Imagine a world where 15,000 children and 15,000 adults come together besides a castle near the sea, where an Alice In Wonderland bar serves intoxicating liquids, a Women’s Institute tea tent serves delicious homemade cake, medieval jousting takes place just metres from a Bollywood inspired disco, whilst a bit further round the corner men dressed as medieval characters play crazy golf, bubbles float around in the air just waiting to be popped and Primal Scream belt out the whole of their Screamadelica set. Then as this strange dream world comes to an end there’s a firework display that is perfectly integrated with music and cartoons projected onto the castle. This is the world of Camp Bestival, an award winning 3 day extravaganza in Dorset.
Here’s the Breaking More Waves guide to all the key points of the festival.
A full adult camping ticket was £170 with monthly payment plans available to spread the cost. If you wished to gain early entry to the campsite on Thursday there was an additional £10 charge per person (a new feature for this year which helped reduce traffic congestion). Children under 12 were free.
Mainly sunny with a tiny isolated shower early Saturday morning.
Set in the grounds of Lulworth Castle. There were three main areas – The Castle Stage, The Magic Meadow and the huge Kids Garden which was divided into an upper and lower sector. There are two main music stages; the Castle Stage and the Big Top. Plus there are a variety of smaller ones such as the Bollywood Bar, the Black Dahlia and the Bandstand. The site was beautifully decorated with an abundance of flags, bunting and man-made giant tulips with real attention to detail in the visual aesthetic of the site throughout. Litter dropping was assisted by a 10p refund for each paper cup and can that was returned to the bars. This led to the rather comical site of small children scouring the ground to pick up dropped drink vessels like new-wombles. We were informed that one child bagged him / herself £45 for his endeavours, although when the paper cup scoops from the compost bins for the composting toilets were taken for cash, things had probably got a bit out of control.
The campsites themselves were situated on more hilly land which meant that late arrivals found themselves sleeping on some rather steeply sloping ground.
Camp Bestival firmly markets itself as a family friendly festival and thus the place teemed with 30-40 something parents and their children. This year for the first time since its inception there was a small but noticeable number of teenagers a tiny number of whom were rather unruly. Some concerns were raised by some adults that these teenagers who according to the terms and conditions were meant to be accompanied by an adult did not seem to be and were a little too boisterous compared to the vibe of previous Camp Bestivals.
Generally laid back and friendly.
Last year the toilets at Camp Bestival were some of the best we’ve experienced for a festival of this size. This year they were in the main good to excellent (particularly the composting ones), although there was the occasional ‘messy’ loo and there were reports (unconfirmed by ourselves) that the toilets in the more spacious premium payment ‘camping plus’ part of the site were inadequate.
The queues for food stalls in the Castle Stage area at peak times were quite long (we waited approximately 10-15 minutes to be served) but this didn’t matter because we could still see the stage from where we were queuing. Queues for toilets were very short although as with any large festival the campsite loos did experience some queuing at peak times such as first thing in the morning.
A wide selection of food that was all very good. Scampi and chips ( £6.50 ) bean salad, beetroot humus with green salad, tomato and pitta bread from The River Cottage Café (£5.50), filled baguettes from the WI tent (£3), scallops and mash £6) and paella (£6) were some of the dishes on offer.
The Music / Entertainment
What Camp Bestival excels at, besides its great looking site is entertainment for the kids. There was so much for children to do, particularly for under 10’s, that it would have been quite possible not to see any live music at all. However within the kids area there were a variety of adult attractions including the East Lulworth Literary Tent where Breaking More Waves caught Radio 1 DJ Sarah Cox talking about life as a mum, her career and her life in general as well as a variety of spoken word acts.
Musical highlights came from Laura Marling whose soft charms and depth in song writing wowed a surprisingly small audience in the Big Top – it seems that most had chosen to watch headliner Blondie on the main stage. A more unexpected thrill was Mark Ronson. With a huge number of special guest vocalists including ex Pipette and now solo artist Rose Elinor Dougal, Kyle Falconer from The View, Alex Greenwald from Phantom Planet, Charlie Waller from The Rumblestrips. M.N.D.R, Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow and a bizarrely blue face painted Dave McCabe from The Zutons who performed a touching if rough around the edges acoustic version of Valerie to open the set before Ronson’s band ramped it up and took the crowd through all of his hits ending with the whole field jumping to a hyped-up rave version of Bang Bang. All of the headliners produced excellent sets, with Primal Scream less under the influence than when they created their masterpiece Screamadelica 20 years ago. They revisited this album with some aplomb, the likes of Higher Than The Sun and Loaded sounding majestically trippy and glorious, merging dub, house and rock into a celebratory set. It wasn’t all about the headliners though. Some younger scamps came up trumps as well. Ed Sheeran packed the Big Top, every song being met with screams more usually heard at a Wanted or JLS gig, whilst on the Castle Stage Katy B fully justified her Mercury Music prize nomination with a punchy brass laden set that incorporated old school rave anthems and Soul to Soul extracts as well as her own club based material.
And finally a quick mention to a DJ Crew known as the Sunday Best Forum Allstars, led by a certain writer of this blog, who got the Bollywood Bar rocking very early in the afternoon. Here’s a short clip self-shot from a mobile phone from the stage at 3.20pm Friday afternoon. Yes, we were the superstar Dj’s!
In summary Camp Bestival is one of the few festivals that really is a delight for any member of the family - whatever age.