Review Just So Festival 2023
The Just So Festival in Cheshire returned for 2023 offering a weekend of family festival full of fun, magic and wonder. Discover what we thought of this year’s Just So Festival in our review.
Summer and festivals go hand in hand, and for families, you don’t get any more magical than the Just So Festival.
If you have not come across Just So yet you have definitely been missing out.
A fun family festival organised by Wild Rumpus, based at Rode Hall near Sandbach, Cheshire it offers a full weekend of magic, wonder, silliness and fun for kids, adults and families alike.
We were kindly invited along to the 2023 festival to check out for the purpose of an honest review. We asked our On The Go Reviewer and Manchester Editor Gemma and her family to check it out.
Tickets were kindly gifted for review purposes however all opinions are our reviewer
Just So Festival Review 2023
Since our first visit in 2014, The Just So Festival has been a firm fixture in our summer calendar every year since (apart from 2020 when of course, when it had to be cancelled for Covid).
We were therefore very excited to attend our 9th Just So Festival and couldn’t wait to see what adventures they had in store.
Due to numerous clashes of plans, my 13-year-old didn’t come with us this year – he has a better social life than me.
We, therefore, invited along a friend and her 7 and 10-year-old daughters who were newbies to the festival. We could wait to see what they thought.
Just So offers a range of tickets from one-day tickets to full weekend options and having loved our last four years camping we opted for the full on-site experience.
For those wanting to try camping in style, Glamping is available and there are a limited number of motorhome/caravan tickets available to purchase.
Camping tickets include entry to the festival from 2.00 pm Friday to Sunday midnight and camping from 12.00 noon (or 11.00 pm in accessible camping) Friday to Monday morning.
We were in Accessible Camping and the facilities were the usual high standard with plenty of showers with hot water, clean toilets and separate sinks for washing pots and drinking water taps.
We understand from friends this was the same at the main campsite.
We had been sent a programme (available to purchase) before the festival and this is definitely a must for us. There is so much going on it is easy to miss some of the hidden gems.
Although we always try to not over-plan, one of the best things about Just So is coming across something new and little surprises as you wander around the festival.
There we each choose one activity or show each that then see where the festival takes us from there.
The Just So Festival is divided into themed sections.
We were delighted to see the return of favourites such as Spellbound Forest with campfires perfect for stories and songs and Roll Up Roll Up with circus skills and maypole dancing.
Shangri-La with classes such as family yoga, mindfulness and gong baths and Peekaboo with lots of activities designed for babies and toddlers.
It was also great to see new areas such as The Future with a mix of workshops, shows and DJ sets and Colorado featuring an array of crafts.
Footlights is always one of our first ports of call and this year was no exception. Here you will find the main stage for live bands and is a great place to set up a base and chill in between the various activities and shows ( or after putting up a huge tent).
This is also the place to catch some Just So musts such as David Gibb Big Band who manages to capture the imagination of the kids whilst getting the adults up dancing with his very funny songs.
Plus we were over the moon to catch one favourite Just So bands Thingumabob and The Thingumajigs. They never fail to have us up on our feet dancing to their catchy songs such as “Runcorn”, “We Are Just The Warm Up Band” and The Monkey Song (complete with dancing Monkies).
Keen to give the newbies in our party the full Just So experience Saturday saw us heading to BlueJay Stage for our Kids Social Silent Disco.
Listening to favourite songs on headphones with two different channels to choose from, the kids and adults alike strutted their stuff and sang aloud for a full hour.
The free-style dancing was mixed with congo lines, getting parents on stage and a big dance-off, all with the magical backdrop of Rodehall woodland.
The campfire in Spellbound Forest is also a must for us and I’m glad to report that it didn’t disappoint. We decided that we would spend our Saturday evening here, and as it is always popular we scouted out our spots early.
We enjoyed Stories with Pyn Stockman who shared fairy tales from around the world. Joined in with campfire songs with Ian Mackintosh and sang our hearts out with the Screeching Blue Jays, a father and daughter trio who play folk and American classics.
Plus it gave us a chance to toast the marshmallows we had taken along – another must.
The big draw around the Campfire is Just So legend Ian Douglas. A traditional storyteller he shares lovely folk tales and myths in the most magical way.
We also managed to catch his Magic Lantern, a shadow puppetry caravan which adds lovely images to Ian’s stories and had us all captivated.
Spellbound Woods also housed fun activities such as a mud kitchen, leaf rubbing and wand making along with a fun gramophone trumpet listening pipes – which the kids played with for ages.
Here we also came across the Fairy Monarch. Sat on her huge throne she asked to hear our wishes, sprinkled us with magic fairy dust and sang a lovely song. The girls were all mesmerised.
One of my daughter’s favourite activities each year is the circus skills, and this year was no exception.
She spent hours across the weekend honing her plate spinning and flower stick-throwing and was delighted when she got to try her hand at the ring trapeze.
The hula hoop zone and ain’t skipping rope were also big hits, and it was lovely to see old-school ground favourites capture her time.
In the Hop Skip and Jump section, we were able to watch the circus experts, Circle of Two, in action in Dodo’s Dream. When the clock hits midnight a mannequin doll comes to life in a funny show with amazing trapeze stunts.
Other shows we enjoyed over the weekend included Mughal Miniatures which depicted traditional art of Indian and Persian miniature paintings, in the most beautiful way.
And Astronaut Training Camp in The Future area. An interactive show from Jonathan Scott from the European Space Agency where we learnt all about what astronauts need to do to stay healthy in space.
All the kids in our party adored crafts. Over the weekend they loved weaving both huge and little baskets and creating cardboard portraits.
We also joined the Pockets of Resistance, a movement to stop fake pockets on clothes, by making our own pockets.
The food on offer at Just So is always excellent and this year was no exception. They cater for all tastes and preferences with lots of vegetarian and vegan options available.
Over the weekend favourites included a Lamb and Feta Burger from Smithy Farm, Woodfired Pizza from the Pizza Peddlars and loaded fries from Wrap It. Along with the infamous Corn on the Cob from Corn Cowboys.
Sweet treats were also aplenty, with ice cream from Vintage Ice-creams, Ice Lollies from Pip Organic and the most amazing Hot Chocolate from The Cocoa Caravan.
Underpinning the Just So Festival is the Carnival Of Animal. Run by the popular theatre company Fabularium, to take part you choose your alliance fish, fox, frog, owl, stag or bee and to earn golden pebbles for your team.
Coming from Manchester we yet again couldn’t resist the calling of the Bees.
Pebbles can be earned by showing off a skill, being kind or helpful and helping the environment.
My children always love getting involved and it was great to see them volunteer to do some litter picking and ask vendors and organisers if they had any jobs for them. I was hoping this new ethos will make it home, but from what I have seen so far, it got left behind.
Unfortunately, despite all the effort, the Bees didn’t manage a win this year, with the Foxes taking the cup with over 2,000 pebbles earned – well done foxes.
One of the best things about the festival is that the kids get to experience simple things that they would not necessarily get to elsewhere – exploring the woods in the dark, dancing barefoot and so much more.
What We Thought About Just So Festival 2023
Yet again we had an amazing time at Just So.
Every visit has brought something different and this year with friends new to the festival, we took everything at a slower pace enjoying it all through new eyes.
There was so much to see and do and at no point during the weekend did the dreaded words of I’m bored get uttered.
As usual came away with a list of activities we didn’t have to time fit in. We never made it to Shangri-La or Marauders’s Cove and for the first time ever didn’t get a chance to take part in the Just So Sports Day.
Over the years I have tried to describe Just So to the friend who came along and to explain why it is always the highlight of our summer.
Within hours of her seeing the festival in full glory, she finally got it, declaring it magical and planning a repeat visit for next year.
Just like me, she loved seeing the children enjoying a weekend of outdoor fun, where they could explore in a safe environment with no technology in sight is priceless.
Early Bird Tickets for Just So 2023
Just So 2024 will take place at Rode Hall Estate in Cheshire from 16th to 18th August 2024.
Early Bird tickets are now on sale and as the Early Bird tickets sell out in record be quick as they won’t last long!