‘I look after other people’s children at music festivals, while they enjoy the party’

·4-min read
Jo Chavasse
Jo Chavasse

I’d been working as a nanny for a decade when I stopped and asked myself a question: what’s the biggest dream I have today? The answer probably wouldn’t have been top of many people’s lists: I had always longed to take a team of nannies to a festival to offer parents a break while there. It wasn’t something I had heard of anyone doing, and I thought it would be fun to give it a shot.

I’d been running my own childcare business in Bath, called Freckles, for four years by then and had so many requests from parents who wanted us to look after their children at home while they cut loose at a festival. They wanted to leave their kids behind so they could have some fun and stay out late. But I wondered if there was an alternative.

It was in 2019, and festivals hadn’t yet been hit by the pandemic. So I contacted several and put the idea to organisers. Camp Bestival, a child-friendly event in Dorset – which is taking place from July 29 to August 1, one of the first festivals to bounce back post-Covid – came back to me and said yes.

What a moment that was. I was excited but also suddenly struck by uncertainty. I had never done anything like this before and wasn’t sure how it would work.

I assembled a team of 10 nannies and put the word out to parents. The demand was overwhelming and we’d sold out before the festival even opened. The idea was that parents would be able to recover from their hangovers, or have a few drinks and some time to relax or watch an act, while we entertained their children around the festival site. Also popular was our in-tent babysitting service.

We learned a lot that first time. We had nannies returning freezing cold from a babysitting stint at 2am, having been asked to sit outside – and not in – the family tent. It hadn’t occurred to the parents when they went off much earlier, on what was then a balmy evening, that by the early hours the nanny would be shivering.

The Freckles team of nannies have extensive backup and a large team of support staff on site
The Freckles team of nannies have extensive backup and a large team of support staff on site

We had one couple make a booking at 10pm for 11pm the same night so that they could carry on the party. Another couple booked us for four 12-hour days. One client wanted our services from 8am so they could be relieved of their early-rising children while they slept off the excesses of the night before.

Once or twice, we had nannies taking their charges back to their tent in the evening while a fight was breaking out nearby on the festival site. They had to hastily circumnavigate the conflict and somehow distract the children. Luckily, Camp Bestival is very family-friendly and largely safe and secure, but all our nannies are equipped with radios so they can call for help in any situation that might arise, and we have a large team of staff on site to support them.

The other thing we learned – probably the hardest lesson – was how many people out there judge parents for their childcare choices. While plenty of festival-goers walked past our stand and went, “Oh wow, what a great idea,” there were others who looked askance at parents for offloading their children to us so they could enjoy themselves. Some of our clients were criticised on social media, with people accusing them of abandoning their kids.

It was a bit of a challenge dealing with other people’s negative attitudes. But it didn’t deter me. After all, it’s a personal choice: if you don’t want a nanny to look after your children at a festival, that is of course up to you. It’s also fine if you do.

And so, this weekend, at the age of 30, I’ll be taking 20 nannies back to Camp Bestival to offer the same service. I also hope to do it at Glastonbury eventually. I just wish others wouldn’t try and make parents feel guilty about their choices.

As told to Rosa Silverman

Would you ever take your child to a festival? Tell us in the comments section below
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