Sarah Bird tells us how the Tribal Tournament enables families to produce their own festival experiences

Written by Sarah Bird, Co-Director of Just So Festival

Just So Festival is a weekend-long camping arts festival with an eclectic programme of literature, music, theatre, circus, dance, cinema, puppetry, crafts, food & drink. The whole festival is dedicated to bringing families together and encouraging them to sing, dance and play in a beautiful outdoor landscape, providing an opportunity for families to step out of their day to day lives and a chance for children to see that dressing up, playing, creating, singing and dancing doesn’t have to stop when you grow up. It’s a weekend of adventures, of pillow fights, of midnight feasts and of campfires, with lots of nonsense thrown in for good measure.

Lions at Just_So_credit TenEight.jpg

Photo: Teneight

We like to think of the tribal tournament as the glue that sticks the whole thing together. The momentum for it starts way in advance of the festival as families pick which tribe to pledge their allegiances to, from owls, foxes, frogs, stags, lions or fish (and this year bees). Throughout the festival they can compete in ridiculous games and all manner of unexpected shenanigans – the foxes can learn to foxtrot, the lions play sleeping lions and the frogs have a mass game of leap frog. All of our performers, volunteers, staff, caterers etc…have coveted golden pebbles to give out to worthy recipients (best dancer, grubbiest baby, most impressive fox etc), which they can post into their tribe’s measurometer on the Village Green.  The eagerly anticipated results are revealed at the tribal parade on Sunday evening.

Just So Frogs credit TenEight.jpg

Photo: Teneight

We introduced the tribal tournament originally to help engineer more social interactions and start conversations, encouraging our audience to interact with each other, to exchange a smile or a giggle or have a creative exchange with like-minded people. Inspiring and encouraging each other, it blurs the boundaries between performer, artist, producer and audience – we really are all in this together co-creating the art and the atmosphere. We see our job as creating the conditions, environment and inspiration for our audience and artists to have those impromptu experiences which are disruptive, chaotic, nonsensical and joyful. Our audience have from the very beginning bowled us over with their enthusiasm, their artistic prowess, incredible costumes and their willingness to join in.  In fact if you aren’t wearing a tail, ears or some sort of animal adornment on Sunday evening you look completely out of place.

Family Fox picnic at Just_So_credit TenEight.jpg

The moment at the end of the weekend when the audience assembles for the tribal parade is a wonderful example of how together we are greater than the sum of our parts, how a combined effort can transcend individual experience.  This tribal parade is the culmination of the festival, a celebration of having come together for a weekend and shared in some incredible creative moments, which will live on in the memories of our festival families. An overwhelming chorus of hoots, roars, howls and croaks fills the air, a huge cacophony of animal calls brings to a close our weekend and the power of this shared experience is guaranteed to bring a tear to my eye every year.

owls

Over the weekend it undoubtedly builds a more cohesive festival community and we hope that by participating in new rituals like this it can have a longer impact after the event, encouraging families to be more connected and to continue the playing and creating together once they land back in the real world.

Just So Festival is the only combined arts camping festival in the UK solely for families. With a love of stories and childhood escapades at its heart, it is a wonderland of literature, arts, theatre, dance, music, comedy and creative pursuits underpinned by the Tribal Tournament, the most bonkers competition in the land. 18 – 20 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire www.justsofestival.org.uk

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