Camp Bestival

1 August 2010

Before you read this review of this weekend’s Camp Bestival shindig in Dorset, I feel like I should explain that my husband and I are both, apparently despite our own will, fully paid up and National Trust card carrying members of the middle class. I mean, between us we have two Boden accounts, one Cath Kidston account and two Emma Bridgewater accounts! Anyway, look, we don’t have anything against the middle classes really. Honest.

Okay, now that we have got that straight, I will proceed with the rest of this post.

Camp Bestival is apparently aimed at middle class families in the 30-40 age bracket so basically people who went to university in the 90s and still fondly remember the decadence of full grants, long tie dye skirts with tiny mirrors sewn all over them and the brilliant music festivals of the era. Hole at Reading? David Bowie at Phoenix? Ah, happy days.

Due to an accident involving chatting to people on the Camp Bestival forum and arranging to camp on the ‘Forum Camping’ section, we ended up in between two rowdy gangs of teenagers who did nothing but smoke cannabis the whole time they were there and littered the place as if they had literally been raised by Crack Fox in a slum at the nether ends of Spitalfields. In the distance I could see the swathes of yummy mummies with their frolicking children and hand me down Boden, but our immediate surroundings were seedy to say the least. However, I did happen to note that in the midst of the squalor lay a couple of discarded Waitrose bags so maybe they were someone’s disowned Eton educated offspring whose parents had opted to camp elsewhere? Who knows. Somehow I doubt it.

It was fab though, Camp Bestival. The trek from the car to the camp site was less than jolly but once we’d put our tent up and headed off to explore the enormous site, all of that was forgotten in the sheer joy of coming across dozens of stalls selling vegetarian treats and fairtrade hot chocolate. It was brilliant! I celebrated with a vegetarian thali from our very own Bristolian Thali Cafe, which was excellent.

The rest of the weekend was spent wandering around the site, discovering wonderful things, getting completely filthy, eating brilliant food and just enjoying ourselves. There was SO MUCH to do – lots of music (both bands and DJ sets from people like Arcade Fire and William Orbit), a Lush Spa, a Boden shop, SO MUCH FOOD (pies and mash, fish and chips, burritos, veggie burgers, curries, chilli, mash, gourmet toasties), a farmer’s market, activities for the children, a bouncy castle, plenty of booze both free and fairly costly, hula hoops all over the place, the lovely mysterious Dingly Dell which became a magical kingdom when it was lit up at night, poetry readings, opera, The Gruffalo, Mr Tumble and so much more. It would be impossible to be bored with so much going on.

Friday evening was spent dancing around with the boys (Oscar is really madly into dancing it would seem) to Tinie Tempah next to whoever plays Janine Butcher in Eastenders and someone who was allegedly Samantha Janus. After this we lazed on the grass and watched The Fall. Dave wasn’t quite prepared for this.

‘In a minute, an old grumpy man is going to shuffle out on stage and shout at us all,’ I said just before they came on and I was right.

After this we wandered around the festival site as dusk fell, enjoying the HORRIBLE JOY that was the Isle of Boden (complete with a Boden shop!) and the IMMEMSE JOY that was the Pimms double decker bus next to it, where I had half a pint of Pimms and started dancing around to Florence and the Machine like an idiot. We also tasted the delights of another local Bristol treat, Pieminister and then the big River Cottage tent before moving on to the Hendricks gin bit where mad people in steampunk apparel made us admire a Victorian bathtub full of rose petals and cucumber before making us write stories in exchange for gin and tonic. They also had a weird museum of ‘curiosities’ inside a converted train carriage – Felix was enthralled and went missing at one point, only to be discovered sitting beside a lady dressed like the dessicated remains of the Black Dahlia who was playing a saw with a violin bow, while he accompanied her by slowly hitting the keys of a Victorian typewriter.

Everything was magical and lovely and it really felt impossible not to be relaxed and happy as we floated around taking everything in and exploring. Finally, Felix decided that he had had enough while we stood in the Big Top watching Rufus Hound. In fact I think he decided he had had enough around about the time that Rufus Hound said that men who tell women to lose weight are C Words That Rhyme With Hunt – which means that we can now tell Felix that the first time he heard said word, it was uttered by a well known comedian, which is something to be remembered really isn’t it? Felix and I went back to the tent to get some sleep while Dave headed out to see Tim Minchin, who was apparently not at all funny but also not bad. I could hear him playing piano and singing in the distance as I went to sleep, it was rather soothing.

Saturday morning began with torrential rain and the purchasing of wellies before it finally brightened up enough for me to change into a floaty dress and the Camp Bestival must have – a hair garland of roses. Seriously, EVERYONE had one and if you didn’t, you were asking those who did where they got theirs. Very pretty.

After a breakfast of vegetarian bacon sandwich and a wander around the children’s bit, we went to the House of Fairy Tales so that Felix could have a go on some of the activities. It was weird though – we hadn’t noticed any over crowding the night before but Saturday had a completely different atmosphere with seemingly twice as many people everywhere and tempers fraying left, right and centre. It wasn’t as relaxed or nice at all, although there was still plenty of fun to be had with a return to the Hendrick’s stand, the world’s most enormous vegetarian burrito, soft play fun for Oscar, a visit to the Penguin Books stand, cupcakes and plenty of sunshine and fresh air.

We spent a lovely time lazing on the Castle Field, playing with the boys and watching Hurts, who I really like as they sound a bit like Mesh. We also had a discussion about whether Hurts are two James Wards as well as other things.

Dave was being incredibly smug actually at this point as he was asked for ID while asking for a sample glass of beer and had to come back to me to get his driver’s license to prove his age, which apparently led to disbelief that he was born in 1982. He went on and on and on and on about this.

Later, the beer man walked past with his cronies while Dave was lying on the ground with both boys on his chest. The beer man started laughing in a mortified manner and pointed us out to his cronies. ‘Oh my God, I ID’d that bloke earlier on,’ he exclaimed. ‘And he’s got kids!’ He later came back with a free beer and another apology, although why he felt the need to apologise for giving Dave a reason to be smug at me all weekend long, I don’t know.

After this there was time to wander around and explore a bit more before Madness were due to play. I’m not a fan but it seemed like The Thing To Do so we stood with the boys on the terrace that went around the castle, which was pretty dramatic and gave us a great view. From here we could really take in the Camp Bestival atmosphere of happy shouts and laughter, pounding music, vegetarian heaven everywhere you looked, the immense and peculiar non stop queue for churros and chocolate, thousands of pushchairs, bubbles blowing everywhere and small children of both genders dressed as fairies while their parents did that weird middle class thing of staring furiously into the distance with their hands on their hips.

I found myself wondering if I could fit in with the crusty middle class mummy set as after all about 75% of the children at Camp Bestival had red hair (I have red hair!) and all of them were called either Oscar or Felix (we have both! Bingo!). I pondered whether it is more crustily middle class to have a straggle haired daughter who dresses as a fairy all the time or a boy who does so and decided that the latter is definitely more in keeping. Unfortunately, I have a boy who likes to make robots out of cardboard boxes…

Anyway, we stayed for the start of Madness then Felix, Oscar and I battled our way out from a veritable barricade of pushchairs to take refuge in the River Cottage Cafe where we were repulsed by a rather rude woman behind the counter and then wandered aimlessly like Victorian urchins in search of hot chocolate until Dave found us and took us to see some very, very, very bad comedy which involved a man basing his jokes on a drunk in the audience who was running rings around him, another man who sang very bad songs and heckled the audience because they didn’t laugh and then a rather embittered woman who probably lied about her age.

After this it was time to get some sleep while Dave went to watch some comedy, which was apparently better than the stuff we’d seen earlier on.

We already knew that we couldn’t stay until the bitter end as Dave has to be in London tomorrow morning to see another comedy show and as the boys were getting fractitious we decided to head off this lunchtime instead of the evening, which is a shame as we missed Human League, Friendly Fires and the fireworks. There was time to avoid the crowds heading down to the Castle Arena to see Mr Tumble though (you have seriously NEVER seen so many Bugaboos!) and we had a great time watching Marcus Brigstock and others doing The Early Edition.

I was very sad to leave actually – I may deride the middle classes for being a bit try hard and weird with their funny voices and their dependancy on Waitrose and bizarre liking for khaki shorts but it was comforting to be among them and accept that actually we are cut from the same cloth, even though we wished we weren’t.

Anyway, as we left we were handed a leaflet telling us that early bird tickets for Camp Bestival tickets 2011 will be on sale next Friday and we’ll definitely be getting them, I think. We’ll try to be better prepared next time too – more cash (there’s cash points but it’s a faff and they charged £3 per withdrawal!), two inflatable mattresses and one of those little trolley things to cart the children around plus as many fake flowers, fairy wings and glittery things as you can shake a beribboned stick at!

Oh and we’ll make sure that we camp in the family bit next time!