Camp Bestival 2012 - Family review
'A resounding success'
Justin Madgwick - 30 July 2012
Tacking Camp Bestival onto the end of a family break seemed a perfect solution to the post holiday blues,
so with glorious weather predicted for the weekend we headed to Dorset looking forward to Rob Da Bank's family fest.
Arriving on Friday was hassle free and we were into the campsite in no time, it looked like the vast majority of people had arrived on Thursday. Camping Plus is definitely an option worth considering, the extra £100 guaranteeing you a good sized, flat, pitch a short walk from the car park and the event; with free, hot showers, decent toilets and catering in the campsite.
The site at Lulworth Castle is set on easy going terrain with beautiful views, bordered by ancient woodlands
and encompasses all of the castles own gardens and lands, making it one of the easiest festivals to navigate, which
given the sheer volume of buggies and kid-carrying trucks is just as well!
Camp Bestival is a family festival first, and we noticed, that compared to previous years, the families were a lot younger – many more under 10’s, especially under 5’s, and far fewer teenagers. The propensity of little ones means the number of trolley trucks in tow was massive. They are worth the investment though, as lugging all your gear and sleepy kids around becomes a lot easier. Most of the people we spoke to hired theirs on site (£50 for the weekend); but plenty had bought them from garden centres, built from a kit available from Radio Flyer and a few intrepid parents had their own creations in tow – the level of “pimping” was seriously impressive, with lights, canopies, razzle dazzle and even a Scooby Doo Mystery Bus creation!
Entering the site from Camping Plus each morning , we looked down on the Magic Meadow, an undulating field flanked by a selection of performance tents and stages. A whole area dedicated to thrill sports where kids of all ages could take their scooters, skates, boards or bikes on well-constructed ramps, try their hand at slack-lining or even mountain boarding, was to the top of the field, decent crowds watched kids of all ages hurtling down the ramps and the professionals put on a display each day. Adjacent to this was the Wall of Death, the original vertical cylindrical wall challenge where motorbikes are ridden around, defying gravity, as this was free, the queue for each performance would start forming a good hour before, but everyone we spoke to agreed it was worth the wait (maybe that would have been different if it was raining!).
The Soul Park adjoined the Free Sports area, a haven for stressed adults with a pamper lounge and various massage, yoga and alternative therapy tents, some free, most chargeable but reasonable (£5 for a 20 minute experience) and a wood craft workshop that was booked out all weekend.
En route from the Soul Park back to Magic Meadow was Rob Da Bank's da banks music club, a cool venue to learn about singing, music production, drumming, bass , break dancing (with help from Rogue Elements) DJ'ing and guitar amongst others. Although specifically for 10-18 year olds, we did see a girl suspiciously looking more like 6 or 7 bashing out 'We Will Rock You' on the drums.
Back in the magic Meadow we visited the The Pigs Ballroom, where everyone can have a go at a variety of dance forms and enter competitions – the finale being on Sunday when Rogue Elements handed out the prizes in dance offs – a very impressive Lindy Hop from some of the under 10’s scooping the first gold.
The Magic Meadow led to the jousting field (a fixture of the castle) which provided the venue for jousts several times a day, great family entertainment with equestrian skills that were awesome. As this is free, you need to get there in plenty of time to bag a spot, but it is near the Churros and Chocolate stall, and a bar!
Next, Dingly Dell, a shaded walk through the woods and ponds used for various activities including the packed to bursting Fantastic Mr Fox Opera, the highly amusing Gideon Reeling (a completely whacky take on sporting activities with cloven hoof characters randomly discussing the 100m Gurgles with you) and poetry sessions. We went here several times!
In front of the castle lays the Castle Field (main stage) where most of the main acts perform. The biggest crowd by far was Saturday morning for the legend that is Mr. Tumble. You really do need to get here early if you want to join in with his version of the Hokey Kokey! Many a family would lay stake to their patch of sun-kissed earth on the slopes of the field and base themselves there all day, with plenty of food and drink stalls on tap, and kids fields leading off from two directions, it’s a good spot to be – and there are some big shady trees near the top of the field if you are happy to trade shade for sound quality.
The Kids' Fields laid host to a wide variety of activities and events including circus skills workshops, arts pavilions, craft stalls, spoken word tent, face painting, circus rides, The Little Big Top and a plethora of charity and food stalls. Special mentions to the Persil Mosh and Wash tent where kids perform karaoke in front of a green screen, the video of which would go on Facebook with the most hits getting a mini festival in their garden, street or village with Sophie Ellis-Bextor singing; the Ecover Feel Good Field with free dance workshops and a garden away from the dusty track; the Netflix Just For Kids tent with mini cinemas and a coffee garden; the Pelican Post (www.pelicanpost.org) where Daniel Roche (Outnumbered) assisted with the promotion of their cause and the English National Ballet marquee that offered free ballet workshops, including a morning stretching session for the family that opened up muscles you didn’t know you had!
One of our favourite stages of the weekend, the Bandstand, is in the lower kids field, with a wide and varied selection of performances taking place: stand-out being Snipperty Hitcherson Friday evening, a "folk" band where cider features in all their songs and a member of the public was cajoled into a badger suit to dance, their "Baz" to the Happy Mondays' Bez. This open field is another great place to de-camp, with less “traffic” than the Castle Field, plenty for the kids to run around and experience and some very good eateries.
The Young British Foodies (YBF) food tent was a welcome addition to the food options, a wide selection of exceptional food from small stalls including an amazing liquid nitrogen ice cream stand and excellent cocktail bar strategically positioned next door - clever! Other food haunts that went down well with us were From the Mountain (gnocchi and tartiflette); Smooth Criminals (shakes and Frappes) and the Paellateria. Our daughter however voted for the Isles of Scilly Fudge stall and the Liquorice lady.
Throughout the weekend, pantomimes, workshops, sing-a-longs and meet and greets took place in the Little Big Top, including a guest appearance by Shrek, Donkey and Fiona on Saturday, although this was mobbed; so we went to see the Insect Circus perform trapeze and rope walking acts dressed as various six-legged beings.
The Spoken Word tent was ever popular and our daughter would happily spend ages listening to authors, comedians and wordsmiths. The biggest crowds were when Dick and Dom graced the Spoken Word on Sunday morning, and Scroobius Pip filled the tent to bursting on Sunday afternoon. A brilliant interview with Matthew Horne on Friday revealed that there is probably a Gavin and Stacey special next Christmas.
One of the big events at Camp Bestival is the fancy dress parade; everyone is encouraged, and many do take up the baton, to enter. We noticed a dramatic increase in the number of parents who were outdoing their kids, you could imagine dads packing the gold lame whilst the kids brought sun hats! Whole families in Union Jack morph suits, moustachioed 118’s, orange afros on space hoppers and plenty of Olympic themed costumes parading after the Jaipur Brass Band from the castle to the band stand.
In addition to the 'cider folk', musically, Friday night's performance by the Cuban Bothers was loved by our nine year old, she learned some new words (thanks Mike Cuban!); Chic's set on Saturday night was truly brilliant with Nile Rogers engaging with the crowd effortlessly and the Happy Mondays were on top form on Sunday, Sean Ryder acknowledging the request for no expletives in his welcome address.For one of the dads in particular, Adam Ant, resembling a slightly portly Jack Sparrow, went down a treat on Friday afternoon!
On Sunday night, as the Happy Mondays retired from the stage, Ryder affectionately saying to Bez, “C’mon Granddad”, the castle is illuminated by a brilliant graphics and firework display set to music that runs for some 15 minutes – Camp Bestival set the standard for firework displays, and this was their best yet.
Combining the freedom and escapism a serious music festival should give you, with a safe and fun environment for those too young to know the bands or appreciate the need for adult alter ego's to express themselves would seem an impossible task, but Camp Bestival delivers this, in abundance. You have to be prepared to queue for an hour plus for the popular events and shows; but there are plenty of things you don’t need to queue for. We left with the smell of the fireworks, the lasting echo of "twisting my melons, man" and the sounds of laughter from all ages in the air. A resounding success!
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