From the 13th to the 16th of August, we were at a lovely campsite in Bedfordshire attending Tribal Hearts Festival. It was part of a very busy month for us, and definitely turned out to be the highlight! Seeing Matilda enjoying the outdoors and breathing a sigh of relief as she slept in the tent was amazing. And the festival itself – the work of the lovely Vanessa Howe – was an absolute delight.
Here’s what we took from the experience…
Tribal Hearts = Freedooooom!
One particularly enlightening aspect of the weekend was the liberating feeling of being around other like-minded parents. In everyday life, we have to think about keeping Matilda clean and presentable, taking her somewhere private for potty time and watching her every move to make sure she’s safe. At Tribal Hearts, surrounded by other families in an outdoor but enclosed space, we felt we could relax.
Shoes were not necessary, and we all got some much-needed grounding on the grass of the campsite. Children were given the freedom to be themselves and play the way they wanted, and all the attendees were quick to look out for one another’s kids. In a world with so many expectations and dangers, it felt like an enormous weight was lifted from our shoulders.
In our natural, animal state, human beings would be able to enjoy this kind of freedom constantly. There would be no anxiety about what is ‘decent‘ or ‘polite‘ – all limiting things that harm a child’s freedom to just be! This was the first reconnection with nature that we felt at Tribal Hearts, surrounded by other people who undoubtedly felt exactly the same.
It’s the simple things
As most parents will know, we are constantly awash with things to buy for our children. Toys that look certain ways or do certain things; costumes to transform them into their favourite characters; DVDs, music, activities – the list is endless. But when it comes down to it, a child can get as much out of some pans, sticks and mud as they would from a fancy toy.
Children are imagination machines, and they can find fun and activities in things we consider trivial. One of Matilda’s favourite parts of the festival was the ‘Imagination Station‘. It was a small space enclosed by bails of straw and filled with random things. These ranged from second-hand toys to costumes to mere pine cones. It was a real joy to watch Matilda discover these things and make her own entertainment.
The same came from a beautiful mud kitchen in the trees, some colourful hoops hanging on ropes from an especially amazing tree, and even a huge pile of straw! We also saw children covering themselves in paint which they then applied to some large cloths on the ground in a dazzling display of messy play and creativity.
The point is that these simple things, enjoyed outdoors in safety, brought infinitely more enjoyment than the legions of toys in Matilda’s bedroom. And the effect transferred to us in turn. We took great pleasure in simply taking in the surroundings and sharing them with others. We relaxed in the evenings just sitting by our tent – no films or TV shows, no screens, no nothing! Only the outdoors, the sound of other happy people around us, and the darkening sky as day turned to night.
Another of the great things about Tribal Hearts was that it was easily the most eco-friendly, sustainable festival we’ve experienced. A far cry from the tons of litter that you see all over the fields at most festivals, with armies of volunteers sweeping in to pick it all up. No, at Tribal Hearts there was barely a piece of litter to be seen. The visitors used the bins, which included recycling bins, and kept the place tidy themselves.
The food options contained lots of vegan and vegetarian options (shout-out to Rainforest Creations and Renatos Pizza) alongside those for the omnivores. One particular favourite of ours was the clothes swap and the library. They were populated by pre-loved clothes and books donated by visitors, who were free to take anything they wanted in return. Forget recycling; re-using is the cornerstone of a sustainable system, and passing on your unneeded clothes and books to new owners is perfect!
There were workshops on all sorts of things, from yoga to writing to different parenting principles and much, much more. There were also tents with businesses (some not-for-profit) selling wooden toys and handmade, sustainable gifts. We saw a tent that was a baby sling library with a selection of reusable nappies (Jenni Bean Consultancy), helping people find the right baby carrier and get more people on board with cloth nappies. There were clothing brands that emphasised sustainable practices and supported causes like mental health (thanks Zenful Men). There was real thought behind every choice at the festival, and it attracted eco-conscious people who truly made us feel at home.
We really enjoyed the entertainment on offer at Tribal Hearts. Special mentions go to the pirate band JollyRoger and the circus skills group Showtime Circus. We also watched a singer-songwriter named Damian and a fun performance by the Imajica Theatre group. We took part in the feast, in which we dressed up in our homemade owl costumes, ate delicious food and listened to another exquisite musical performance.
In addition to this, we attended a crafts workshop, a singalong music session, toasting marshmallows round the campfire and more. All of it felt like reconnecting to nature, or to some fundamental part of ourselves that is lost amid the noise of jobs, bills, politics and keeping up appearances. Having been disconnected from a great deal, first by becoming new parents and then by the pandemic, we felt that Tribal Hearts Festival was an incredible way to reemerge. We came out of it with an enhanced perspective on all that is important to us.
Tribal Hearts: a realignment with ourselves
Before we arrived, my overriding feeling was that we would struggle with the festival. I was terrified that Matilda wouldn’t sleep in a tent, or that I would be unable to relax at all. Away from our home comforts, we introverted homebodies would surely find such an experience exhausting. But I was wrong.
I haven’t felt quite so relaxed with Matilda since she began walking. We haven’t felt so at home among other people since we became parents. And we haven’t had such enriching and comforting experiences in a very long time. For us, Tribal Hearts channelled all that we hold dear: connecting with nature, being yourself, respecting the environment, nurturing creativity, encouraging growth. These are all extremely important concepts to us, and the festival was the ultimate indulgence for those things that we love.
We can only finish this post by expressing our gratitude to Vanessa and everyone else who made the festival what it was. It is very sad that it was the final Tribal Hearts festival, and we will be looking for a worthy substitute to attend next summer. We hope you have enjoyed reading about our experience and seeing our pictures – connect with us on Instagram if you would like to share with us your own eco journey or simply follow us on ours.
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