In 2014, Simon Goldman quit his job to invent a festival for children. Three years later and the festival is as big as ever and will be returning to Cheshire once again. JLife’s Evangeline Spachis spoke to the dad-of-seven about what’s in store this year.
Summer is fast approaching, and like many families on the run up to the holidays, parents will be wracking their brains to come up with new and exciting ways to keep the children stimulated and occupied.
This was the dilemma faced by Simon Goldman, the recent creator of Geronimo Festival in Cheshire. Three years ago, day trips and short-lived fun activities just didn’t seem to cut it anymore, and so the dad-of-seven quit his successful job in importing to establish a weekend festival for children and families.
“I wanted to create a day out that had elements of all our best days out rolled into one, so families could come along and be entertained and have an amazing family experience together,” Simon explains: “We find that in today’s society, there a lots of families that are cash rich and time poor and would love to take their kids tree-climbing, den-building or watching a joust and they just don’t have time to arrange that day out so we have rolled it all into one.”
“I have seven children, ages ranging from 18 to two, and though I’m not professing to be an expert, after a day out as parents we usually knew what has ticked all the boxes and it just got to the point where I thought there was something lacking in the festival scene.”
It is clear that though the music festival industry has taken the British summer time by storm, the activities that cater to those with kids are usually sidelined. That’s where Geronimo Festival comes in: “We took the kids’ field from a regular festival and basically super-sized it and the music that we have is all just a backdrop to the entertainment for the kids. Geronimo really is a destination for families looking to spend quality time together.”
So how does Simon manage to keep abreast of what’s cool and what’s not in terms of children’s entertainment? It all starts a year in advance, with the Goldman family travelling the length and breadth of the country, scouting for inspiration for the following year’s festival line-up: “We attend festivals the whole summer and visit country fairs, circuses and theatre groups and even the Edinburgh Fringe. We basically select ideas that have entertained our kids the most.”
And it’s not necessarily the ‘big ticket’ items that are always the most successful: “We go to a festival down south where they have ‘cardboard city’ and it’s just lots of cardboard, tape and paint and the kids spend the biggest amount of time in there playing around. So this year we’re introducing a cardboard city to Geronimo.”
“We try to programme the festival with things that are a little bit different. We’ve got a strong emphasis on sport and have things like fencing and parkour and people can come and try a session of something they may never have done before.”
With the whole summer to explore and research the best ways for kids can have fun, inevitably the Goldman children have their favourites when it comes to what’s on offer at Geronimo itself: “I think one of the family highlights is the temporary high ropes course set up in the forest called Monkey Zoo and the children can climb up to about 20 ft on the cargo nets and then they jump from platform to platform.”
“It really pushes their natural boundaries and it allows children to discover a little bit of danger in a safe environment. Families tend to really embrace those opportunities where they can try something entirely new.”
Since its inception in 2014, Geronimo has been aiming to transform the way that families spend time together, and it is clear that this is something Simon is incredibly proud of: “It brings families together. Mum and dad work really hard and it’s a chance for them to escape a little too. They can be busy building dens and just do things with their kids that they may not do on a weekly basis.”
However families choose to spend their time at Geronimo, Simon explains, everyone gets something a little different out of it: “Every family that comes to the festival take away something different. We see some families going into the craft tent and they can be in there for hours trying out the various different crafts because they don’t normally have the time or they don’t want the mess around the table at home.”
Brought up in an Orthodox Jewish family and one of ten, Simon grew up in Broughton Park. It is clear that Simon’s passion for creating unique experiences stems from his upbringing and his own attitudes to raising his children: “I think being from a modern Orthodox Jewish family, it is very important to spend quality time with the kids. From cooking and sitting around the table on a Friday night to a Shabbos lunch and a great outing on Sunday, it seamlessly rolls into one.
“I come from a large family. I’ve always looked to give my kids memories and those don’t always have to cost a lot of money. We might go to the woods and build a den, something that’s completely free of charge as opposed to just going off to Euro Disney and having a manufactured day out.”
“I am very into unique experiences and different kinds of days out. It’s great to see that in Heaton Park they are putting up a high ropes course which will be right on our doorstep. We’re always looking for things like that as a family.”
This year’s festival on 27 – 29th May marks the first time the festival will be moving from Tatton Park ¬– less than half an hour away – to Arley Hall, positioned between junctions 19 and 20 off the M6. The move was spearheaded by the festival’s expansion, inspired in part by past festival goers’ feedback: “Tatton Park was a great venue for us, but we got to a position where we needed more space and we wanted to take over the park for the whole weekend. We had a lot of requests from our loyal followers who wanted to camp at Geronimo. With over 150 activities, it just isn’t possible to get around everything, so this year, families have the option to camp or ‘glamp’ with us for a mini-vacation.”
And when he isn’t visiting big tops and country fetes for inspiration, Simon enjoys running and mountain-biking. But all this planning is busy work, and for Simon, who left the lucrative importing industry to fulfil his dream, it is a job that takes up 52 weeks of the year with lots to consider, including the British weather: “At a regular festival, if it rains, it doesn’t really matter as people are just there for the music and they are quite happy to leave there tent and their belongings. Whereas we’ve always got to be thinking about weather contingencies, so we’ll have lots of marquees so the entertainment can still go on if weather isn’t great.”
Whatever the weather, we wish JLife reader Simon all the best for the festival this year!
To find out more and to book tickets, visit Geronimofest.com.