Camp Bestival celebrated another summer in style with its infamous firework finale topping off the greatest mix of wondrous eclectic entertainment you’ll find outside of Yellow Submarine. Parents wanting to give their children a taste of festivals in a safe and fun environment as well as having some more grown up moments of their own were treated to some extraordinary sites. With a wealth of musical greats in Jimmy Cliff, Hot Chip and Kool and the Gang; as well as kids heroes Shrek, The Gruffalo and Mr Tumble – there was plenty to keep everyone of every age entertained. From spoken word and comedy to hurly burly cafes and pianos littered around the site for your own busking pleasures, nothing was missed; and the bubbles, oh the bubbles. But I’ll get to that.
For me, festivals make the summer, well… summer. Bands, dancing, beer, cider, sun, rain, mud, hugs and random moments you won’t find anywhere else. The idea of adding children to this mix terrifies me. And to bring my own? Christ, you’re mad. The two belong at either end of the spectrum. However, after being informed by an old work colleague of mine that Camp Bestival was the best of both worlds, I purchased tickets for myself, my daughter and my sister – wanting to provide my daughter with a glimmer of why I went missing for a few days each summer, as well as obviously wanting to provide her with an experience she wouldn’t forget. Here’s what happened.
Children. Everywhere. Help.
Wait. Let me start from the beginning.
After loading our bags up with a ridiculous amount of kids party food aka cocktail sausages, hula hoops and party rings – and noticing a somewhat eerie lack of alcohol for a festival, we met up at the nearest meeting point of South London; and after squeezing our bags into the car in a manner that would make ‘clowns in a mini’ look pathetic, we set off down the motorway to Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. Upon arrival, we pulled into the Camping Plus car park, and aside from a hill steep enough to force me into a sweat I haven’t seen since P.E, the walk to the campsite was astonishingly minimal. We collected our wristbands and my daughter was given the instructions about what to do if lost. I assured the steward that I would die a grisly death from her mother if I were to lose her and if it came to it, I would gaffer tape her to me.
Now, I’m normally not fussed about any kind of ‘luxury’ camping, and happily camp amongst the muggles, soaking up the festival layer of piss, shit, sweat and flat cider to my heart’s content. However, as my daughter was with me I felt purchasing ‘Camping Plus’ was worth it. And Christ was it worth it. No rush, and punch to secure a spot in the field, we were allocated a 5m x 7m plot, as well as showers, three types of toilet and a great mix of breakfast cafes. Any fear of your child getting taken out by tent wires or cuddling you with their excrement soaked mits was quickly diminished. As the sun set over the picturesque Dorset countryside, children slowly went to sleep (apart from a few demonic screams) and parents took the opportunity for a quick fag and drink (We were still unsure of the rules, and unnerved by behaving rather responsibly at a festival).
Waking up at 4am to the scream of a satanic baby was a festival first. Also waking up without a hangover and tinnitus was rather strange. We got ourselves a hearty sausage butty breakfast from the ironically named Healthy Yummies and planned our festival onslaught. We made our way around the beautifully set out site around Lulworth Castle, and parked ourselves in the Mini Big Top to take part in some singing lessons. When tinnitus finally kicked in, we headed over to the intriguing Bandstand to discover the incredible Silly Science showing kids that science can be fun. I’m never a fan when adults try and make a subject like science ‘fun’ for kids as it normally involves a middle aged man boring the hell out of them – but when they’re wearing wigs to put Sideshow Bob to shame and putting TEN Mentos in Cola bottles, exploding them all over the crowd, even I’m willing to learn. And with random pause in science to dance to Black Lace’s ‘Superman’, you can’t go wrong.
After wondering around the site, what I noticed was the amount of room. Despite the large number of people at Camp Bestival, there was still plenty of space – encouraging more cartwheels and forward rolls from kids than you’ll find at the Olympics. We moved on over to the Castle Stage, sitting opposite the striking Lulworth Castle and danced, jumped and cart wheeled along to Delilah, Stooshe and the legendary Jimmy Cliff – adding a heart warming carnival vibe to the day.
On our way back to the Big Top, we discovered something. Something beyond incredible. Something kids dream of at night. THE main attraction. BUBBLES. Oh yes. Bubbles. Bubble Inc had set up shop opposite the Bollywood tent, just to the side of the Big Top, and were putting on a display of their products outside for the entertainment of children and the deformation of parents wallets. Anyone over the four days with a bubble making apparatus was essentially a demigod, with children chasing anyone with bubbles in a bizarre Pied Piper fashion.
After another wraithlike sober awakening, we picked up some pancakes from the nearby patisserie, and made our way down to the Big Top for the 9:30am showing of Kung Fu Panda – a genius idea allowing parents a chance to rest their eyes for an hour and a half, whilst their overexcited early rising sweet fuelled ninjas shadow boxed to an obese panda. The day was a day packed with children’s favourites and after guiding my daughter in the direction of the Castle Stage (whilst making sure eye contact with Bubble Inc was minimal) we sat down in the glorious sunshine only to be sprung up and shook to Dick and Dom’s charmingly daft performance. The crowd was split into the two sides. One half were ‘The Dom’s and wryly enough the other half declared “We Are The Dick’s”. Nice. The Gruffalo followed up next, with a brilliantly made musical version of the classic kids book, causing an eerie silence as the children stared in awe. Shrek, Fiona and Donkey provided a star struck moment for children under the Little Big Top, getting laughs for farting and burping and encouraging the crowd to fart and burp right back at Shrek to the kid’s hysterical amusement.
Despite, the unnerving feeling of drinking around kids, we grabbed some ciders and made our way to the jousting field to watch the knights of the world compete to, unfortunately not the death, but to the targets. With my daughter bossing much of the lineup, it was the adults turn, and we headed over to the Big Top (on the condition we went via the bubble shop) to check out Brooklyn’s Pearl and the Beard. We arrived early and managed to catch the back end of the still unsigned Ryan Keen’s set. Though the music is too ‘Ed Sheeran’ for me, the man’s guitar playing skills are incredible and certainly worth watching for his unique style alone. Pearl and the Beard followed next on stage completing their UK tour before returning back to the states. Comprising of an acoustic guitar, cello, minimal drums and some impressive vocals, they proved a real musical highlight of the festival, and I felt their music and work rate will bring them a deserved spot on larger stages, further up the roster. Even my pop loving 7 year old loved them. Compromise was then reached in the charismatic Rizzle Kicks, with their summer soaked anthems encouraging the kids and parents to dance under the big bright yellow sun. I decided a view from stage would be good, so cut through the press area and tried sneaking backstage. I was quickly blocked by a security guard so big, he blocked the sun. One scary mother fucker. I should have paid more attention to Kung Fu Panda.
Bedtime was calling, so we made our way over to the sun kissed Bandstand to listen to the dulcet tones of the infamous sophisticated drugs baron – Mr Nice himself, Howard Marks. Come on, who else would you want giving your children a bedtime story?! I can honestly say this was one of the greatest moments I’ve ever had. Beginning with Jack and the Beanstalk and following up with The Billy Goat Gruff, Marks’ story telling manner got the kids involved, asking for their heart warming thoughts and questioning each stories heroes actions. The children’s answers were as funny as Howards’ veiled jokes for the adults – “The Billy Goats want some grass hey?”
Laziness served up a breakfast of cereal bars, and a late arrival to the morning’s film of ‘The Land That Time Forgot’. Unfortunately films made in 1975 don’t really do it for the kids of this generation and we made our way over to the Bandstand to check out Silly Science again. Because NO ONE can get enough of Mentos and Cola explosions. The Dingly Dell Trail then provided some rest bite for my sister and I as the options of slides, monkey bars, see-saws and random pianos kept my daughter entertained for a while. I’m not neglecting my child, it’s just you know. I love being still.
We made our way over to the Castle Stage, picking up some much needed Pimms for the flagging adults in time for Little Roy. Reggae beats and some incredible Nirvana covers got the crowd into the carnival spirit again; and as the last cloud made its way over Lulworth Castle, the beautiful Lianne La Havas took to the stage to play her soothing blissed out tunes. The beautiful No Room For Doubt sat very well in Dorset’s sun soaked fields, and current single ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’ finished the set encouraging dancing and cartwheels from everyone. Cult Hero Rolf Harris followed proceedings bringing cheers and singalongs from the adults, with the children being clueless as to why the man who looks like Santa Claus on holiday was so popular.
As the evening got cooler we made our way back to our tent, in preparation for the Happy Mondays closing headline set, and the Grand Finale Firework display from Lulworth Castle. However, we fell asleep. As the fireworks streamed into the night sky, I tried waking my daughter; an A-Bomb could have dropped and not woken her. I watched a few minutes of the incredible display with my sister, before deciding it was fucking cold and darted back into the comfort of the tent; thinking back about the incredible four days we’d had.
This review doesn’t do Camp Bestival justice. Despite an initial unnerving feeling of attending a festival with children and wondering when you’ll need to cover their eyes, you soon realise that moment will never arrive. Camp Bestival is a festival like no other. With so much on, you’ll never be bored, as they’ve a real understanding of what kids and parents love. The small little quirks like the random pianos scattered around the site, in addition to the welly whaling and pillow fights taking place add a charming personality to the festival. And the bubbles, oh the bubbles. Music, arts, dance, spoken word, comedy, theatre – the list goes on. The best parts of Bestival mixed with the ultimate School Summer Fete. The kids will not only get a taste of what festivals are about but also gain a great deal of confidence from the camping and encouragement to get involved. The weather over the four days was incredible, but even a downpour wouldn’t have dampened Camp Bestival’s spirit. Rob da bank and Josie should be proud of what they’ve created; a wondrous mix of fantasy and entertainment and we’ll definitely be returning.
For more information, see our Camp Bestival Guide.