I have to admit that as a newcomer I had my doubts arriving at Camp Bestival 2012 this weekend. Having only just entered the gate with my weekend camping wristband, I almost went somersaulting – rucksack and all – over a swarm of children suddenly flooding around my knees. I couldn’t help wondering if I had accidently turned up at a giant outdoor crèche.
3 days later, I was completely won over by this charming family festival! Camp Bestival is branded as a ‘festi-holiday’ and you really couldn’t describe it better. The stunning grounds of the Lulworth Castle Estate were transformed by Rob da Bank and team into a veritable wonderland for the equal numbers of adults and kids in attendance. Walking across the site was a total sensory overload. Every stage, tent, stand and empty patch of grass of the grounds was adorned with bunting, flags, and art work of some sort; I felt a bit like I was tripping trying to take it all in. You can only imagine it being absolute ecstasy for children, and heaven for the adults who are left free to soak in the atmosphere and sunshine while the sprogs experience non-stop entertainment.
Even I couldn’t decide what to do with myself first. We swiftly located the ‘non-family camping’ area (call me grouchy but I didn’t fancy being woken up at the crack of dawn by excitable children) and after an extensive walk round of the site, grabbed some dinner from one of the countless food stands offering every kind of cuisine imaginable, settling in the Castle Field in time to catch an early evening set by Bellowhead; whose uplifting spangly folk tunes had adults and children jigging in the sunshine around us. They were followed by Kitty, Daisy and Lewis who were obvious crowd-pleasers. After this, we headed into the Big Top tent to catch the end of a set by the Medina Ukelele Orchestra who were unexpectedly delightful. Professionally completing a range of covers and original pieces, filling a gap before the Olympic Opening Ceremony was screened.
Dragging ourselves away from the electric atmosphere in the overflowing tent was difficult, but totally worth it to see Hot Chip back on the Castle Stage. The best thing I noticed during this set was that amidst the drunk and dancing adults and teens I spotted 2 children sat cross-legged on the floor with their colouring books, blissfully unaware of the jumping feet around them. I was already beginning to believe that Camp Bestival is the kind of place where nothing bad could ever happen. It also has to be one of the cleanest festival sites I’ve ever attended, they even had ‘posh-wash’ showers which were heaven!
Being family-friendly, most things wind down fairly early at Camp Bestival but late-night action carried on in the Big Top tent and the Bollywood Bar. For the first night we stuck to the Big Top to see booming sets by Clement Marfo and the Frontline, followed by Netsky, and rounding off with a very sociable silent disco which kept the more ‘party’ festival goers entertained until the early hours on Friday and Saturday nights.
On Saturday morning I was in need of some extensive time spent in the ‘Soul Park’ which offered cosy hammocks, tents for massages, yoga, relaxation and even beauty parlour pampering services. The ‘Wagamama Lounge’ here was an excellent concept where you could chill out with your noodles on giant bean bags, listening to music or even doing some art.
The Big Top tent during the day was filled with a not so family friendly comedy line-up, yet parents here seemed to agree with Ben Norris that midday was a quite appropriate watershed for ‘anus jokes’. The relaxing atmosphere just seemed to rid everyone of their boundaries or inhibitions at Camp Bestival and a good laugh was definitely what I needed to get me back into the festival spirit.
With so much going on I found the music at Camp Bestival more of a backdrop to the event rather than the main show. The daytime performers provided a perfectly relaxing festi-holiday soundtrack; dulcet voices like Delilah and Lianne le Havas, and a variety of reggae and folk artists. Rizzle Kicks definitely drew the biggest crowds on Saturday afternoon which I had expected since they were the most mainstream band on the bill. In favour of sensitive children’s ears that had PC’d up their song lyrics, only to abandon this with a spattering of swear-words in their mid-song patter! Later on the Bollywood Bar was packed out for a fantastic four hour set by Jaguar Skills and friends (special mention to DJ Gemini who threw out some amazing tunes), where I found myself raving next to a five year old kid dancing on his dads’ shoulders and honestly getting into it just as much as I was!
DJ Yoda proved his world-renowned scratch skills, mixing flawlessly to a cinematic montage including scenes from Family Guy, Fresh Prince and Pulp Fiction before bringing on his Transiberian Marching Band for an even more dance-worthy mix. For me this act seemed to encompass the spirit of Camp Bestival perfectly – that everything and anything goes. TEED was a perfect late night Saturday headliner; a fancy-dressed entertainer for adults, the grown up alternative to Mr Tumble I suppose!
Just a few more things I experienced over the weekend: a medieval jousting competition, a wedding ceremony in an inflatable church, a wand-making workshop, fancy-dress in every form, an extreme sports playground, fairground rides, a farmers market, dance classes and silly Olympics races… There really was something to indulge everyone’s wildest fantasies. Age 23 I did feel my age-demographic was a definite minority in the gap between parents and underage-ers, but that didn’t mean I had any less fun. And if Camp Bestival is still going in 10 years time when I might have children of my own, I’ll definitely be taking them there for their first festival experiences, and to shamelessly re-live the carefree days of my youth.