Serving up sweet treats for Norfolk families

Known for its dance music and alcoholic jelly shots this year's Jelly Festival aims to be a more family affair. Emma Harrowing talks to organiser Ben Gardner about how he has created the perfect Jelly Monster to bring some family fun to the festival.

Hidden away in the depths of West Norfolk between the beach at Wells and the busy town of Fakenham lies the idyllic Compton Hall in South Creake.

Once a year this idyll is turned into a utopia of jelly, music, face painting and crazy costumes as the Jelly Festival brings spoonfuls of delicious fun for the festival goer who enjoys a weekend of music and fun with a difference.

Now in its fifth year the festival has become synonymous with drum and bass, electro and house music, making it a dance haven for teenagers and those with a passion for dubstep.

This year, when the festival opens its gates on August 17, organiser Ben Gardner believes that they have reached the right balance between dancing, music and children's activities to make the festival a great family day out.

'As well as performances by The Felice Brothers, Killamonjambo and Mercury prize winner Roni Size there is a kids area where children can learn circus skills, make puppets and master the art of drumming,' says Ben.

'There is also a funfair and a number of inflatables so there is more than enough to keep the kids amused.

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'With the kids' area being close to the main stage parents can also watch the live acts while their children play, so you get the best of both worlds.'

The Jelly Festival has always been a music festival that breaks the mould. When Ben set up the event in 2008 he wanted the festival to appeal to families as well as having music integrity.

Ben explains: 'I'm a keen festival goer and noticed that there was a gap in the market for an event that would appeal to a wide audience and accommodate families. I wanted to create a festival that is reflective of the old country fairs that bring the community together while giving people a chance to perform and sell their produce. A few years ago I felt that we had the mix all wrong – the festival seemed to be more orientated to younger people into dance music. This year we have a winning formula, there's something to suit everyone and it's a great place to bring the kids, but it has still maintained its credibility as a music festival.'

A family campsite segregates the regular festival goer from the parents and children, with wristbands ensuring that the site is exclusively for families. The entry fee for children has also been banished and all kids can get in free.

'It's a winning mix balancing a traditional and credible music festival with one that caters for families,' says Ben. 'Having children at a festival lightens the mood and brings more energy to the event.'

Music festivals are beginning to consider making families more welcome – a prime example is Latitude across the border in Suffolk. The festival has a dedicated family camping area and a kids' zone.

'Some festivals are sponsored so families are bombarded with advertising and can only buy certain drinks and food on site,' says Ben. 'We try and steer clear of commercialisation by encouraging a wide variety of businesses to sell their wares.

'Jelly is like a bubble from the outside world and its influences, it's a place to have uncensored fun – another reason why this festival is different to the norm.'

Of course the main event at any festival has to be the music and Ben promises a 'banquet of sound' and summer entertainment from the Friday evening through to the Saturday. Folk, indie, funk, soul, reggae, swing, Balkan, disco house, electro, drum and bass and dubstep will keep everyone young and old wobbling to the beats of the latest sounds.

'Music-wise it's a case of reaching another balance between the mainstream and the obscure,' explains Ben.

'We try and bring in acts that people have heard of but who are not as mainstream as other festivals. Mercury prize winner Roni Size, for example, hasn't been on the scene for a while, but he is considered as being one of the founding fathers of drum and bass and a true giant in the music scene.

'Then there is American band The Felice Brothers a cult folk band who perform sell-out gigs.'

Alongside the music and family entertainment the whole eight acre site has been built with fun in mind. Based on a house the festival is divided into rooms – a living room main stage, kitchen banqueting area, bedroom big top bar, reggae rumpus room, play room and summer house cocktail bar makes the festival a home from home.

Ben says: 'This year there is a boy's bedroom with artists performing on a huge bed. There are also giant beds made from straw bales that people sit on to relax throughout the day and dance on at night.

'The decor, the inflatables and some hidden surprises makes this one of the most relaxed and most incredible festival experiences to date.

'It's amazing how Jelly has grown. When we started out the festival just consisted of a small festival stage and bar. Now we have five stages and lots of entertainment going on across the site. We had over 2,500 people at the festival last year and we are expecting this to grow to 3,000 this year.'

Free from pleasing sponsors the festival has an eclectic mix of entertainers and local food and drink producers. It also enables the festival to raise money for charity.

'This year we are raising money for children's cancer charity Rebecca's Wishes,' says Ben.

'There are little ways that we can do this. We are reintroducing a car tax for those people travelling to the festival by car and have empty seats. For each empty seat you pay �1 and all the money goes to the charity.

'Another way of raising money is by selling jelly shots, some mixed with alcohol and others are kid-friendly. In fact being The Jelly Festival jelly is everywhere – the Jelly Monster may even be making an appearance too!'

The Jelly Festival takes place between August 17 and 18 at Compton Hall between Fakenham and Burnham Market. The campsite opens at 7pm on the Friday and on Saturday the main arena opens at 9.30am and closes at 4.30am. Day tickets are �29.50, day and camping tickets for the Saturday are �44.50 and camping on the Friday and Saturday with a pass to the festival are �49.50. To book tickets or for more information visit