Last year was the very first year I went to a festival. I don’t know how I have got to the age of 46 without having experienced this most British of summertime activities.
We chose Camp Bestival. We had heard nothing but good things so literally the day before we booked, loaded up the car and drove 3 hours south to the beautiful location of Lulworth castle. This year we booked the same festival. Here’s why we loved it.
There’s always a great theme so you can go in fancy dress….if you want to. We didn’t! This year is was Space with this welcoming astronaut near the Lulworth Castle.
A Family Focus
We were a bit worried about the drinking and partying aspect of being at a festival. It’s quite scary for the girls to see people totally off their rockers! But this really isn’t an issue at Camp Bestival. There are children and babies everywhere. Most of the activities are aimed at children at primary school or younger. There are even little loos and little compostable loos for their little bottoms. There is a Teen Den and a whole programme of music and teen entry only activities that we didn’t get to see as our girls are one year away. Our girls had a go at games, hula hooping, nature trails, acrobatics, colouring, bouncing and more alongside visits to the literary tent, craft workshops, food workshops, yoga etc etc. There is so much to do we couldn’t fit it all in!
I felt very happy letting them wander around and do their own thing within designated time slots and locations – mainly the Schweppes G&T tent and the Jam Jar Bar.
Music and Dancing
Obviously there are some huge acts that play at Camp Bestival and I would say the ticket price is great value for money to see the acts alone. Last year we loved Soul II Soul, Ella Henderson, The Kaiser Chiefs, Level 42 and this year Squeeze and Jess Glynne were our highlights. Because there are so many families here I felt really quite safe letting the girls go to the front of the crowds on their own. In fact even among the crowds, when the girls were tired or not particularly interested in a band on stage, nobody batted an eyelid if they sprawled out and went to sleep or got on with some reading, crafts or crochet! It’s small enough that you can easily dip in and out of the stage area in between acts.
There are also a lot of places to drop your bags on the floor, throw your sandals off and have a good old boogie. I loved DJ Trevor Nelson‘s set on Friday night. Proper 80s old school soul, ragga and reggae with a little mish mashing of modern funk. My daughters were of course mortified to see Mummy dancing but they joined in anyway with fits of hysterics copying my 80s moves. Happy times.
You don’t have to camp. There are plenty of options locally to stay and there are lots of glamping offers on site too. We chose to set up our own little tent and after a little walking around trying to find a good spot not on a slope we were set up ready to go wandering in half an hour. We didn’t bring much but felt very safe leaving the tent for the day. For us it really was a base to sleep.
The showers are warm and cleaned after each person finishes. They open 7 til 7 and the system is efficient with breakfast and coffee options a few metres away so you don’t feel like you’re waiting.
I’m not going to take pictures of toilets and post them on here. Let me just say that there are portaloos everywhere. They are clean, always had paper and sanitiser gel. There were a few posh loos that you could pay for but we honestly didn’t see the need.
The Feast Collective
As a foodie, it’s important for me to eat well wherever I go. There is a lot of research and reading that goes into planning trips so we don’t miss the great places to eat. I have tried the spontaneous route and it doesn’t work for me. I get annoyed at having to make do with rubbish pre cooked and uninventive pub grub or chain restaurants.
Camp Bestival places a huge focus on food. There is a brilliant choice of eats all over the site as well as food demos, workshops and talks all day at The Feast Collective. This is artisan food haven. It’s curated by the fabulous Jo Ingelby who I worked with when teaching at Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School. She’s since left to do all sorts of great things and being part of Camp Bestival is one of them. She’s so energetic about children and food and even we walked away with some great new ideas to try.
The best thing I ate (and I know this is a rubbish picture) was from The Garlic Farm Field Kitchen – Mushrooms slow cooked with garlic and cream served with grated cheese, jalapenos and some crusty garlic bread. Oh my goodness me I could have devoured a few more portions of this.
This was closely followed by a grilled cheese sandwich from The Gourmet Cheese Company. Mine was filled with Barber’s Cheddar, Lyburn Gold, Spring Onion, Parsley and served with gherkins. So crispy. So so tasty.
I don’t normally go for Schweppes in my G&T but I enjoyed the G&T bar where you can create your own unique G&T. I opted for a floral gin with elderflower tonic and a garnish of thyme and grapefruit. A bit sweet actually in the end but I have decided I’m going to experiment with thyme more. It was a nice change to cucumber.
Breakfast options are vast. Toasties, grilled sandwiches, full english fry ups, bacon butties and pancakes. I chose Milgi‘s calm and quiet tent which was in the Yoga Shala. I could have had avocados on sourdough toast but opted for overnight oats with dried flowers, bananas, honey and a pinch of sea salt.
The Feast Collective had some interesting brunch type options too. I wished I’d opted for Ful Medames from Lemlem Kitchen vs the rather stodgy but filling Black Bean Arepas from The Chocolate Bear Kitchen.
We grazed throughout the day on churros, falafel, cheesy chips, cake (there is lots of cake!), strawberries, smoothies, sushi rolls, chocolate and ice cream. A highlight for my husband was the spit roasted beef joint, basted with garlic butter and rosemary at DJ BBQ. This is generally a very cool place to hang out actually as he also plays cool tunes.
One last tip…
We had an amazing weekend. We woke up early every day – 5am kinda early. This is inevitably with all the families and babies around but the naps throughout the day in the hot sunshine were delicious. We reconnected with each other after a hectic summer term at school. We made new friends and tried new things. We danced, we sang and we just let loose with no mobile phone signal for a few days.
I will leave you with one tip. The fireworks are pretty spectacular and an absolute must to stay up for. But I’m so glad we packed our tent away, loaded the car back up and drove home straight after. It was late and the journey was fuelled by caffeine and Red Bull. But we avoided the mass exodus the day after through the single lane of traffic out of the car park and through the surrounding area. Some say it took 3 hours just to leave the car park. I’m glad we didn’t end on that note but left on a high with fireworks in our eyes and a bit of car karaoke.
in 2015 we paid around £500 for tickets for the 4 of us. This year I very kindly received a media pass and made donations for my husband and the girls. Parking is £25 for the weekend and you need to bring cash for that if you pay as you go in. 2017 Early Bird Tickets are on sale already. What I love is that there is a payment plan so you can spread the cost.
Thanks to this amazing festival experience we are a bit braver and are plotting a couple for next year. Womad is on the list and perhaps even Wilderness. Depends who’s playing and what food there will be. The latter being the deciding factor of course.
Have you been to a festival this year? What did you like the most?