Posted: 02 July 2016

Young Carer’s Festival 2016

The last weekend of June is something I mark in my calendar every year. No, it’s not Glastonbury, it’s the 17th Young Carer’s Festival.

Held at Fairthorne Manor in Southampton, the festival is a three-day event where up to 2,000 young carers from all around the country come to let their hair down and have fun in a way in which they may not be able to do in their day-to-day life.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to the festival since 2012, where I had the chance to become a YCIF Champion, helping to raise awareness of Young Carers across the country. Being a champion, I’ve been involved in the festival and 2016 is the third time I’ve helped declare the festival officially open.

Friendships are formed easily because it’s a place with no worries and everyone knows what you’re going through. 

Friday

Everyone started to arrive late Friday afternoon, descending on the camping field, putting on the festival t-shirts and getting ready for the weekend ahead.

The opening ceremony gets better every year and 2016 wasn’t any different. It started with a samba band, add in powder paint and mix with a thousand young carers and well, you get a brilliant kind of mayhem.

A young carer’s festival isn’t complete without an insane firework display, which is exactly what we got. It was a perfect way to end the opening ceremony and kick off the festival.

You could feel the energy around the site, it was electric and contagious. I got onto stage with Charlie, Dana and Becky and each of us couldn’t keep the smiles off our faces. This is what I love, barely a few hours in and already everyone was having a fantastic time.

Friday night has some great performances from Mahalia who was performing at Glastonbury the next day and X-Factor’s Jake Quickenden, who the girls at the festival definitely loved judging by the cheers coming from the crowd. It ended with a disco and everyone anticipating the next day.

Saturday 

It started with sunshine and the opening of the voice zone. A tent filled with experts and stalls for young carers to receive information and help with their caring role, this is where I was based for most of the day, I even got to take over the YCIF twitter and grab a few pictures in our very own photo booth.

Along with the YMCA’s activities, the creative zone was another place where there was a lot to do. They could make coasters, clay models, t-shirt headbands or just relax on the bean bags… well until the thunderstorms started.

We’ve usually been pretty lucky with the weather at the festival in past years (except 2007), but this year that luck ran out. Within a couple of hours we had four thunderstorms, tents flooded and the ground turned very muddy. Who needs glasto when you’ve got ycf?

The Saturday is always the longest day, but it’s never boring. By the evening everyone was itching to get on the fairground rides (including me of course) and take part in the silent disco, but we couldn’t forget about the campfire and the interesting songs from the YMCA workers.

Of course a young carer’s festival wouldn’t be the same without YC FM, our very own radio station where over the course of the weekend young carers can win prizes, request songs and be interviewed. As champions, me, Abi, Charlie and Alesha know the radio station well and managed to get called in for a late-night interview which is always fun.

Sunday

By Sunday morning you can see the effect of the weekend on everyone. Volunteers, workers and leaders are heading to the tents in search of caffeine. People were starting to pack up and get ready to head home, but first there was an interview and the cake decorating competition. 

I was lucky enough to be interviewed for ITV meridian about young carer’s festival, which you can see here.

After that was finished, it was time for the competition. For someone who watches the Great British Bake Off every year, I was slightly starstruck when I found out Kimberly Wilson would be coming to judge the competition.

Then before I knew it, me and Charlie were on stage saying goodbye to everyone. Even if it’s only three days out of the year, the festival is a home away from home. Friendships are formed easily because it’s a place with no worries and everyone knows what you’re going through.

It was said all weekend that we’re not just friends, we are a family.

Let’s do it all again next year?

By Melissa Moody