I have been lucky enough to write for the Camp Bestival Blog this year and had managed to hype myself up into a frenzy about Camp Bestival typical of a three year old who’s eaten too many Cheeze Strings. However, real life has annoyingly gotten in the way of writing about my Camp Bestival highlights. A new job. Sleep. Cake. You know how it goes.
My experience of Camp Bestival is probably slightly different to that of other bloggers’ reviews I’ve read, insofar as my children are older (17 & 8,) which thankfully meant I didn’t have to sit through The Gruffalo again. (Actually I love the Gruffalo. Don’t tell anyone.)
My intention was to leave for Camp Bestival at 6am on Thursday morning. Cue broken car window and a teenager who had massively overslept, and we finally set off at 10am. Poor Dexter was wedged into a corner of the car by saucepans, quilts and Pringles, but he watched a Transformers DVD on my laptop all the way there so was happy enough. My eldest was DJ/Navigator and did a great job of getting us there.
Except … the signposting for the festival wasn’t great this year. The way into the site was completely different to last year and we had Olympic and holiday traffic to contend with. By the time I’d done my third U-turn, I was more than ready for beerage so we decided to stop for a pub lunch. Excellent idea if I say so myself.
Our plan to get to the site early on Thursday morning was well and truly out the (broken) window, and we finally rocked up at 3pm. But it really didn’t matter, nothing was happening at the festival on the Thursday, but I was just keen to get things set up.
By 5pm, we had put up our tents, cracked open a beer and fried the (now) defrosted sausages we’d brought with us from home. We were lucky with the weather and the sun shone on us for most of the weekend. Happy days!
We wandered into the main area on our first night to check out the layout, but the festival doesn’t really start until Friday. I say wandered. Newcomers, be warned – it is a bit of a trek. This year, we had decided to camp nearer to the car park and away from the main action, and so there are a few big hills you have to hike up and, in Dexter’s case, roll down. My calves were killing me by Friday and have probably grown several inches in size since. I now look like a Kazakstani shotputter. (Even more than before.)
Moving on, here are our Camp Bestival highlights:
Wall of Death
The thought of watching people ride motorbikes round (and around) the inside of what’s fundamentally the inside of a big Baked Bean tin, didn’t appeal. However, it was just one more thing in Dexter’s long list of things he wanted to see so we queued to watch. I’m so glad we did! ZOMG. It was SO exciting. We were led up the stairs to the top of the building and peered down below to see a gorgeous young woman get on a motorbike and start whizzing up and down the sides like a mentalist. I honestly don’t know how she did it. She drove so close to the top of the walls I damn near wet myself. The show just got more and more exciting and by the end, when all three riders were riding bikes at the same time, I was clapping like a loon.
The jousting was Dexter’s highlight last year and the same guys came to perform this year. It’s not just people trying to knock each other off horses, but it’s a really fun good guy vs. bad guy show, complete with boo’ing the baddie.
The Freesports Park is an area where the BMX riders, skateboarders and Parkour (jumpers?) get to show off their skills. However, Dexter really wanted to see the Dance-Off that was taking place on the ramp. Two dance crews, Funktion Junktion and Rogue Elements, battled each other – old skool vs. b-boys.
It was a tough battle and the crowd were loving both styles of dancing. However, when an extra member of the crew was needed for each team, Dexter volunteered and became the third member of Rogue Elements! My boy knows no fear. “Funky kid with the afro, come on up!” … and he did. He took his turn to battle against the Funktion Junktion crew, pulling out all of his best moves, including poking his tongue out at one of the cute girls, and the crowd went wild! It was amazing! I was so proud of him.
Rob da Bank’s Music Club
Rogue Elements went on to hold a breakdancing masterclass at Rob da Bank’s Music Club afterwards and we ended up spending a fair bit of time there. About twenty children ended up taking the class and the young b-boys were great with all of the kids. Some children were more advanced than others but they were really patient, fun and made the hour’s lesson so much fun. The kids ended up having another dance-off, with a member of Rogue Elements on each team, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only parent who sat back and was totally jealous we couldn’t join in!
There was so much happening at the music club over the weekend. Dexter also had a guitar lesson and again, the young guy that taught him was so patient that Dexter came away full of confidence. There were also lessons in drumming, music production, turntablism (not quite sure what that is but it sounds cool,) singing, radio broadcasting and loads more.
The club had been promoted as a place for 14-18 year olds but actually, a lot of younger children went. I would say it would be ideal for seven years old and upwards.
Gutted I missed the rapping session though. I would have smashed that.
Wagamama had a fairly big presence at the festival and they had put a lot of thought and effort into their pitch. Not only were they dishing out amazing fresh food all day and night, but they had different DJ sets playing over the whole weekend, from the likes of Little Dragon and DJ Yoda to Greg Wilson. They also had live art from illustrators Okido.
The music was brilliant! Seriously, I couldn’t get Dexter off the dancefloor. He literally refused to leave. In fact, he also refused to let me dance with him. But he had a point. At one point, a crowd had formed a circle round him and he was spinning around on the grass on his head!
It just had a really cool vibe and my eldest and I were happy to dance too … just a few feet away from Dexter. The Wagamama team gave out t-shirts and Hoshi masks (the new Wagamama character,) to the kids – and it was a great place for me to do two of the things I love the most – dance and eat!
I’d initially been disappointed when I saw the line-up this year. The headliners didn’t really appeal. BUT … Camp Bestival isn’t like other festivals. It’s not about seeing major acts perform. It’s the about finding out about new acts, re-discovering old favourites and just soaking it all up.
(Quite how I missed Earth, Wind & Fire, Chic and Kool & the Gang, I’m not sure.)
Had I been at the festival on my own, there was a whole host of bands I would have definitely made sure I’d seen. However, having kids means that sometimes, you just can’t see everything you want to and as Dexter is eight years old, and too old to sit in the trolley (so jealous of the parents who could wheel their kids around all night,) I found myself having to go back to the tent at 10-11pm every night. However, the two standout acts for me were …
Rizzle Kicks – These boys were one of the headliners and we all thoroughly enjoyed their show. The dark clouds that were threatening the spoil the afternoon thankfully blew away, the sun came out and, as we were sat at the back, we didn’t bother to stand because we couldn’t see a thing. Didn’t really matter though. We just sat, chilled and enjoyed the brilliant atmosphere.
P Money – I know, I know … I probably don’t look like your typical Dubstep fan, but I have, shall we say, an eclectic taste in music. This guy performed in the Big Top area and he was brilliant. Being able to dance with my two boys was so much fun. We didn’t care who saw us, we just waved our arms in the air and had it large! Honestly, I was jumping in the air, moshing with the best of them. (In my head anyway – the moshing all got rather sweaty.) And when this song kicked in, the crowd erupted. Awesome.
My eldest stayed out until at least 3am every night/morning and made friends with people his own age. The festival is so friendly and safe that I was happy with him just doing his own thing.
This woodland area is host to all sorts of fun events, and is also a great oasis of calm. There’s also a really nice little adventure playground there which proved really popular amongst Mungo, Tarquin and his chums. Amazing Mr Fox – The Opera was here, although unfortunately we somehow missed it, but we got caught up in some improv theatre, which was pretty entertaining, and they had workshops and shows running here all weekend. Oh, and peacocks roaming around. Yes. Peacocks.
Other things we loved were:
DJ sets in the inflatable church and the Bollywood Tent (the brainchild of Josie da Bank)
The Bubble Man – kids always go mad for bubbles, right?!
Wand making workshop
Things I wished I done/seen:
Anything remotely massage related – didn’t get to go to the Soul Park for any pampering at all (boo hoo)
Lianne la Havas
Missed all the comedy acts
Kool and the Gang
Trouble is, there’s just not enough time to do everything you want, especially when you have kids AND you’re a single parent – but, honestly, as long as my boys were happy, I was more than happy just going with the flow. (Although I don’t think a massage or two is too much to ask, right?!)
My Top Tips
If money is no object, eat out all day, every day. Seriously. Fill your boots. There is pretty much every type of food you can imagine at Camp Bestivl, although personally I think they’re missing a trick not having fried chicken there. But each to their own. However, if, like me, money is tight, consider taking your own food. I can’t stress enough how expensive everything is – especially if you’re a family. It really adds up. When you think that a meat pie or a burger is about £6, then add chips and a drink (and obligatory ice creams,) and you’ll see how quickly you can spend a fortune.
I cooked breakfast and dinner at Base Camp every day. I only had one ring to cook on but we managed. Culinary delights included baked beans and sausages, dry fried tortillas, curry in a tin, fried bread and eggs (lots of eggs) – oh and tinned peaches and digestives for dessert. I am a genius in the kitchen.
During the day I filled my rucksack with bottles of water, crisps, couple of cans of beer to see me through the day. We ate lunch out and the quality of the food we tried was really good. Bear in mind at peak times, for some of the food stalls, there is a queue. The pizza place in particular was heaving.
I borrowed literally everything we needed, including a trolley to haul it all in, (although you can hire these on site.) I couldn’t afford to buy anything new and friends were kind enough to lend me what we needed. I just took the basics really, but some campers go OTT with bunting, lights and flags to pimp out their tents. Whatever.
For me, the only essential thing that I must make sure works next time is the damn airbed. Bloody thing deflated every night and sleeping on the hard ground is not fun. Believe me. In fact, it’s why we left a day early. So – make sure you have something soft to sleep on, enough blankets (it can get cold at night) and one more essential – EARPLUGS. As much as I love kids, predominantly my own, granted, being woken at 6am by someone else’s kids running up and down outside your tent is not fun. I went to the on site shop and invested in earplugs. A lifesaver.
There is a place where you can charge your phone, but at £4 per hour it’s a little steep. Although the signal’s far from great at CB, it might be worth bringing a solar charger just so you have emergency battery on your phone at least.
Camp Bestival is such a clever concept. It’s aimed at a generation of people who have had kids but who are still young enough to enjoy going to festivals. Camp Bestival marries the two things perfectly. It’s well organised, it’s fun, it’s safe … it’s a little exhausting, but when you look at the backdrop of Lulworth Castle and then see how much fun your kids are having, it’s totally worth it.
(You can read my review of Camp Bestival 2011 HERE.)
Disclosure: We were lucky enough to be given press passes for the weekend.