We have just returned from our third Camp Bestival extravaganza and of course, I immediately hastened to tell you all about it. Well, after perusing our photographs, putting on several loads of washing and enjoying a nice sleep in an actual bed…
I have to say from the outset that this was very definitely our best Camp Bestival so far – aided by both the glorious weather and also the fact that we opted for Camping Plus this time around, which made the whole experience so much better. My husband and I are not, shall we say, natural campers and so we revelled in having a level pitch already measured out for us along with close proximity to the carpark (a five minute walk – GET IN), hot showers (I had one every morning like the rubbish festival goer that I am), nice food, rather more opulent than average loos (which isn’t saying much, admittedly but hey) and a prevalent sense of orderly calm.
As I’ve remarked before though, we are both very easily institutionalised: Dave remarked at one point that he couldn’t remember what OUR HOUSE looked like and I remember a bleary eyed conversation with a complete stranger in the loos at 6am about how it was making me nostalgic for the maternity ward after my youngest son was born – exhausted women staggering about in their pyjamas, the distant wail of babies, unhappy murmurings about the state of the loos.
Moving on. We arrived at Thursday lunchtime and after putting up our new tent in blistering heat, sauntered forth to survey our surroundings. Most of the site remains closed until the Friday morning but the big top field is partially open so you can get food and start to get into the festival mood. Also open was the Wall of Death, which I am told is a somewhat terrifying motorbike stunt thing which had never anything less than epic queues outside waiting to get inside. My husband and the Seven Year Old went to see it more than once but I wasn’t sure that the Three Year Old would be all that keen. Instead, I had a burrito, which was very nice.
Thursday night passed in a blur of cider and excitement. I met up with a friend and her family and then enjoyed the stroll back to my tent with a cup of Thali Cafe chai tea through the dusk, which is when the festival site really comes alive with a wealth of colour, noise, bright lights and jollity. We decided not to take a trolley with us this year so couldn’t stay out too late as the Three Year Old tended to crash out at about ten every night but they really are a bonus if you have a small child and want to catch the late night music and general glee as you can just tuck them inside with a pile of pillows, blankets and toys and leave them to settle down to sleep.
Friday morning was bright and breezy and we were determined to make the most of it. After an excellent breakfast we headed out to enjoy the day. The whole site was open by the time we made it there and so we had a really enjoyable wander around, taking in the wand making workshop which had returned yet again and the many joys of the Children’s Field with its excellent free activities, profusion of food stalls and never ending stream of entertainment. I’m sure it is possible to be bored at Camp Bestival but I think you’d have to be pretty determined not to be pleased by ANYTHING to manage it. Our boys were in a frenzy of excitement the whole time, taking in the bouncy castle, the craft tents, Silly Science and the free cake decorating at the Flora stall before we finally settled down with our lunch in the relatively peaceful little garden beside the castle to listen to The Japanese Popstars, who were ace.
Our days seemed to fall into a gentle routine from this point – rise early for showers then breakfast in Camping Plus before heading to the main site to watch the Seven Year Old squander the fiver we gave him every morning on coconut ice, a trip down the helter skelter and ice cream. After this we’d take a wander around, maybe stopping off for a dance lesson in the Pigs Ballroom (I especially enjoyed learning how to cha cha cha and do the mambo on Sunday afternoon) or to watch the jousting before having lunch, after which we’d find more fun stuff to do and then end with a visit to the magical Dingly Dell and supper sitting out on the Magic Meadow while dusk fell around us and the crowd cheered on whatever was going on in the big top or oooohed in unison at the Wall of Death behind us.
I’ve commented in the past about the way that Camp Bestival is kind of how I’d imagine it to look if Primrose Hill and the Home Counties were hit by some sort of apocalypse and all the inhabitants forced to move out to a temporary shanty town complete with PIMMS bus and makeshift shops so that they can keep up a ready supply of quirky wellies, floral fifties print oilcloth and pastel gillets. There were still elements of this (the PIMMS bus was in residence as usual and instead of the Boden tent, we had Joules and Cath Kidston) but I noticed that there seemed to be a much wider mix of people on site this year, which I think is great and testament to how hard the Camp Bestival team work to make the festival appeal to as many diverse tastes as possible.
One thing that was definitely designed to appeal to as many tastes as possible was the food as there was seriously something for everyone – ranging from the usual chips and dips to halloumi rolls to a Moroccan barbecue to all manner of burgers, curries, burritos, churros, pasta, ice cream, baked potatoes and pies. The usual names were out in force too, with the marvellous Pieminister and the Thali Cafe flying the flag for Bristol’s superb culinary scene (‘We might as well have stayed at home,’ my husband grumbled as I tucked into a Pieminister ‘mothership’ box of cheese pie and all the trimmings) as well as Byron, Wagamama (I opted for my favourite katsu curry and very much enjoyed eating it while sitting in a field) and the Hummingbird Bakery, who were on the Castle Field selling a small selection of their cakes which luckily included vanilla and red velvet cupcakes.
We had the most amazing time at Camp Bestival this year – it really was the perfect family holiday by the sea and an excellent kick start to the school holidays. Of course, it’s pouring with rain in the west country now so I think we really lucked out with such superb weather all weekend long.
Usually, I’m pretty relieved to be on my way home again but I actually felt so sad to be leaving on Monday morning. The Three Year Old and I had a little mournful walk down to the main site to watch them taking the tents down and agreed with each other that we’d had the VERY BEST time.
A FEW GRUMBLES BECAUSE LET’S FACE IT, NOTHING IS PERFECT:
My husband coming back to the tent on Sunday night upset by Jimmy Carr’s misogyny and rape ‘jokes’.
People leaving rubbish all over the field after leaving on Monday. Lazy sods. BIN IT and put it in the rubbish bag enclosure. It really annoyed me as not only did it make extra work for the people clearing up afterwards but it also ignored the fact that the land is usually used for livestock plus it’s just really rude and disrespectful.
One of the Camping Plus caterers, Healthy Yummies made a lot of fanfare about staying open non stop from Thursday to Monday but actually shut down on the Saturday evening which put a lot of strain on the other caterers and ended up in a reduced choice to the campers. This is now referred to as Healthy Yummiesgate in our household, mainly because misuse of ‘-gate’ drives my husband insane.
The YBF tent – the food and drink on offer looked amazing and really delicious but we couldn’t figure the voucher system out (actually we were just too lazy to think it through properly) and the first stall we tried to buy stuff from refused to accept cash so we ended up not buying so much as a sausage. Much woe.
Missing lots of things because they clashed with other things. You’d think that there’d be more than enough time to do EVERYTHING over a three day festival but no, there was actually TOO MUCH TO DO. This is also a good point.
Missing the silent disco AGAIN because it was on so late and I was already fast asleep. Please can they bring back the afternoon one for those of us who can’t stay up until 1am?
The usual rude, thoughtless, curmudgeonly, weirdly territorial and inconsiderate behaviour from some parents building trolley, enormous pushchair and picnic blanket enclaves on the Castle Field and elsewhere, particularly late in the evening. There is a time and a place. This was not it. This was only a miserable few though – the VAST majority of Camp Bestival’s punters are utterly wonderful, happy, chilled out, friendly sorts so when you see someone behave in a way that makes you roll your eyes a bit, you never have to wander very far before seeing at least two dozen other things that cheer you right up and restore all your feelings of radiant good humour.
THE BEST BITS, OF WHICH THERE WERE MANY SO I’LL HAVE TO BE SELECTIVE HERE:
Dancing the cha cha with the Seven Year Old in Pig’s Ballroom. He didn’t want to do it at first and had to be bribed with an ice cream but then REALLY got into it! We had such fun.
Going on the carousel with the Three Year Old and Seven Year Old, who got told off for doing stunt carousel pony riding. Oops.
The magical and so haunting night time performances of Rime by Square Peg circus. We came across this by accident while watching the Olympics opening ceremony and ended up completely entranced. It was so graceful and beautiful and the Seven Year Old was fascinated by some of the acrobatics. We even eschewed the Happy Mondays on the Sunday night in order to watch it again.
The Japanese Popstars!
The sweet tempered and endlessly helpful stewarding staff. Seriously, it cannot have been easy to deal with so many people and in such high temperatures and yet we didn’t encounter a single grumpy face among them. I was especially grateful to the lady who let us bypass the post firework crowds on Sunday night and walk back to the campsite through the pretty much deserted children’s field.
Watching the children go nuts in the Dingly Dell playground.
The wonderful fireworks at the very end, complete with fun Olympics themed projections on the castle walls.
Sitting in a field in the sunshine while eating a red velvet cupcake while the boys devoured a vanilla one.
Finally getting a chance to wear my Vivien of Holloway pirate dress!
Being recognised several times. I’m starting to feel almost famous!
It’s not every day you can say that you spotted Sophie Ellis Bextor in the soft play. She looked incredibly beautiful.
The brilliantly fun jousting. Some of the knights were quite nice to look at too…
The entire festival site at night when everything was lit up and the partying got started. I felt really sad that our boys just aren’t the right age yet to stay up late but it looked and sounded like everyone was having a brilliant time.
The inflatable wedding chapel. I was too scared to look inside but it all looked fabulous. What was happening in there? I really wanted to investigate the wedding disco tent next to it but didn’t dare!
The Farmer’s Market – excellent for stocking up on treats for a last minute picnic on the grass. I rediscovered my passionate love for coconut ice in there and the children’s picnic bags were a bargain.
Having a shower every morning before facing the day. No seriously, this makes such a difference. I know it feels like having a shower isn’t doing the whole festival thing properly but who cares?
Wonderful music everywhere we went. I really REALLY adored the Indian brass band and am wondering how much it would cost to hire them to serenade me from beneath my bedroom window on my birthday.
Fabulous food – especially the burritos and the cupcakes and the curry and the churros…
I’m assured that the Wall of Death was a definite highlight even though I didn’t see it. I’ve seen videos though and it looks TERRIFYING.
Rolf Harris going a bit goth at one point. At least, I think he did.
No queues getting on and off the festival site in our cars. It was a bit eerie actually. We queued for ages last year and the year before that so this was a bit novel.
Wonderful proper festival weather right the way through. Luckily, as I didn’t take wellies! Actually, maybe RAIN is proper festival weather?!
My husband in a hat. He REALLY fancied himself in it and is now all mournful because he has nowhere to wear it.
I can’t bloody wait until next year’s Camp Bestival. Early bird tickets are on sale from this Friday apparently. Did you go too? How was it for you?
Muchos gracias to Bruce from Get Involved for our family press pass and also EVERYONE at Camp Bestival HQ for such an amazing weekend.