How did AEFES come about?
AEFES is an annual, community run alternative and home education festival that allows people to develop and share their experiences and skills in a democratic and environmentally friendly setting.
AEFES emerged from discussions that took place in the wake of the demise of the long running home education festival, HESFES, in the spring of 2016. While most of those involved with developing AEFES have a background in the home education community the name of the festival recognises, and wishes to encompass, many other alternative forms of education.
The first AEFES took place in Bodiam, East Sussex in July 2016. The festival was attended by over 250 people and, despite being organised in just three months, was an amazing success. Now in our third year, AEFES has established itself as a community of adults, teenagers and children all working in unity to create a festival where all voices can be heard, all opinions considered and where all decisions can be made in a democratic and magical setting.
AEFES is an amazing experience for people of all ages. A variety of workshops, discussions and debates take place every day followed by a full evening of entertainment. Everyone in the AEFES community is encouraged to learn and develop skills, both in terms of running workshops and getting involved in the running of the festival. AEFES also offers a platform for people attending the festival to develop their performing arts talents during the evening entertainment programme.
AEFES is a child and family friendly festival that provides a safe space for everyone who chooses to join us. AEFES want the festival to be inclusive and offers one affordable ticket price for all with the option to make an additional donation. The festival also has a green ethos and strives to promote sustainable living. Where possible we use renewable energy, environment friendly supplies and local recycling facilities.
What should I bring with me?
This is a camping festival so please bring suitable camping equipment including a tent, sleeping bag, clothing and footwear for various weather conditions, cooking equipment and food. We cannot provide camping accommodation for you on site. If you are a new camper and would like advice, please get in touch with us, or join our Facebook group and talk to other festival-goers!
Can we access the site by public transport?
The nearest train station is Robertsbridge, which is about 4 miles away. From there it is possible to get a taxi with J.E. Harding Private Hire – (01580) 880156
There is a bus service from Hastings (number 349) which stops at Bodiam Castle, a 30 minute (mostly level) walk from the AEFES site.
Nearer the time, we will try to arrange lift sharing and pickup for ticket holders. Please contact us if you'll need a lift!
I can't bring all my stuff on public transport. Can I lift share / can someone lend me camping gear?
We don't have anything set up for this, however it may be possible to arrange it with some other festival attendees. We suggest you join the AEFES Facebook Group and try to network with other people to see if anyone can help you. If this is a problem/you don't use Facebook, please contact us.
I haven't received a ticket in the post, what should I do?
Your order confirmation number is your ticket - just quote that and your name on the gate.The stewards have a list of people who have bought tickets.
What are the arrival times?
You can arrive on the site from 12 noon (or earlier if you've volunteered to help set up). We don't have a latest arrival time but we will probably stop stewarding the gate around 8pm. If there is no-one on the gate when you arrive, please make your way to the main marquees (or find someone in the morning if you arrive really late!) Please see the Arrival Procedure for more information.
I want to camp with friends, is that okay?
Yes, we have a huge field and you can camp wherever you like. If you are not all arriving at the same time you may wish to set out a space. The area around the wooded grove -The Glades usually fills up the fastest.
Is there a limit to the size of the camping pitches?
No, we have a huge field, unless you are bringing 10 marquees we think you'll be fine!
Is there a secure place / lockup for my valuables?
No, sorry, we do not have a secure lockup and we cannot take responsibility for your items – anything you leave in you tent or car is at your own risk. If you are playing and have musical instruments you would like to leave in the main marquee this may be possible but again is at your own risk.
Are dogs allowed?
Yes dogs are allowed, but must be kept on a lead at all times during the week (even if your dog is well behaved - not everyone is comfortable with a dog running up to them!) and you must pick up any dog mess and dispose of it responsibly. Any one found to be letting their dog off the lead after repeated warnings will be asked to leave the site. If you wish to let your dog run free you will have to go offsite.
Are camp fires allowed?
Small camp fires and barbecues are fine but be extra vigilant near tents and do not leave fires unattended. The cutting or damaging of trees or other property is not allowed.
Can I bring alcohol on site?
Yes, you can bring small amounts of alcohol for personal consumption only. Selling alcohol is not allowed.
Can I sell things on site?
Stalls may not be set up without prior authorisation from AEFES; anyone doing so will be asked to take them down.
Is there a quiet time or a quiet area?
11 pm is quiet time. All music and noise must be stopped before 11 pm (this is a condition of the Campsite).
There isn't a dedicated quiet camping area, however the field is so big that it's perfectly possible to camp so far from the main stage that you won't be disturbed by the noise.
What is the speed limit on site?
5mph. Once you have set up please move your vehicles onto the marked vehicles lanes (unless they will remain stationary throughout the festival). Please drive slowly at all times and only move cars when necessary (e.g. for shopping trips) and keep them within the vehicle routes once you have set up. We are strict about this as we have small children running free on site. If you repeatedly break the speed limit after being asked to stop you will be asked to leave or stop driving on site.
Who can I contact on site if I have any issues/problems?
Two Marshalls (identifiable by orange armbands) will be on duty every day to answer your questions and help resolve any issues. We will also have an on-duty First Aider each day, contactable by mobile. In addition, the phone numbers of the Health & Safety Lead and the Safeguarding Lead will be put on posters around site.
I or my child don't want to / can't be photographed at AEFES - what can I do?
Our policy is that ticket holders consent to being photographed and filmed for promotional purposes. However, if you or your child do not wish to be photographed we will do our best to accommodate this by introducing you to anyone doing photography and filming in an official or semi-official capacity for AEFES (this may necessitate showing them a photo of the person who can't be photographed if it is not practical to arrange a meeting) and they will not photograph you directly. Please note however, if you participate in group activities such as the group photo and Sports Day, we will not be able to avoid taking photos of you as we take lots of pictures of these events.
We have no control over whether participants at AEFES take photos of you, however we encourage you to inform anyone with a camera of your situation, and we can provide support in doing so; site Marshalls can ask people on your behalf if you don't want to, and/or speak to anyone who is unwilling to comply.
Facilities & Local Area
What attractions are at AEFES?
Besides a private 50 acre field with beautiful views for one weeks camping including all workshops and events at the festival, there is a lake for fishing, a short walk to the sunflower field, maize maze and a 30 min riverside walk to Bodiam Castle. By car there is cycling on Bedgebury National Pinetum (20 min drive) the Historical Town of Battle , Camber Sands (30 min drive) , Herstmonceux Science and Observatory Centre (30 min drive).
"Less than 1 in 10 of the UK population can see the beauty of the night sky full of stars. The High Weald is an area with a much reduced air pollution and great air quality, perfect for searching for planets, stars, meteors, satellites, and even the entire Milky Way. On a clear night, you’ll be able to see thousands of stars.
…and then there are the Barn Owls often seeing hunting along the river bank."
What facilities are at AEFES?
AEFES will have toilets on site including portable loos and disabled loos, fresh water points and power points situated in the Marquees for charging phones and medical equipment. A short walk to Park Farm camp site are regularly cleaned free hot shower blocks, toilet blocks,washing facilities,wash up sinks. Chemical disposal point, camp play areas,cafe and a mini camp shop.
Do you offer pre-erected tents or caravans on site?
Sorry, we are not logistically set up for this at the moment but we may consider it in future years! If you are bringing a tent and will have difficulty putting it up due to medical/disability reasons, please contact us; we can arrange for some of our volunteers to help you.
Are there electrical hookups?
No, sorry, as our electricity is from a biofuel generator and we have a limited supply we cannot provide electrical hookups for campers and caravans. If you have a medical reason for needing power then we can make an exception – please contact us.
Alternatively, you can choose to camp on the Park Farm campsite (who do provide hookups) at the bottom of the AEFES field, however you will have to pay extra for this as it is not part of the AEFES site, and we will be unable to offer a reduction in your ticket price if you are staying offsite.
Are there shops nearby?
The campsite is 3 miles from the thriving village of Hawkhurst. The village has a Tescos, a Waitrose, butchers, a baker, a chemist and a range of takeaways, petrol stations, banks, cash machines, and several pubs and restaurants.
There is also a small shop and cafe on the Park Farm campsite, 15 minutes' walk from the AEFES field.
Is there mobile phone reception on site?
We generally get good mobile phone reception on site though it can be patchy in places.
Is there a creche on site for my children?
No, parents/guardians are responsible for the supervision and welfare of their children at all times. Parents/guardians should also be aware there is a pond on the site and take precautions accordingly.
Volunteering & Performing
Do I have to help out at AEFES?
No, however as we are a community-run festival we rely heavily on volunteers (it's one of the reasons we are able to keep our ticket prices so low). So while we don't demand everyone volunteers we ask that everyone considers it. Obviously, we recognise that not everyone can help out as some people have young children to care for, disabilities, etc.!
There are lots of different ways to help out and even doing a couple of hours helps hugely! When you buy your tickets, there is a form you can fill in to ask if you would like to help. If you can help volunteer we can put you on a shift with friends and will make sure you're paired with someone more experienced if you've never volunteered before.
Do I get a free ticket if I volunteer?
No. Because so many of our attendees volunteer, if we offered them free or discounted tickets we wouldn't be able to afford to run the festival (unless we increased the overall ticket price, and that would make it less accessible to people on low incomes).
Most festivals don't run at £50 for a week ticket because they can't afford it, because someone somewhere down the line is getting paid a wage. Obviously getting paid to work is a good thing! But our approach, in a sense, is that rather than charging £100 for a ticket, we charge £50 and then most people who attend make up the extra by donating their time. Time is an easier and more friendly way to contribute .
We do give all volunteers a free AEFES t-shirt as a thank you.
What is your policy for professional or semiprofessional workshops facilitators, lecturers and performers? These people do these things for a living and can't afford to work for free or pay to work.
We're very aware of the difficulty people in artistic fields face in getting paid. We are also very aware of the disparity in payment at most festivals between the bands and the stewards (in most cases, hundreds to zero). Drawing a clear line between those who are at AEFES primarily to enjoy the festival and those who are at AEFES primarily to work is impossible. We don't have an easy fix for that, and this is a very contentious topic within our community which we're never going to all agree on, but this is what we've come up with:
If a group or individual is coming to AEFES solely to run their workshops/perform/whatever, anyone directly involved in the workshop/performance/etc. and any dependents (e.g. children under 18) don't have to pay entry and stay for a maximum of two nights on site. These people will usually be professionals or semiprofessionals who have been invited to AEFES to share their expertise and who may also be paid travel expenses . If they are paid a small fee this will be voted on by the people in the relevant organising team.
If someone is really struggling for money and can't afford to pay for a week ticket they can contact AEFES for financial help (see below).
Who decides who is "invited" to the festival and who has to apply to attend?
The relevant organisation teams – so for musicians, for example, this would be the music performance lineup team. Anyone who has attended a past AEFES or who has a ticket to attend a future AEFES can get involved in these organisation teams and be part of the decision making process.
How are the ticket prices worked out?
Our budget is around £15,000. Around £50 per adult ticket is the minimum we can charge to be able to meet all our expenses. We break roughly even every year, usually (hopefully!) with a small surplus, which goes into the pot for next year.
Where does the money go?
– Field hire
– Insurance (a legal requirement)
– TENS license (a legal requirement to allow us to play amplified music)
– Toilet hire and emptying
– Marquee hire
– Generator hire
– Skip hire
– Sound equipment / stage / lights hire
– Travel expenses for bands
– Materials for workshops
– A load of miscellaneous like flags, signs to put up around site, bins, binbags, toilet cleaning equipment, programme printing, radios, marshall armbands, first aid kit, fire extinguishers... the list goes on!!
Why don't you charge more for the tickets, then AEFES would make more money and be able to afford more stuff?
We purposefully keep our ticket prices as low as possible to make the festival accessible to people on low incomes. We don't want to be a big, expensive festival. One of the unique attractions of AEFES is that it is a community effort and everyone pitches in and learns new skills while doing so.
We don't demand that everyone volunteers as we understand that some people can't. But we do ask that everyone considers it.
I know the tickets are really cheap but I still can't afford them. / Why don't you have a low income option?
£50 is a low income option. £50 for a week is cheaper than camping somewhere in the South East for a week, and cheaper than a week's rent on a single person house share in most parts of the country (in lots of cases, half the price!)
If you are genuinely struggling to find the money, contact us and we may be able to help. We have an option on buying tickets for higher earners to donate; this donation money is used to help people who would be financially unable to come to AEFES without it. The Committee reviews each request on a case-by-case basis.
I don't mind paying for a ticket but I can only come for a short time – isn't there a cheaper option? / Why don't you do day tickets?
We did day tickets once but they were logistically very difficult to administrate. They are also unfair as if a lot of people come for one day, this may force us to get a higher insurance band, and the cost of this would not be covered by day tickets. Also, if a lot of people come on one day for a particular workshop (tie-dye t-shirts, for example, are very popular) then this would make the workshop more difficult to attend for week ticket holders.
If you are struggling for money and can only come for a few days we may be able to offer you a reduced price ticket – contact us to discuss.
I want to help organise AEFES but I haven't been before and the tickets aren't on sale yet / I won't be able to afford a ticket for a while.
The tickets usually go on sale a couple of months after the organising starts up, so you won't have long to wait. If you won't be able to afford a ticket for a while, you can pay us a small deposit of £10 and we will add you to the community group. When you buy your ticket the £10 will be refunded. If you do not buy a ticket or attend the AEFES in the year you planned to, you will be removed from the community group.
Why do you insist that people who help organise the festival have to buy tickets first?
We feel it is fair that people who have a stake in AEFES and attend get to decide how the festival is run. We do our best to make things accessible for people who can't afford it, but in the end, the money to hire the field and facilities does not come out of nowhere, and we require a degree of commitment from our members in order for them to have voting rights. In addition, we operate as a membership organisation and for tax reasons must have criteria for our members.
In some circumstances we offer membership to individuals who have not bought a ticket but have made a significant contribution to AEFES, for example lending us equipment.
Do carers / personal assistants have to buy tickets?
If you are a carer to a disabled child who is required in addition to the child's parents/guardians, or you are a carer/assistant to a disabled adult who needs your services to be able to attend the festival, we will not charge you for a ticket. Please contact us to notify us of this.
Can I come to AEFES on my own if I am under 18?
No child under the age of 18 may attend the festival without either a parent/guardian or a named adult who has agreed to act in loco parentis. The named adult must be over 21 unless otherwise arranged by the committee in advance.
Do you offer refunds?
AEFES relies on ticket sales to fund the festival – we have no other source of funds – so we only offer refunds in exceptional circumstances, at the discretion of the Committee. After the 31st of March, we no longer offer refunds in any circumstances as we would already have committed to everything financially by then.
AEFES is covered by insurance so in the unlikely event of the festival being cancelled, all tickets will be refunded. For more information, see our Policies & Rules page.