Thousands of festivalgoers began to descend on Scholar Green, on Friday (17th August) for the annual weekend of extraordinary escapism.
And as the 2019 edition of the Just So festival at Rode Hall proved, it gets bigger and better each year.
Just So promises a secret and joyous world — offering parents and children the chance to escape the everyday humdrum and delve into the magic of childhood —and each year it delivers just this.
As usual the hall’s parkland was divided into areas. The central area was the Village Green, with attractions including Bicycle Boy, a bicycle-powered musical for children about clearing out granddad’s shed and maypole dancing, with Phineas Fogg and his French valet circulating on hover-board mounted balloons, plus a marquee featuring day-long dancing.
Next to the Village Green, in the area normally used by the farmers’ market, were food supplies and the Footlights stage. It was graced by a number of bands this year, mainly of a folk/country persuasion, the highlights possibly being Perhaps Contraption, Biscuit Head and the Biscuit Badgers or David Gibb, of Belper, a Just So regular and a former a finalist of the BBC Radio Two young folk award who now aims his music more at a young audience, with songs about a disco teddy and space rockets made from paper clips.
Down near the lake were two areas. At Roll Up Roll Up, activities included circus workshops and tightrope walking with Chris Bullzini, who teetered across Rudyard Lake on a highwire a few years ago. He wowed the Just So crowd with a stunt in front of Rode Hall on Saturday night. Also at Roll Up, Roll Up were wacky band At The End of the World from Ramsackilicious, who think the end of the world involves steampunk and beating yourself about the head.
Rode Hall’s woods, normally home to wildflower walks, were where the most magical events took place, from the fairy queen to campfire stories, by way of cardboard harps and family yoga.
The festival always attracts a range of families, from bearded hipsters to carefree grandparents.
Peak Just So (ignoring Ramsackilicious, who are pure Just So) was possibly reached during a performance of the Don Quixote story by the ever-brilliant The Fabularium. Their retelling of the 17th century Spanish novel about the adventures of Alonso Quixano attracted an audience in the hundreds including — when the Chronicle watched it — BBC and Channel 4 journalist Matt Frei. He studied history and Spanish at Oxford, (we assume he attended with youngsters).
Aside from all these are the big events, often involving the tribal tournament, for which revellers dress up in different animal tribes (frogs, fishes, owls, foxes, stags, lions and bees). Children are rewarded for being good in various ways (from dancing well to looking good) by way of pebbles, which are added up to give a grand total per tribe.
A highlight of Saturday was the torchlit procession from the lakeside to the Village Green, and on Sunday the pillow fight, which this year took place in two locations — officially and unofficially!
● Early bird tickets for Just So Festival 2019 (16-18th August, Rode Hall Estate) — the 10th birthday — go on sale tomorrow (Friday). Visit justsofestival.org.uk for special early bird prices (under-threes free). As it’s the 10th Just So in 2019, 10-year-olds go free.
Local day tickets are available for people living in postcodes ST7, CW11 and CW12 at reduced rates; call 0844 870 0000 or 0121 472 6688 to buy.
The festival also offers free tickets to local charities: email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.