Since returning from Camp Bestival, I’ve taken a few days to process the awesomness of the whole thing and, if I’m honest, work out where to start.
Miscellaneous head gear compulsory
I’ve been hankering after going to this family friendly festival in Dorset for a few years now, but things just kept coming up and I could tell Mr C wasn’t too keen. As festival virgins, the pair of us didn’t have clue what to expect, so combine this with three high maintenance Misses and you can probably understand our trepidation. You may well be feeling it too. But let me tell you this. Just do it. Whether you’re a festival newbie like us, a die-hard raver, have a million kids or none, you will freaking love it!
Firstly, the cost. It might seem steep at first. (adult camping weekend 2016 was £197.00) It is truly worth every penny though, and that’s coming from me, super tight-wad. If you book early enough, there is a handy weekly/monthly payment plan so you can effectively spread the cost over the year. We didn’t use this as I’m a last minute kinda gal but will be using it this year for sure. Once you have read the list of sights, sounds and experiences on offer, I hope you’ll feel reassured that your dollars will be well spent.
Next up. Accommodation. So, we’ve flirted with the odd bit of camping in the past. Mainly one-nighters, in campsites I’ve trip-advisored the sh!t out of before booking, with ‘bathroom facilities’ at the top of the tick list. Needless to say, I wasn’t really prepared for festival camping, in all its compost-loo glory. Hell, I even took my hairdryer and straighteners. I envisaged shower blocks with sockets at every mirror and dare I say it real flushable loos. I astound myself with my naivety (read stupidity) at times.
Before we left Manchester, I kept the household waiting way past departure time giving myself a ‘four day festival blowdry’. In that I styled my hair into bouncy waves and declared proudly I would need no more than a hairbrush for the next four days. Eight hours later, following the exertion of lugging all our ill-advised camping gear, day and night clothes (you get changed for the evening at a festival, right?), and children, sans trolley (Out of what, a gazillion people, we were the only ones who didn’t have a trolley), across several miles (a few hundred metres) of field, the four-day do was curling up pubic hair style around my hairline and neck and that, that is the moment when I realised I had got it oh so wrong.
So people, there are no sockets. Be under no illusions. But if you can’t embrace your inner hippy then all is not lost, stay at a premier inn a few miles away and day ticket it. Also, no, most people do not take outfits for day and night. You are not at an all inclusive on the Costa Del Sol. You rock it out morning to night in the same gear day in day out. Well, you can do and no one will bat an eyelid, diversity and difference is SO much alive here. For me, I will still be taking outfit changes. You may just find, and I might be speaking from experience, that after a day of divine food offerings and too much lager, lager, lager (literally the drink, and possibly the 90’s classic) your jeans refuse to do up by evening and that airy summer dress looks very appealing. WARNING: Do not attempt the maxi-dress. Maxi-dresses plus porta-loos do not mix.
Still on the subject of accommodation. I imagine its very tempting after a several hour long car journey, the slog of unloading the boot into your trolley (naturally) whilst trying to contain the cabin fevered kids and the schlep across the fields to pitch up at the very nearest spot you come across. Don’t do this. Dig deep into your energy reserves and head for the outer perimeters to pitch. You will be cursing me at the time, but thanking me later when you actually have a couple of metres space to sit outside your tent and eat your pot noodle in peace.
Also camping wise, anything goes. Teepees, bell tents, gazebos, awnings. If you can get it there, you can erect it or so it seemed. Don’t forget the fairy lights, flag poles, bunting and shizz to jazz up your tent. A string of battery powered lights to a. decorate your tent and b. guide you home in the dark is super useful. Or you could just be guided by next doors like we did. Out of everything, and believe me there was a lot, that I thought, oh I wish we’d brought that, it was the lack of a table that I felt so sorely. At breakfast time (approx. 5.45am) when people were sitting around their camping tables in a mock up of homely civility, I could feel myself eye balling them in jealousy at my soggy arse, sore back predicament as five of us squashed onto a blanket with our instant porridge pots.
There was so much that I wish we had taken, not taken, done differently, not done at all etc. but never-the-less, it’s just four days and rather get hung up on the fact that darn, you forgot your husbands shower gel, just deal with it. He’ll still be alive to moan about it later. Or, he could just steal some that had been accidently left behind. My husband wouldn’t do that though, no that wasn’t us.
The Main Event
Try not to stress about what you have, haven’t brought, paint on some glitter and get down to the main event. It’s huge, so much bigger than I had envisaged and there is SO much going on. I can’t emphasize this enough. You will never be bored. There will not be a moment where you think ‘hmm what are we going to do for the rest of the day’. In fact, day just blends seamlessly into night (unless, of course, you’re going back for an outfit change) and the day is so choc-full of back to back activities that before you know it the light begins to fade and the headliner is about to start.
You will probably get suckered into shelling out for all this bumpf on the first day. Don’t be put off though. There’s loads to do for free. You needn’t spend a penny if you choose.
If you have little ones with you, it might all seem a little bit daunting but there are so many other options away from the main stage that cater for absolutely everyone, not matter how big or small, young or old. We found the upper garden, behind the castle to be the most chilled out area for the kids, with loads of circus activities on offer, a make your own flower headband tent and cream teas from the WI.
The star of the show up there was undoubtedly The Feast Collective. A huge open tent, housing street food from across the globe.
Still having day dreams about this now.
Everyone can choose something they fancy and sit collectively on long wooden tables or throw down the picnic blanket and watch the acts on the lawn. Wash it all down with a jam jar cocktail from the Jar Bar and watch the kids try to master the unicycle. (Eventually, dad got up to help, but it was funny to watch at first).
Take some time to get your bearings. It took us the first day to really get to grips with everything that is on offer. Just take it easy, use the handy necklace programme thing (which by the way, is essential.), and do what takes your fancy. Don’t hare from one show to the next, you will be beat and ready for (air)bed before the sun goes down.
The lower kids garden is just awesome. The girls went on the worlds biggest bouncy castle, made vegetable instruments, played in a vegetable orchestra, panned for fossils, made space jewelry, hula-hooped, painted a giant cardboard spaceship, played in the mosh (sand) pit, danced to a steel band, and had a nightly bedtime story all in this particular space.
Answer me this. What do you do when you find yourself panning for fossils next to Insta-star @dresslikeamum, then realise you’re wearing the outfit you totally ripped off one of her posts. Like literally the exact same dress and boots combo??
There is live music throughout the day, as well as various food stalls. I can highly recommend Annie Mae’s Mac n’ Cheese and the corn shack (I think this was the only veg consumed all weekend).
The Steelers from Newquay. They were actually the highlight of my weekend. Their passion for music was infectious.
On the Sunday, we discovered the Dingly Dell. I defy you to ask for directions to the Dingly Dell without smirking or feeling like a total tool by the way. This was a real discovery fur us. For one, it provided much needed shade. Two, there were animals there. Nothing is more guaranteed to soften the hardened hearts of deprived (yep, deprived, is how the ten year old described it when I wouldn’t buy them clip on dolphin tails) than baby chicks asleep in the palms of their sweaty hands. Three. There was a charity there offering to teach my children how to fight like Ninjas. Cue 45 minutes of peace for us. Whilst you do kind of feel like you’re away from the main action, it really did please the girls no end. They made dens, hung wishes from trees and rolled down a massive hill, just like in’t old days. In the evening they made paper lanterns with the ‘ninja’ charity and went on a woodland walk with them.
Refreshing to see fun prevailing over *yawn* health and safety!
Back at the Castle field, the acts run throughout the day up until about 11.30pm. Many families seemed to camp out here all day with camping chairs, cool boxes, those darn trolleys and all other manner of things designed to make life easy at a festival. We had a backpack with a blanket, water bottles, face wipes, hand sanitizer and cans of G&T. At least we covered the essentials.
One can never wear too many glow sticks
Glow sticks are a must. Firstly, to keep the kids entertained, secondly, so you don’t lose them in the dark. Hopefully, you aren’t precious about your picnic blanket. People just literally walk across them. No sh!t. They just walk right through the middle of where you’re sitting. I just couldn’t get my head round that but no one else seemed to bat an eyelid. The cues for the loo get pretty long, as you can imagine, when the beer gets flowing. For this reason we didn’t really get drunk. After the first night of relaying back and forth to the loos with one kid or another we decided it just wasn’t worth it. I wanted to watch the acts, not line up all night with a kid bouncing round my ankles out of desperation not joy. The next two nights, we kind of took the music in fleetingly. We would stop for half an hour or so on the way somewhere else, so we didn’t feel like we were missing out but the kids weren’t bored and irritable at being made to sit/stand listening to music from another era surrounded by flailing, jigging giants.
Don’t mind me, just chillin’ and flashin’
Although, we didn’t make them sit and listen to Fat Boy Slim’s entire set, like we really wanted to, they totally absorbed the music loving vibe going on everywhere about them and spent the whole weekend half skipping, half bopping around. We chilled out in the shade in the Bollywood area one afternoon and as I
sipped slurped a frozen Margarita the kids funked out to some 90’s house.
The message is its all just about going with the flow, doing what works for you and HAVING FUN! Let your hair down (whether its a state or not) and embrace everything Camp Bestival has to offer.
And finally, Le Finale! After three nights of partying, late nights and early mornings, we were all pretty much pooped by Sunday and it was as much of a trial for me to stay awake to see the fireworks as it was for the kids. We managed it though, all huddled together on our grass stained blanket. And am I glad we did. The sight of the fireworks bursting into the night sky, flames erupting from the turrets of the castle and the euphoria of well-partied people, made this a spectacular moment and the pictures really dont do it justice. You’ll just have to go and see for yourself!
Totally unfazed by the 100ft spaceman
We’ll be back next year, albeit with a few slight amendments to the ‘to pack’ list. See you there!