We last visited Camp Bestival 5 years ago when the kids were really small, so were keen to go back and see how it had developed. Having a 7 and 11 year old it seemed the perfect safe festival to give them some freedom and for us to relax.
Camp Bestival celebrated 10 glorious years at their perfect location of Lulworth Castle in Dorset this year. So perfect, the team behind the festival have decided to move their big sister event Bestival to the same location this September. Not many festivals can boast the back drop of a castle and formal gardens, plus manicured lawns and a magical woodland that is transformed in to the Dingly Dell.
The idyllic location is great for an extended holiday. Do book early though if you wish to camp in the area as 30,000 festival goers descending on Dorset puts a slight strain on local facilities as well as creating a few traffic jams in the narrow local roads. We actually headed down to Lulworth Cove just a few miles away for a dip in the sea on the Monday after the festival.
After some delays getting on site when we arrived around 2pm on Thursday we headed to Campervan field A – located closest to the festival. Camp Bestival has grown at such pace that there is now a Campervan Field B located a 20 minute walk away. Which gives you an idea of the size of the site. The camping fields have several slopes making the walk with little ones potentially tiring. This probably explains the number of wagons, carts and buggies everywhere. Our own walk into the festival was a pleasant 10 minutes stroll through the spacious camping fields.
Entering the campervan field we realised what had caused the traffic delays as there were no stewards in the field. This meant campers were hesitating and parking anywhere, or just stopping a blocking the roads.
There are a whole host of glamping and premium camping options available for those that wish to guarantee a spot with friends. There is even the opportunity to pay for a posh poo pass from When Nature Calls once inside the festival, meaning you don’t have to use the blue loos.
Toilets across the site were kept clean considering the weather and we never waited for more than a couple of minutes to use them. I was pleased to see some compost toilets in the festival main arena but disappointed at the number of locations for toilets and water points in the camping fields. Some campers had a long walk to the closest toilets, which seemed unnecessary considering the number of them on site. It’s not easy rushing a desperate child to the loo in the night when they are a 5 minute walk away – a simple solution would be to spread out the many toilets on site a little more next year.
We didn’t visit them but there were several Posh Wash shower blocks located in the camping fields.
Visual highlight of the year had to be the fabulous Caravanseria. Like something from a Tim Burton episode of In The Night Garden, the set designers here had clearly had something stronger than espresso martinis on this project. A wacky playground of mashed up vintage caravans and fairground rides waiting to be explored. Just brilliant. The area had lots of comfy nooks and crannies to enjoy a cocktail or two in. Plus there was a undercover main stage with some fantastic gypsy-fuelled bands and DJ’s.
After setting up camp and meeting our neighbours for the weekend, we spent most of Thursday in the Caravanaseria. It had a great vibe and the kids loved the aerial circus performance. With the heavy rain over the weekend this area was the perfect addition to the festival providing undercover seating and entertainment. Thursday’s opening night went off in this quirky festival in a festival BIG STYLE. I never did find out who was DJing but everyone in the house was jumping. The stage was packed with kids going totally mental to Drum & Bass versions of popular nursery rhymes. It was a great start to a memorable weekend.
Friday (and Saturday) at Camp Bestival reluctantly welcomed the rain. A LOT. It rained and rained. And then it rained some more. The huge budgets and efforts put in to the decor didn’t sparkle quite as they should have drenched in rain. Having worked on festival set up in the past I have a big appreciation for the work and effort that goes in to transforming a field somewhere in to a festive feast for your eyes.
I feft dreadfully sorry for all the crew involved in building such a beautiful event only to see it battered by the weather. All the wonderful costumes and festival wagons that guests had spent hours on got covered with rain coats and tarpaulins and everything received a general splattering of honest English MUD. Despite the rain, the show went on.
Our kids are a little older now so the world of Cbeebies and the likes of Mr Tumble has passed them by, but the crowds for these preschool shows demonstrate just how many little people are at Camp Bestival. All of the entertainment over the weekend is suitable for kids and for older kids there is a teen zone with DJing, arts and crafts and other activities. Even Rob Da Bank showed up to do a workshop here. We did sneak in to take a look but got some sulky looks from teens so quickly left.
Sarah Cox stole Friday evening for us dancing in the rain at the giant disco ball to her ‘just can’t get enough 80s’ followed by a quick dart down to the front of the main stage (hoping over wagons and chairs) for the end of All Saints.
Saturday started early for us, trying to make the most of a break in the weather we dressed up and headed out to the kids garden. We queued up for The World Largest Bouncy Castle but for a second day, they were unable to open it due to bad weather conditions.
Ducking in to the The Greatest Tent on Earth my Friday night cocktail hangover hit with a West End production of Disney Princess classics. The kids all seemed to enjoy the show but I felt rather trapped in my own torture when I realised I couldn’t actually get out of the tent due to the rows and rows of decorated festival wagons around the edge sheltering from the rain.
*Rant warning (yes, I had a hangover)
Whilst on the subject of festival wagons. I’ve always had a bit of a dislike to them but at Camp Bestival they finished me off. As a parent I realise small children may need somewhere to sleep and that they may make the difference between a family being able to stay out and enjoy music of not. But seriously, when did kids become such little prince and princesses that they need to be carted about 24/7 by weary adults? They’ve got legs!
Anyway, if you are one of those hunched over parents now suffering with back problems after lugging a wagon stuffed full of cider and half eaten churros up and down hills at festivals this summer, have a little word with yourself. PLEASE do not line them up bumper to bumper with your mates folding chairs right in front of any stage, or inside tents – especially the door ways!
Camp Bestival as a festival would have been far more enjoyable if wagons and camping chairs were banned from the first 50 rows of all stages. And I don’t care if you spent 6 months carefully crafting your prize winning pimped up wagon – be considerate and don’t leave the handle sticking out to regularly knee cap passers by (me!). What’s wrong with a decent all terrain buggy, or even a blanket on the floor? It always worked when our kids were little.
My husband had somewhat of a romantic music moment with himself on Saturday night. The awesome Holly Johnson belted out The Power Of Love to thousands of swaying parents and all was perfect. Even the kids got fully into this epic power ballad moment and no one cared about the mud. We were transported back to our 80’s bedrooms and cassette players trying to record the top 40 with finger hovering over the pause button.
Considering the amount of rain, it seemed sensible to head back in time for the evening Bollywood session of Raindance. If it hadn’t of been for those pesky kids we would have got away with a proper good dance here. Tired kids meant my teenage road trip down memory rave lane was cut short. My other half couldn’t resist telling me what a top night it was and all about the epic ‘old school rave’ atmosphere. Thanks for the brief memories Billy Bunter x
It was sticky and slippery.
By Sunday the magical Dingly Dell in the woods was one giant mud kitchen and a perfect place for little ones to put the icing on the top of the washing pile. Hundreds of little ones were enjoyinging getting thoroughly stuck in while weary parents considered if 11:50 was too early to visit the wine bar which had been strategically placed next to the play park.
The Woodland Tribe were located at the end of the Dingly Dell with their fantastic hands-on woodwork and fort building, but like many of the activities on offer at Camp Bestival, the queue was long. Our kids missed out quite a few activities like the sports camp, big wheel, tree climbing, pony riding etc. due to queue lengths. Sadly, as Camp Bestival has grown, so have the waiting times.
We did wait patiently for half an hour for the Lego Friends stand as both daughters are big fans, and for the Rowntrees sweet tasting stand. Personally, these felt more like a trade show than a festival, but the kids were happy to leave with a photobooth snap and a little goodie bag with a Lego snowboarder in and a Lego magazine. Oh, and heaps of sweets as we were the last visitors to the Rowntrees stand!
Although the mud turned much of Camp Bestival to slop, the kids fields managed to remain reasonably grassy so there were still places to relax and enjoy the day of sunshine and entertainment on Sunday. We enjoyed some great music on Oberon’s Observatory and also watched the brilliant acrobats from Circus Raj in front of the castle. The rain coats came off and the kids explored the science tent and circus skills in the upper kids field while we relaxed and watched everyone’s fancy dress efforts pass by.
I didn’t make it in to the Slow Motion healing area and only wandered briefly through Spinney Hollow and the traditional craft workshops on offer but it all looked lovely and relaxing.
Sponsorship or Silliness
For us, festivals are all about escaping the pressures of everyday life and the corporate world. This wasn’t easy in the main arenas at Camp Bestival as so many of the activities are sponsored or branded. The Camp Bestival I remember from 5 years ago was very different. I missed all the wacky walk about theatre, silly activities, and the campsite Hi Di Hi morning calls. This year all felt a bit more grown up and serious. Perhaps I’m just getting old?
I’ve probably missed a few but I feel I should mention some of the companies who entertained families over the weekend. Volvo (nice buns), Visit California, Lego, Bear, Family Traveller, Waitrose, Dorset Cereal, Cawston Press, Wykes, Heart FM, Rowntrees.
We had a great time at Camp Bestival and having visited many festivals with my family over the years, the eco-credentials are sadly the reason I wont hurry back. I feel festivals, especially ones targeting children, should be beacons of hope for a brighter future and the way we should teach our kids to live and respect our planet. I was shocked at the waste and consumerism at Camp Bestival.
I’m sure that there is lots of recycling that goes on after the festival but that doesn’t excuse all the throw away plastic and packaging that was used. Or the considerable amount of camping equipment guests left on the campsite for someone else to deal with. Bigger festivals are tackling the problems of festival waste in such constructive and serious ways – Camp Bestival need to catch up.
The main bars at Camp Bestival had a token effort at recycling with a 10p return scheme of branded disposable glasses, but all this encouraged was kids rummaging in bins to make a few quid rather than enjoying the festival. The cocktail bars used ridged plastic glasses which went straight in the bin even though they were perfectly reusable. Most of the food stalls had plastic utensils and packaging – even the cream tea from the Women’s Institute was served in a throw away plastic tray!
This may seem like a minor issue and something we just accept is part of festival culture these days, but personally, I want to encourage my kids to be better citizens for a brighter future.
Here are a few more pics from our weekend. Read more about this year’s Camp Bestival and their excellent accessibility facilities from Catherine below.
Camp Bestival are really hot on accessibility. This is evident in the ever increasing size of their accessible campsite and the extra lengths the organisers go to making the festival accessible for all. Guests who require a personal assistant receive a free carer’s pass on proof of eligibility.
The accessibility camp site is perfectly located by the drop off point for taxis by the bottom of the lower kids’ field. The 5m x 7m accessible pitches are marked out and guests can drive to their pitch to unload their kit. Blue badge holders whose cars fit within the pitch can even leave keep their car on the pitch all weekend next to their tent. Take note that nearly all the pitches were claimed by mid afternoon on the Thursday so do arrive early to secure your pitch.
I was delighted to see that as a response to feedback from last year, there were extra showers and toilets in accessible camping so even at 7.30am, there were virtually no queue for the showers. Electrical hook ups could also be requested in advance for those who needed it and there was a fridge available for medicines too.
We’re still hoping for a food stall or coffee van within the accessible campsite and possibly a direct route into the kids’ field but these are minor things and generally we found all facilities excellent. Organisers had upped the security and accessibility wristbands were always checked on the way into the campsite. Across the site there were padlocked accessible toilets for which a code was given out with every PA pass. This worked brilliantly with all padlocks still intact on the Sunday making the whole experience more pleasant for those who need to use them.
The viewing platform for the main stage was excellently managed. The ‘plus one’ policy was relaxed at quiet times and they even had barriers to keep the area directly in front clear. This is often an issue at other festivals, but not at this year’s Camp Bestival. There was an extra accessible viewing area at the front for Mr Tumble which was operated on a first come first served basis. The main stage even had a sign interpreter on stage which is a superb addition. This year we could have done with a platform in the Big Top as the rain made the tents a lot more popular with all guests and it could be difficult to find wheelchair access amongst the trollies and buggies. The Greatest Tent on Earth didn’t seem to need one as people sit down for many of the shows in here. We had a great view for Samsam Bubbleman and West End Kids.
The World’s biggest bouncy castle scheduled sessions at the beginning of the day for the exclusive use of those with access requirements and their families. Unfortunately these were rained off on Friday and Saturday so to compensate they didn’t charge for the accessible session on the Sunday. It was excellent fun! Thank you so much to the team for being so thoughtful and aware. It really is appreciated.
The Chelsea football activities in the Sports Park were fully inclusive. I was hoping for specific disability sessions for my son and was a bit worried about how true to their word they would be with regards to inclusion. I needn’t have been as everyone that took part was fully involved and had a fantastic time.
Thanks for your consideration and continued inclusiveness.