By Laura Thompson
I was apparently invited onto the Long Division Festival board last year as a ‘cool young mum’, providing input on the family aspect of the festival. I’m 34 with two children aged four and one…Young? Cool? I feel far from it. I get about four hours sleep a night on average and have half a head of grey hair; I can’t remember the last time I went to a gig and stayed up later than 10pm. My life consists of changing nappies, singing nursery rhymes, gymnastics lessons, children’s parties and conversations about the best schools and ways of getting them to eat vegetables… I am consumed by a suburban life I never dreamed of.
Once upon a time, I would go to a gig every week, I played in bands (and still do when I can fit it in amongst the above activities) and generally participated in ‘cool’ activities like this. And this part of me has not disappeared. I don’t choose to not go to gigs anymore, it’s just that gigs aren’t set up for people like me. I breastfeed my baby and have to put her to bed at 7.30pm on the dot otherwise my world falls apart. She’s awake again by 11pm if not before and will only settle for me. I am up at 6am every morning, feeding, settling, playing before the day is even started. I don’t resent it, this is what I chose and I love my children, they are worth the lack of sleep! But I do resent that gigs are often only set up for ‘young cool’ people, who don’t have kids or other responsibilities like getting up early for work, caring for other relatives and such.
One of the great things I have discovered since having babies is Youth Anthems (curating the marquee stage on Sunday 2nd June at Long Division Festival). These are gigs set up especially for families. They are on during the afternoon, the sound is a bit quieter and it is finished in time for bed. Tea and cake and face painting are on offer. And the music is good! Stuff grown-ups will like as well as entertaining the kids. My four year old loves it, we can dance together and both enjoy the atmosphere. I love that I can introduce my child to music (other than flipping Baby Shark and Wiggles) in a safe and welcoming environment. I also love that I can go home, have tea and not feel completely drained and exhausted and still be in bed by 9pm if I want to.
So, when I was asked what I thought would make Long Division Festival even better, I said family workshops, chill out spaces, refreshments on hand, performances that were child-friendly. There are lots of festivals out there doing this already and making music a family thing. Art and other creative workshops are also great at providing a break from the music and feeding our children with cultural capital. I am an artist and teacher, so naturally offered myself up to curate the family workshops at this year’s festival. I thought this would be easy on maternity leave, I’d have so much spare time! How foolish of me. However, it has been a lot of fun getting involved in this, even if every minute I have spent working on it has been at 9pm in the evening when I can barely keep my eyes open, or a frantic to and fro on my phone while tea burns on the hob and my one year old is crying in the high chair.
The great thing about where I live is that there are so many family activities on all the time. Having been a part of the music and art scenes in West Yorkshire for most of my life, I have contacts who are really cool, talented and have families too! One of them is Chris Taylor (Doodle Club), who used to be in the Real Losers (on local label Squirrel Records) and now plays with wild surf band,The Razerbills. I used to play bass in riot grrrl band, Kavolchy and met Chris and his super cool wife Paula (now of Saplings playgroup and forest school in Shipley) back in the day as we were on the same label. We became re-acquainted through a mutual interest in ornithology and illustration in our grown-up lives. Chris’ Doodle Club workshop will provide space for a communal drawing project in the marquee on Saturday 1st June at LD Festival.
In the little village where I live near Ilkley, I again spookily re-met someone I used to rub shoulders with at McDermott’s rock club in Wakefield as a teenager. Maddie Coelho of Story Bees runs pre-school workshops based around storytelling with singing, craft, sensory and messy play activities. She will also be in the marquee on the Saturday of LD Festival.
I will be running a ‘screen print your own tote bag’ workshop on the Saturday and a zine workshop on the Sunday. Bringing back my DIY riot grrrl roots and passing on my knowledge to our future activists/ artists/ musicians/ journalists/ creatives…
The marquee will be a hub for families during the festival, providing food, drink, creative workshops and music over the weekend. Many of these activities will be free and suitable for all ages. The marquee will be in the centre of Wakefield on the Precinct, so will be accessible to those staying for the whole festival as well as other people visiting and shopping in the city that day.
So I say get on your and your little ones’ dancing shoes, leave suburbia behind and bring the whole family along to Long Division Festival this year. I may not feel any younger by the end of it, but I’m hoping to have regained that little bit of ‘cool’ that has been missing recently.