Byline Festival: celebrating free speech and political debate – a family perspective

September 4, 2018

Byline Festival really is a one of a kind event. The festival aims to promote independent journalism and free speech through the means of music, performance, debate and creativity. 2018 was the second year the festival has run at it’s home in Pippingford Park in East Sussex with the line-up including Gary Lineker, John Cleese, Alexei Sayle, The Blow Monkeys, Badly Drawn Boy and Pussy Riot to name just a few! Sounds incredible right? But is Byline suitable as a family festival? I visited with my 3 year old son and 8 year old daughter to check it out..

Pippingford is a magical place embracing views over ancient woodland and rolling moors…. as you approach Byline you are hit with a stunning outlook across the Ashdown Forest and the scene is set. The location offers itself as a natural playground from the outset with rope swings, crooked bridges and woodland adventures around every corner. Logan loved exploring the giant spiderwebs dotted through the woods and Daisy spent hours giggling on the rope swings making friends.

Despite the underlying, political theme of the festival we found plenty of activities geared towards children. The House of Fairy Tales provided children with their own creative space allowing them to try a range of aspects of media life from recording a podcast to anchoring their own tv show. Daisy was fascinated with the costume department and Logan was intrigued by all the props and set design.

The fun didn’t stop here…the event offered numerous ways for children to engage in learning and fun around creative themes. We got involved in a tie-dye workshop, experimented with giant sound funnels, explored a London bus and played torch light laser quest in the woods….and this was by no means everything that was on offer!

We didn’t camp at the festival so we didn’t manage to see all of the headliners. However I spent Friday night in the main tent with Daisy where we watched Kings and Castles followed by Badly Drawn Boy. I wouldn’t usually take my 8 year old daughter to a late night music festival but the vibe at Byline was friendly and laid back…the perfect introduction to live music. We watched Kings and Castles with a building audience, both of us being impressed with their indie style and enjoying their whole set. As Badly Drawn Boy entered the tent was filled to capacity. Despite this we were able to sit near the front with a great view and the audience remained calm and considerate. It was clear that Badly Drawn Boy was a hit with the now substantial audience…his dreamy melodies bringing the crowd together along with some great anecdotes between songs. All in all an incredible show that certainly accommodated for families and an experience we’ll both treasure.

Byline Festival has clearly gone to great efforts to appeal to families and I really think it’s paid off. We felt very welcome and the children found numerous activities that interested them appealing to both toddler and school age.

In addition there’s a fantastic range of pop up dinners catering for all culinary tastes from hardcore meat-eaters to vegan and veggie. Some of the debate topics were of a more ‘grown up’ nature but we found we could dip into discussions that interested us whilst the children played close by. This is the second year we’ve attended Byline and I would recommend it to anyone. The event is extremely good value and offers something quite unique…and if you live within 10 miles of the venue (like us) they offer great discounts on your ticket prices! Tickets for the 2019 festival are on sale now. We’ll certainly be there…will you?

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