Camp Bestival 2009: Rated!

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Justin Madgwick | 31 July 2009

Overall – 9.5/10

One of the best organised, fun, diverse and friendly festivals we’ve been to. Camp Bestival boasted excellent facilities for kids and adults, a stunning location and a great line-up across many musical genres and decades. Great weather on Friday and Saturday set the scene and even the downpours that swamped Dorset on Sunday couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm.

Getting there and back - 9/10

In high summer holiday season, the roads into Dorset can be horrendous, but Camp Bestival proved easy to find and seamless to get in to with last year’s reported problems seemingly dealt with. Train services were also frequent and the shuttle bus service ws good, although that too suffered from the problem of high-season traffic at one or two junctions – it was a hell of a lot better than most of the other festivals we’ve encountered over the years though!

Atmosphere - 9.5/10

In many places 10/10, but there were comments (rather than outright complaints) about the lack of variety in catering, in particular lack of children's food choices, as well as the queues for everything. However, the queues were nothing compared to many other festivals (or other attractions) and we felt the catering was pretty varied for the size of festival. Great vibe throughout - morning, noon and night.

The site - 9.5/10

Lulworth Castle is a beautiful and historic setting and the grounds were very well laid out and easy to get around with some good natural shelter under ancient oaks should it be too hot or should the rain hit (the festival had both this year). The festival also had plenty of loos with the organic ones faring the best on the nose! The festival could have done with a couple more cash-points, as the kids do want to do everything and not everything is free but at least there were a reasonable number of bars for adults with some pretty quick service. The clever bit though was separating the kid’s garden from the mainstream areas without making the separation too obvious – a really well constructed site.

Music - 9/10

Camp Bestival wasn’t just about having the latest acts, but the best variety of performers and styles from as many decades as possible.


There were so many good and worthy performances it’s difficult to draw a line somewhere with the comedy and fringe, the ballet and dance classes are all worth a mention.

Florence and The Machine
, Main Stage, Friday – 9/10
Florence’s breathtakingly brilliant and haunting performance was a real treat for a packed main stage crowd. Title track from ‘Lungs’ will be burned into many a memory from this showing with singer Florence engaging with the crowd whilst floating around the stage in a wispy, nymph-like white dress - a stark contrast to her angry black numbers sported at other festivals this year.

Kid Creole and the Coconuts
, Main Stage, Friday – 8/10
Kid Creole gave a fun, exceptionally smooth and polished performance with the help from his stunning backing Coconuts. The group entertained the crowd with their perfect feel-good tunes closing the day with ‘Stool Pigeon’, getting the crowd perfecting their old school disco moves.

Beardyman, Main Stage, Saturday and Sunday – 9/10
The bearded beatboxer was given several chances to perform and each time he did, he was great. The star read the audience perfectly as well as hand and legs went flailing as he dropped some Prodigy samples during his pre-Cuban Brothers show.

Crazy P, Main Stage, Saturday – 8/10
The group stopped stragglers from walking past with a concoction of disco beats, funky rhythms and endless energy. Mixing together tracks from new album ‘Stop Space Return’ and a brilliant cover of Shannon's ‘Let The Music Play’ those stragglers didn’t want to be anywhere else.

Bon Iver, Big Top, Saturday – 9/10
Note and atmospherically perfect, for at least the second time this festival season, Bon Iver made grown men cry with tracks like ‘Blood Bank’. Justin Vernon played and sang beautifully and the crowd, who were spilling out of the Big Top and watching on big screens, were clearly in awe of this brilliant set.

Candi Staton, Main Stage, Sunday – 8/10
Staton’s Alabama roots shone through the rain to give an uplifting, and soulful set that have everyone dancing to cover of ‘Suspicious Minds’ and, of course, ‘Young Hearts’ and ‘You’ve Got The Love’.

Nile Rodgers and Chic, Main Stage, Sunday – 9/10
Despite the technical problems at the outset, an hour of non-stop disco, funk, dance that spanned three decades of Nile Rodgers’ musical prowess was brilliantly delivered and, as if by some divine intervention – without the rain! ‘Le Freak’, ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’, ‘Everybody Dance,’ ‘Good Times’, ‘Let’s Dance’ – the list was endless.

Rob da Bank
, Sunday, Main Stage – 9.5/10
Dressed in impressive wolf-headdress, Rob da Bank gave the crowd a 25-minute set as diverse as the festival itself, mixing Cliff Richard's ‘Summer Holiday’, ‘Summer Loving’ from Grease, Queen's ‘Don't Stop Me Now’ with Massive Attack's ‘Unfinished Symphony’ and ‘Chime’ by Orbital - all to the most impressive fireworks display since year 2000 - awesome. A gauntlet has been thrown down to all other festivals and the bar has been set high, very high.

Other notable performances were from Roots Manuva in the pouring rain, Dub Pistols unexpectedly without Lindy Layton and Rodney P and PJ Harvey’s solo performance are all worth a thumbs up too.


We struggled to really have any, but when Imelda May was unable to make her main stage slot, the replacement, whose name didn’t appear to be mentioned, was nervous and so far off the expected pocket rockabilly that she was virtually invisible.

Random Moments

When you have 5,000 kids in fancy dress there are too many random moments to list, but there are some images that are never to leave: Space Pig and Space Dog dancing to Chic alongside giant rabbits with curlers in their hair; a burlesque pig, possibly drunk, enjoying Candi Staton’s ‘Young Hearts’ a little too much; a young child shouting rather confusedly to their mummy – “I’ve just seen Father Christmas and he’s married to a lady bird,”; a bearded little bo-peep pushing a pram and the most eclectic mix of adults in 101 Dalmatian outfits.

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