This year I took my son to our eighth Camp Bestival. It’s testament to just how much we love the festival that we’ve not missed a single one since we first went back in 2012.
An absolutely incredible amount is on offer for families. Everyone who goes to Camp Bestival has a unique festival experience. No matter how much you jam pack into your days, you’ll only experience a small sample of all the treats on offer because there is just so much!
Festival Kidz has reviewed Camp Bestival extensively in 2016, 2017 and 2018. So this review will focus on what I felt made this year special.
This is a brand new area for 2019, in a previously underused location. The entrance to this new festival within the festival is found by going through the end of the gorgeous craft and woodwork area, Spinney Hollow. Once in we could either walk, run or roll down the steep hill to reach the expanse of activity hubs that make up Wild Tribe.
In previous years, Woodland Tribe has been confined to a spot at the end of the beautiful and tranquil Dingley Dell area. Children have always thoroughly enjoyed becoming immersed in a collective mission to create a wooden playground from scratch. For a small fee, children can collect some wood, along with nails and tools, and then set off to join in with the assembly.
This year, Woodland tribe has so much more space they were able to bring not only the playground building facility, but also a massive zip wire and awesome slip and slide. These were both free.
The zip wire only ever had a short queue (fantastic!) and although we had to book in the morning to use the slip and slide in the afternoon, there were signs up advising this. Both of these activities were really well organised and supervised.
My son has spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and I was grateful that the staff allowed him to go down the slide on his own first. This meant he could gauge whether or not he was up to joining in the free-for-all. Indeed he was and he loved slipping and sliding down with the rest of the excited children in his group.
My son also loved the fire lighting workshop with Bushcraft Tools. The course leader, Dustin, took so much time with each individual child, thus ensuring that they were all happy and safe.
He demonstrated several ways of starting a fire, whilst engaging the children with discussion. Following this, each child took their turn at fire lighting.
I was really impressed with the camaraderie in the little group. One little boy saw that my son was becoming frustrated that he could not get his cloth to ignite. After asking if he wanted assistance, he kindly gave him just the right amount of help.
By the end, all of the children had managed quite a substantial fire, and as a result were really proud of their achievements.
The skateboarding school offers free lessons, and was extremely popular. We luckily managed to get the last spot for a Saturday morning slot.
I explained about my son’s disability, and they were more than happy to accommodate when they saw how keen he was. It was a fabulous experience for him.
One of the coaches ran back and forth with him, holding at first both of his hands, and then just one. They took a few breaks, but nonetheless the guy must have been exhausted.
I’m so proud of my son always wanting to have a go at everything, but it should be noted that this wouldn’t be possible without coaches like the one at the skate school who go out of their way to help.
Elsewhere in Wild Tribe
The whole Wild Tribe area was just simply gorgeous. The idea behind it was to encourage children to enjoy themselves away from screens. It certainly worked as I only got my phone out to take photos while we were there,. My son was far too busy to think of YouTube! There are also drumming circles, weaving and tipis to play in.
The Greenpeace café, Feed The Soul, was superb. I had a delicious daal that was very reasonably priced. The staff were so personable despite being busy.
Unfortunately, as we were busy elsewhere in the festival, we missed both the opening and closing ceremonies of Wild Tribe. To mark the end of Wild Tribe at Camp Bestival 2019 there was singing and dancing whilst the crowd looked on to watch the burning of the playground. I heard that it was quite a spectacle.
The Rest of Camp Bestival 2019
The Wild Tribe isn’t the only entertainment for families, there’s lots more in the rest of the festival.
Big Top Mania
Big Top Mania returned to its usual spot at the top of the Upper Kids Garden. They always bring a huge range of equipment for children to play with: circus items, bikes, inflatables, games, and wonderful staff that tirelessly play and entertain.
In the tent there’s a massive range of shows and workshops. I was so glad to catch the talent show this year, which overran considerably as there is just so much talent in the young audience. One amazing little girl got up and signed with Makaton the whole of A Million Dreams. I wasn’t the only one who found myself welling up.
My heart was warmed as I found it indicative that children are so keen to include everyone in their play they will learn a whole new way of communicating, so as to include more friends.
Lower Kids Garden
Alongside all the music on the main stages, I always catch at least one show in the Literary Institute.
We are huge fans of Horrible Histories, so I obviously relished the chance to hear about its journey from books to big screen. The talk was given by the books’ illustrator Martin Brown, along with the show’s producer Caroline Norris.
One thing that I think resonated with a lot of the audience was how Martin Brown encouraged budding artists. He said that we should just keep drawing, and not worry about whether or not our pictures resemble reality. To illustrate his point he listed activities such as football, singing and dancing, which people enjoy doing despite being far from expert at them.
It’s true however, that on the whole, we give up and put our pens down if we cannot produce works akin to those of Rembrandt.
Greatest Tent On Earth
The stage in the Greatest Tent on Earth in the Lower Kids Garden is a lovely venue for some wonderful shows. We always enjoy watching Samsam Bubbleman on stage with his world record bubble antics, and his displays outside his shop, Bubble Inc.
To wind down the evenings, Camp Bestival invite celebrity guests to read Bed Time Stories. This year we were treated to the dulcet tones of Mr Bloom, Mister Maker and Mr Camp Bestival himself, Rob Da Bank.
The Rest of the Lower Kids Garden
The Jurassic Coast Trust always brings a wonderful display. They had a fantastic idea of raising funds by asking for a small donation to take part in a goal scoring tournament. It was great fun and really well organised.
New to the festival this year was (what I call) the Chalky Bus. The concept is so simple and yet so wonderfully effective. A bus is painted matt black, and chalks and paints are left out for children to come and decorate it with. This was a wonderful addition that provided a whole weekend of fun.
The Lower Kids Garden also included the Insect Circus, soft play, messy play and crafts, experiments and shows at the science tent and much much more.
The line up was amazing for older children this year. Highlights for my son were Jess Glynne, Lewis Capaldi, Big Shaq and Rak Su. I rather preferred Black Grape, although we both enjoyed Nile Rodgers and Chic.
Last time Elvana were at Camp Bestival, the Big Top was rammed with festival goers captivated by the Nirvana covers band fronted by an Elvis impersonator. Without a doubt, they deserved their place on the main stage this year!
I’ve always loved Nirvana’s cover of Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World. Elvana clearly appreciated the surrealism:
“This is where it gets really weird – some guy from Newcastle Upon Tyne pretending to be Curt Cobain pretending to be Elvis Presley pretending to be David Bowie!”
I don’t know why it works so well, but it does!
We missed the acts that everyone was talking about in the Big Top – Napalm Death and The Vengaboys – they weren’t on stage together, I definitely wouldn’t have missed that!
Both son and I were glad to see the return of West End Kids. This group of future stars put together a fantastic show featuring songs from hit musicals such as Seussical and The Greatest Showman.
My favourite stage acts were the comedians. Whilst I think it’s a shame that Camp Bestival no longer offers a kids comedy show, this set up personally suited us. The line up consisted of Andre Vincent, Boothby Graffoe and last but not least, Omid Djalili (my highlight).
On seeing younger ears in the audience, the comics cut out anything too risqué. Nevertheless, the children were absolutely delighted with the odd swear word that was included!
Apart from their own routines, each comedian found themselves becoming a double act with their BSL interpreters who became part of the show. They were all undoubtedly curious to see what the signs were for various expressions. Omid Djalili even got them signing in Iranian!
Heroes Versus Superheroes
This was undoubtedly one of the most popular themes I have ever seen at a festival!
I saw so many versions of Wonder Woman I thought it would’ve been great to have a parade with everyone divided according to their costumes. Obviously this wouldn’t have worked as (with the exception of the fabulous Incredibles) families would have been split up. The amount of crying children may have somewhat detracted from the gloriousness of the spectacle.
I was surprised not to see more real life heroes, although Jess Glynne did come on stage dressed as her hero, Cher. The suffragettes were clearly amazing.
It is great to see festivals become so much more environmentally aware. This year Camp Bestival introduced a reusable cup policy. The bars were charging a deposit for each cup which would subsequently be exchanged for a clean one when returned with each order. Finally on the Sunday, guests could request a souvenir Camp Bestival cup with their last drink of the weekend.
Also, most of the stalls were demonstrating great care not to produce too much waste with packaging etc.
There were various talks over the weekend on topics such as sustainability, and even an Extinction Rebellion march.
Each general waste bin had a recycling bin next to it, so there was really no excuse to not separate rubbish.
Food & Facilities
I always love the range of food at the stalls at Camp Bestival, especially the number of veggie and vegan options. Most of the stalls can cater for a variety of diets, and in addition, offer children’s portions.
Again, the toilets were plentiful and kept clean and well stocked. The queues for the showers can be avoided by going in the afternoon.
Camp Bestival remains to be one of the best festivals of its size in this area. Which is largely down to Drew, who runs the accessible campsite with such care and attention to detail.
Please do have a look at my previous reviews of Camp Bestival from 2018 for more information on how Camp Bestival strives, and indeed succeeds, in being so inclusive.
I would however like to see the simple addition of a bench outside the showers. For those who struggle to stand and queue for long periods it would be brilliant.
Camp Bestival has had it’s fair share of unfortunate weather over the last few years. Luckily Lulworth was about the only area in the country not to suffer storms and floods this weekend, making Camp Bestival 2019 one of the best to date.
The organisers made sure everything fell beautifully into place. Meanwhile happy festival goers enjoyed music, adventures and more at this perfect family retreat.
See our factsheet for more information on future Camp Bestival festivals.