Why children don’t belong at Irish music festivals

‘All Together Now’ reminded me of one important thing: music festivals are playgrounds for adults, not kids


While music festivals are a place for childish behaviour, they are not a place for children. Over the past 10 years, music festivals in Ireland have morphed driven by the view that a festival is a space for everybody, from teeny tots to octogenarians and music lovers to people who are happy to play in bumper cars all day without seeing a single act. But the harsh reality is that music festivals, even if they come equipped with high-end children’s areas, are not for everyone and it’s time we found the proper divide.

This isn’t an article on parent shaming. It’s an article on festival organisers trying to achieve too much with their events, leading parents to bring their kids for weekend of camping in an environment that immediately becomes unsuitable once night-time falls.

Most festivals this summer promote incredible children’s areas, with Body & Soul, Electric Picnic and All Together Now topping the pile with high quality facilities. Dedicated areas with entertainment, child-friendly music and games are available each day of the event. Each  festival has designated family camping area, ensuring everyone can have a good night’s sleep without overhearing their neighbours stumbling home at 6am or hearing them talk pony all night long. And let’s be honest,  people tend to talk a lot of pony in the early hours of a festival.

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All Together Now

At All Together Now over the August Bank Holiday weekend, I saw three miserable children under the age of 10 wearing their protective headphones and sitting on the wet ground as their parents danced away to Jon Hopkins.

One friend spotted people tripping over a buggy that nobody could see.  I saw parents shushing their children when they were bored at Ólafur Arnalds. Even if there are Ferris wheels, ice cream trucks and woodlands for children to play in during the day, when darkness falls, a festival becomes a different place altogether, as people getting drunker and some taking drugs. When masses of people are making their way from one stage to another, it’s difficult to see small ones and it seems that surely they run the risk getting separated from their parents and potentially getting lost.

"You can’t really take that break if you have to play the strict parent."

I can understand the appeal of parents wanting to share the experience of music festival with their children. Maybe they want to offer their offspring a glimpse of how they spent their teen years and their 20s and 30s. When childcare is so expensive, it can make more sense to bring the kids with you instead of shelling out loads of cash for a minder.

Extra challenges

However, music festivals are a place to take a break from reality. And you can’t really take that break if you have to play the strict parent. I saw a mother giving out to her daughter one morning, saying that “she has to behave herself when she brushes her teeth in public” when all she was doing was spitting in the grass because she couldn’t reach the sink.

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To me, it seems unfair to scold a child for doing something you wouldn’t have to give out to them about in the real world. It also feels like an added pressure to be a parent who can balance it all.

"Children aren’t allowed in Irish pubs from 9pm, so why don't the same rules don’t apply here?"

If you can take the break, embrace it. Why create extra challenges for yourself?

I posted a hyperbolic statement on Twitter, saying that I didn’t know if All Together Now made me anti-kids, anti-parents or both and the replies I received were mostly from people in agreement. The conversation turned to music festivals in general, with one parent saying that she brought her son to Beatyard and he hated the noise, the toilets, the drunk people and the number of people smoking.

Another parent brought his young son to the same festival and had a great time seeing his son dance to different kinds of music but he left early, saying that “there’s a cut-off point” for kids at festivals.

Irish pubs

Children aren’t allowed in Irish pubs from 9pm onwards so when people are drinking all day long for three days straight at a music festival, I don’t understand why the same rules don’t apply here.

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Keeping children out of pubs at night is a safety and a cultural consideration that festivals and parents who want to bring their kids to festivals need to take on board. Would you let your kids hang around Camden Street at midnight on any given night of the week?

While the children's areas in the mainstream festivals are incredible, the overall nature of music festivals - loud music, large crowds, all day drinking, late-night partying and non-discrete drug-taking -  is not suitable for children.

Family festivals

Music festivals with children’s areas work until a certain point in the evening but if you want to full family experience, there are festivals in Ireland that are marketed specifically as family festivals, such as Kaleidoscope and Bray’s Groovefest.

They offer live music and a safe environment for children to run around in. Ireland has a music festival for almost every occasion. Every music festival in Ireland cannot be a one-stop-shop for all.

People can enjoy music at any stage in their life but music festivals are playgrounds for adults, not kids.

Featured image by Getty Images

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