly enjoyed folky rocker William The Conquerer, led by Ruarri Joseph, and whose albums we are now going to buy. Well worth checking him out.
Overall: too much to mention but another fantastic festival from Just So, and one that puts this area on the national festival map. It’s tiring though: we walked ten miles each day so by mile eight both parents and children are starting to feel it, though no-one ever wants to go to bed.
• Early bird tickets for Just So Festival 2017 (18th–20th August, Rode Hall) are on sale from tomorrow (Friday) at justsofestival.org.uk at special early bird prices of £120 (adults), £45 (child) for weekend camping, £70 (adult), £25 (child) for two day non-camping, £40 (adult), £15 (child) for day tickets. Under 3s go free. There are discounts for people with local postcodes.
Zorita on stage (Photo: Andrew Allcock).