The Legendary Faery Festival of Llangollen:
11-12th August, 2018
Last year I was desperately casting about for something to do with the kids on a Saturday afternoon in August. An advert for the Legendary Faery Festival of Llangollen caught my eye and I figured that it would be worth a punt. Admittedly, I was pretty desperate to get out of the house and soak up some time whilst the husband worked and visited his Nan. So we packed up a picnic and headed for the border.
The eldest was sufficiently excited that we were crossing into another country (where there were dragons, for real) but the youngest was disenchanted by the huge traffic jam stretching back from the tiny traffic lights on the main road through the town and could only be pacified by the regular application of crisps.
Increasingly fraught and sweaty, I dumped the car and lugged the push chair up the hill to the Faery Festival located in the Llangollen Pavilion where a purple haired lady with Spock ears relieved me of some money (£6 adults, £3 kids) and directed me to the faery market. At this point I was willing to suffer any amount of pink glitter if it entertained the kids for a couple of hours so I gritted my teeth and ploughed on. To my amazement, we all loved it.
I have to admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for the unusual so I was charmed by the rainbow hair, wafty dresses and pagan nods, the eldest was in transports of delight at the face paint, sparkles and the opportunity to ‘dance with the fairies’ (admittedly to some bloke covering Sweet Home Alabama but who’s complaining, right?). The youngest saw a dog wearing fairy wings. This was an important event and we were regularly reminded of it throughout the rest of the day. I was fleeced rotten for fairy wings, headdress, wand and face paint but somehow I didn’t mind. The organisers had clearly gone to town and having the performers, stall holders and attendees all in on the act – or serious lifestyles for some – made for a really fabulous atmosphere.
We were all determined to return this year. I was prepared in advance and pretty certain I wouldn’t be fleeced again. Matching fluffy sparkly dresses were bought in advance from My Rocking Kids #myrockingkids with accessories from H&M and Claire’s Accessories. Absolutely no money was saved in this process and I realised at the fair that I really should have supported local stallholders instead – lesson learned!
So, Faery Festival #2: pre-glittered and be-winged, we made for the pavilion. The organisers had outdone themselves. It was recognisable from the year before but it was, well, extra. More story-telling, more stalls, more faeries/fairies than previously. We immediately joined a queue for an excellent face painter. And were still waiting in the queue over an hour later… We made a friend in the queue (Hello Lily!) but wow, it was a long time to wait. Still, the artistry was pretty spectacular and when we saw the finished results it was no surprise that she had such a massive queue. Check out Sophia Leadill for some fabulous face painting.
We made the most of the rest of the fair once the girls had been painted up. They won some pretty big swords on the Hook-a-Duck stall which complemented their outfits and general dispositions. Interestingly though, a young boy in a Captain America outfit with a machine gun was pretty horrified about the girls’ weapons.
“Dad, why have those fairies got swords? What do they need them for?”
All the while shooting at the girls with his machine gun. Maybe they’re defending themselves, young man? Or maybe they’re just naturally a little bit sharp and pointy, take your pick. The youngest grinned at him whilst gesturing with her sword and he beat a hasty retreat.
Outside the pavilion there were stalls, story-telling, wandering dragon-tamers, performances of magic and derring-do as well as a few fairground rides and food stalls, all pretty much in keeping with the theme. Having the rides as well as dragon-tamers and other entertainments means that the festival is suitable for boys as well as girls. Obviously it’s heavy on the glitter but there are just as many men walking around with pointy ears and frock coats with top hats, so there’s more of an alternative/pagan vibe to the place than mainstream Disney princess.
Worth mentioning is the magnificent carved wooden dragon that you could ride on for £1. I had trouble dragging my two off it, as did most other parents. It turns out that you can hire the dragon for your event/party if you feel so moved. Take a look at his creator’s site as he does pretty incredible things with a chainsaw: Simon O’Rourke
Inside the pavilion there are many more stalls, an arts and crafts corner (for kids and adults alike) and a vast area dedicated to alternative therapies, massage and tarot card readings and the like. I gazed longingly at the lucky sods getting Indian head massages as I was dragged past by the kids looking for the toilet. Next time, as well as getting my own fairy ears to wear, I’m taking a partner in crime with me who can take care of the kids whilst I have my hands rubbed and my palms read.
For the truly dedicated fairy, or anyone in search of fun, there’s a Grand Faery Ball that takes place on the Saturday evening of the Faery Festival weekend. I met a retired couple by the food tents who had just moved to the Welsh coast and had heard about the festival from a neighbour. They were very complimentary about my girls (always a winner with a fond parent) and asked if we had been before. They were going to the Faery Ball that evening and were pleased to see that the vibe of the place was very light and friendly as they had no idea what to expect. They looked so carefree, with their pointy ears and glitter, that I felt quite envious of them going to the party that evening. Maybe one day…
After several hours, we agreed that it was perhaps time to go back home and tell daddy all about our day so I hooked a bag of crisps onto my parental fishing rod* to lure them back to the car and over the border to dragon-less England.
So, my advice for next year would be: go early to avoid queues to get into Llangollen and the festival itself, go ready-decked out or prepare to spend plenty on kitting out your kid/s, get to grips with the site and make sure you go to the scheduled story-telling or other performances and finally, surrender to the alternative vibe and you’ll love it as much as we do.
See you there on 10-11th August 2019!
*doesn’t exist but it should.