The last time I went to a festival was in 2014, and it involved four wonderful days of late nights, zero phone signal, loud, live music, overpriced food, tripping over tent ropes, copious amount of dry shampoo, and spending cherished time with friends. For obvious reasons, most tickets we had booked for 2020 were either refunded or postponed.
When I got an email a few weeks ago inviting me to attend CarFest North, I didn’t have to think twice before confirming my place. I’d been craving something to look forward to. With most COVID restrictions lifted and having had my second vaccination more than a month ago, I felt comfortable attending the outdoor event.
For those unfamiliar with the event – now in its tenth year, Carfest was set up by Chris Evans, of Top Gear, radio DJ, Big Breakfast and TFI Friday fame, to help raise funds for UK children’s charities. It’s now the biggest family fundraising festival in the UK, having successfully raised more than £16.5 million to date for BBC Children in Need, Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, Rainbow Trust, Starlight, Teenage Cancer Trust, My Black Dog, and Comic Relief.
On Sunday, July 25, my youngest girl, Lucie, and I made the trip over to Bolesworth Estate, Cheshire. As we were only attending for the day, no tent was required this time. We took our lateral flow tests the night before, and packed plenty of water, sunglasses, and our spare phone chargers instead. The weather was most definitely on our side, and I was grateful for the sunshine as we found our bearings.
Turns out that Lucie is an enthusiastic little petrolhead, and the lure of loud engines and screeching tyres led to us watching the movie car show upon our arrival. Some instantly recognisable motors sped past, such as KITT from ‘Knight Rider’, Mater from ‘Cars’, Ecto-1 from ‘Ghostbusters’, a Delorean from ‘Back to the Future’, the infamous ‘Eleanor’ Ford Mustang GT500, a la ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’, the Mirthmobile from ‘Wayne’s World’, an ‘A-Team’ GMC Vandura van, and loads more.
We ventured over to the foodie area and perused the stalls. Within 15 mins, we’d happily loaded our bags with brownies and fudge to take home, and between us, settled on iced coffee, fresh lemonade, fish and chips, veggie fried rice, and churros for lunch. We chilled on the grass with other happy campers and watched an impressive band showcase their skills on the drums – I didn’t get the name but they were magnificently talented.
Wandering over the bridge towards the StarFest Stage, presenter, Penny Smith, was interviewing actress and singer, Alice Fearn, who you may know for her fantastic performances as Wicked’s Elphaba on the West End, and Olivier Award-Winning actress, Cassidy Janson. On the Napoleon Grills Kitchen Stage, we spotted local celebrity and master cake artist, Molly Robbins working her culinary magic.
We also caught the tail end of the Supercar track show, with drifting, donuts, smoke and all the other things that Lucie adores. We headed to the Main Stage to hear from host, Chris Evans, and had the privilege of listening to some brilliant, brave young people talking candidly about how the charities have supported them through their respective illnesses; an emotive and humbling reminder of what CarFest is fundamentally all about.
Being in the pit (stage, not mosh this time; I’m too old for that now) for the Howard Donald DJ set made my inner 15-year old’s heart sing and I unashamedly danced with wild abandonment throughout. For context, I grew up in the 90s, and when Take That split up, I was so inconsolable that I begged my mum to let me use the landline to call my friend so we could have a full debrief of the tragic news.
Lu and I also enjoyed live music from Bjorn Again, and Soft Cell’s Marc Almond. We missed out on the McFly and Happy Mondays sets due to a few last-minute timing changes and had to reluctantly head home just before they graced the stage later that evening. I wished we’d had more time to explore the festival, having run out of time to visit the funfair, festival dash, arcade, bush ground, wigwam tent, and sanctuary areas, so with that in mind, we’ve decided to go back for the whole weekend next year.
It was the first time in a long time that, dare I say it, things felt ‘normal’ again, just for a little while. I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to share the CarFest experience with Lucie and make some lovely new memories together, more than ever this year.