Camp Bestival 2013 festival review

'Full of the unmissable, for children and adults alike'

Camp Bestival 2013 festival review

Photographer:Sara Bowrey

John Bownas - 05 August 2013

Camp Bestival has its niche firmly carved out as the premier child-friendly but musically-credible event on the summer calendar, the festival in Dorset has also managed to retain a boutique ambience whilst having a capacity of some 30,000. That said, when it feels like over half of your crowd are in the five to ten age-bracket, maybe you can squeeze a lot more little bodies into the available space.

And it’s a fact that there are children everywhere. Children in pushchairs, children in custom-pimped trollies, children up flagpoles, children weighed down by stacks of 10p deposit pint cups. There are kids crammed against the fence around the jousting arena, kids making clay models and kids sprouting tails. There’s youngsters learning to dance, being entertained by the blue coats and hanging upside-down from the giant Hi De Hi letters on the hill above the Big Top.

Indeed it almost seems to have been an entry-requirement that you brought a toddler or pre-teen with you to get through the gates.

There were still some people without young families in tow this year – but they were in a considerable minority. Fundamentally, Camp Bestival takes the concept of a festival kids’ zone to the limits and still doesn't leave the ‘adult entertainment’ as an afterthought.

Days start early as to avoid the risk of bored and grumpy tantrums, the Saturday and Sunday main stage bills both kick off between nine and ten in the morning.

Dick’n’Dom (9) and ‘king of kids’ TV’, Mr Tumble (7*), are the names on all the young lips this year. And like-it-or-not every parent who values their sanity on the way home has to be up without fail in time to get a good spot in the main arena.

How Mr Tumble has been elevated to near rockstar status with his children’s entertainer routines may baffle those without regular current contact with kid’s TV schedules. But whatever it is, it works, and there were thousands of trembling lips for a few anxious seconds after compere and Rick Stein lookalike Stephen Frost joked that Mr T had been a terrible car accident on the way to Lulworth – but on the upside the driver was still alive.

A more unlikely kids’ show however is the ever-popular Howard Marks’ storytime at the bandstand (9). With the stage taped off to prevent invasions, the former world’s most wanted man held the wrapt attention of a sea of tiny tots with excerpts from classic fairy tales delivered with a straight face and the occasional wry smile. The innuendo of what the wolf might do when he runs out of ‘puff’ when trying to blow down the little pig’s brick house will be lost on an average five-year-old. But an audience suggestion that Marks just sells him some more brings knowing laughter from their parents.

Other unmissable stuff for children and adults alike included the science tent’s vegetable orchestra, The BRIT School’s around-the-world-themed song-and-dance extravaganza and the adrenaline-pumping action on the giant half-pipes of the Freesports Park.

When it comes to the music, festival supremo Rob da Bank said it himself, “Camp Bestival is not about headliners". However those bands who did close each day delivered a varied diet of chin-stroking grown-up rock’n’roll uplifting folk-rock anthems and contemporary urban vibes.

Richard Hawley (5) is a great musician, but he didn’t have the instantly recognisable tunes that a headliner needs to win over a largely unfamiliar crowd. On the other hand Levellers (9) scored a real hit across the generations on Saturday and Labrinth (9) showed off his diverse musical reference points as he delivered most of his debut album to the biggest crowd of the weekend (apart maybe from Mr Tumble of course).

Elsewhere on the bill at the Castle Field there were numerous highlights, chief amongst them being The Polyphonic Spree’s Rocky Horror Show (10), with Tim DeLaughter cutting a perfect red-robed Frank’n’Furter figure.

Kid Creole and the Coconuts (8) brought a slice of carnival swing to proceedings, DJ Fresh (7) got the young audience jumping and Ash (9) were, well, on fire as usual, if the pun can be pardoned.

Whereas Nik Kershaw (6) might not have set the crowd alight but he demonstrated how even old pop-stars aren’t averse to forgoing the relative luxury of the nearest Travelodge in favour of the canvas option. “Sorry if we’re looking a bit dishevelled, that’s what you get for camping. What were we thinking?

Then Heaven 17’s covers of ‘You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling’ and Bowie’s ‘Boys Keeping Swinging’ went down almost as well as their show-stopper ‘Temptation’(8).

Wrapping up the Big Top on Saturday night, Musical Youth (7), (none of whom can lay claim to that epithet any more) took longer than anyone would have liked to get up to speed, but once they found their feet showed that they’re still a worthwhile curiosity.

But for sheer entertainment value there was one band who made a small but appreciative section of the crowd very happy by playing two sets, both of which were uproarious slabs of Victoriana-themed steam punk. With songs about Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the joys of gin, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing (10/10) are a joy to behold and epitomise how seriously good music doesn’t have to take itself too seriously.

*Apologies to younger readers who will disagree with this rating.. our reviewer is of the generation to remember appreciate the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel and not always the finer nuances of Mr Tumble’s performance.


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