Martin House Hospice's LodgeFest - the music festival where everyone is equal

Cath Todd, head of therapies and family support at Martin House children's hospice in Boston Spa, writes about the annual event that brings the music festival experience to teenagers in its care.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 11:45 am
LodgeFest takes place each year at Martin House Children's Hospice.

Martin House is on the doorstep of the Leeds Festival, and over the years we have supported some of our young people to help them attend. Going to a music festival is a rite of passage that teenagers can take for granted, but for young people with complex care needs it isn’t easy.

With the logistics involved, we have only been able to assist one or two at a time to go – and it only takes one heavy rainfall to get a wheelchair stuck in a field.

So when the hospice celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017, putting on our own mini-music festival seemed like the ideal way to bring that experience to more of our teenagers and young people – and LodgeFest was born.

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LodgeFest – named in honour of our teenage and young adult unit Whitby Lodge – was originally intended to be a one-off event, but that first year was so successful that it’s become an annual fixture on the calendar, and one that everyone gets excited about.

Each September, we turn the grounds of Martin House into a music festival site. Tepees go up in the garden with a stage for bands to perform. We put on mocktails and street food, we have glitter face painting and a photo booth with props.

There are festival wristbands and T-shirts, with a logo designed by young people themselves, and we festoon the garden with lights and lanterns – it looks magical. And of course there is music. We invite local bands to perform, and we try to get a good mix of styles and genres – we’ve had rappers, acoustic sets, punk bands, rock bands, DJ sets from one of our young people and our ambassador Emmerdale’s Jeff Hordley since we started.

LodgeFest is open to anyone aged 13 and over who uses Whitby Lodge, and we also extend the invite to Bluebell Wood and Forget-Me-Not children’s hospices in Sheffield and Huddersfield, so as many young people as possible can enjoy the experience.

Young people need to bring at least one carer, but they can also bring their family or friends, so there’s a real party atmosphere, and a chance for young people to make incredible memories with their loved ones.

It’s also a really rewarding experience for the bands who come to play for the festival – many don’t know what to expect, but have an amazing time, especially when they see how much it means to their audience.

Putting on LodgeFest is a huge team effort, and takes months of planning, with the help of nearly every department in the hospice to make it happen. It’s the single biggest event we put on for our families each year, and our staff work really hard to make it better every time. Of course, it couldn’t happen last year due to the pandemic, so it made it all the more special when this month – with the necessary Covid measures in place – we were able to welcome young people and their families back to the festival.

All our hard work is worth it when we see the young people and their families having such a fabulous time together. There are so many experiences that young people with life-limiting conditions can miss out on, and much of our work is about helping them and their families to have those opportunities.

One dad said to me at this year’s LodgeFest ‘everyone’s equal here’, and that’s what we want to achieve – a music festival experience where everything is accessible and caters for our young people’s needs. We hope we can continue to provide that for many years to come.