Camp Bestival 2011!

1 August 2011

After having had such an amazing time last year, we naturally snapped up early bird tickets for the 2011 Camp Bestival extravaganza and I’m so glad that we did as we’ve just got back and had an AMAZING time!

Want to hear all about it? This isn’t really a review but I’m going to try and TELL YOU LOTS OF THINGS because more than one person came up to me this weekend and said something along the lines of ‘Ooh, are you Madame Guillotine? I read your blog post while we were getting ready for this and it got me SO EXCITED’ so er, apparently I can be useful AS WELL as decorative. However, I may wait until just before next year’s shindig to do a proper How To Survive Camp Bestival Even When You Have Earwigs Under Your Pillow post for the newbies. I really really really hate earwigs so imagine my JOY when I was getting dressed yesterday morning and saw one peek out from underneath my pillow then advance relentlessly upon a shrieking me.

Oh, crikey, I’m shouting a lot tonight aren’t I? Must be all that LOUD MUSIC.

Anyway, let’s crack on…

We intended to be at the site at 10am on Thursday but didn’t actually get there until something like 4pm because we suck at both packing and also LIFE. Nonetheless we got there in the end and congratulated ourselves for having had the foresight to buy a trolley for the occasion, which made transporting all our things up a couple of hills a cinch.

Thursday camping at Camp Bestival is a new thing and we weren’t sure how many people were going to take advantage of it. ‘Surely most people will still be rolling up on the Friday?’ we asked each other with dubious looks as we gazed around the already rather bulging at the seams campsite. Luckily we got there in time to have a choice about where we plonked ourselves (unlike a lot of the Friday arrivals who seemed to end up perched precariously on hillsides) and we had to decide between Close To The Main Site But Noisy or Far Away But Quiet. In the end we opted for the former and got a nice pitch on the main drag, just opposite the Heavenly Healing site so a couple of minutes stroll away from the main attractions. This was great but also had the potential to be very annoying as pretty much everyone who had camped further away walked past our tent at some point.

This was great but disaster then occurred when Felix, who had been asked to watch Oscar while we put the tent up, took his eye off the ball and Oscar, who has previous form as an escape artist, promptly vanished. He was gone for about half an hour. I may have had hysterics and Dave may have walked around most of the campsite looking for him before he was returned to us by a gang of lovely stewards and very nice ladies with many shouts of ‘THEY’VE FOUND HIM!’ by total strangers, who hugged me as I sobbed with relief. Now, it’s not a great idea to lose one’s children but if you’re going to do it, Camp Bestival is the best place as it is so safe and there’s loads of parents about the place.

We’ll gloss over our abortive attempts to find vegan food that evening when the site wasn’t yet properly open. We had plenty of choice the rest of the time though and had vegan burgers, burritos, brownies, carrot cake, Thai green curry, corn on the cob and could have had a plethora of curries, salads and things involving hummus and falafel. The boys were happy with their culinary options as well – pretty much every food stall had something for children with plenty of vegetarian options for small people as well. If you’re really into food then Camp Bestival could get really pricey but I think we paid about a fiver each per meal, which was respectable, I thought. They were especially keen on the cinnamon dusted churros which are served with a little pot of melted chocolate.

I even gave in to the temptation of a little teensy tiny bit of the chocolate ganache on top of a Lilli Vanilli chocolate and raspberry tart that I bought for Felix. I met Lilli herself while I was there, which made me a bit starstruck as I love love LOVE her book A Zombie Ate My Cupcake and there’s a chance that she may be doing an interview for this very blog!

Now, Dave and I aren’t very good at camping and we’re a bit rubbish at the whole festival thing as well. We didn’t see much in the way of music at this year’s Camp Bestival, although we saw a smidgeon more than last year (Hurts, half of The Fall, two songs of Madness) and saw Mark Ronson (who did a very moving tribute to the late Amy Winehouse), some of Selecter, two Blondie songs, a bit of the Groove Armada DJ set (which was plagued by technical issues), a little bit of ABC and a few folky type things, which I really liked but have no idea who they were! One of them was apparently one of Ade Edmondson’s bands, The Bad Shepherds, who play punk and new wave classics in a folk style. I really liked their Kraftwerk cover.

As for the rest of the weekend, we fell into a routine of spending the morning DOING things like poking the shops (there aren’t many but I had to buy another floral garland for my hair from Fairy Love and there were a couple of interesting dressing up tents as well), keeping the boys busy and entertained (easily done – there was lots for them to do like a bouncy castle, merry go round, ferris wheel, helter skelter, craft workshops, comedy shows (we went to one but while the compere was excellent and really funny, the actual act itself was dreadful – who knew that it’s possible to die onstage while doing kids’ comedy?), appearances by the Zingzillas, Dick and Dom, Mr Tumble, jousting, the insect circus museum (amazing and a surprise hit with Felix who has been inside several times now), decorating cupcakes, watching BMX and skateboard tricks, a really fab performance of The Gruffalo on the Sunday morning and so on) and just pottering about.

The big hit of the weekend was the genius wand and sword making stall close to our tent, which offered children the opportunity to make both with proper woodturning tools. They announced on Thursday that they’d be opening at 10am on Friday to take bookings and when we went past on our way to find breakfast at just before 9, there was already a sizeable queue which was immense when we wandered past at just after 10. When we wandered past again at midday there was a little sign saying ‘Fully booked’.We opted for simply buying a wand rather than having Felix make one (he can be a bit clumsy and I didn’t fancy the ensuing drama when it all Went Horribly Wrong) and he was very excited about this so we had a weekend of ‘Reducto!’, ‘Obliviate!’ and ‘EXPECTO PATRONUM!’ which led to me having to plead ‘Felix, please don’t use a patronus charm on someone who is trying to sell you chips, it’s not polite.’. It wasn’t quite Ollivanders’ but he took the choosing of his wand very seriously indeed and I think it’s probably one of his prize possessions now!

There was plenty for us to do as well – I had a fantastic facial at the Kiehls pitch for a bargainous £15 for 30 minutes of treatments which left me feeling clean and peachy skinned for a whole morning before the festival grot became too much for it. I just wish I’d bought their Coriander shower gel now too, but never managed to go back for it. Bah.

Best of all though, was being TAUGHT HOW TO KNIT for £3, which included needles and wool of my very own! Now, I have wanted to learn how to knit for many many many years but whenever I ask about it, I get lots of people being very helpful and a couple being patronising, superior arses about it which then knocks my confidence a bit more and makes me shelve the idea. Well NO MORE. A very lovely lady from a London knitting group sat with me on a squishy sofa and first of all taught me how to cast on, then how to knit, then purl, then cast off. The weird thing is that after all that hesitation, I am actually pretty good at it and am even pretty speedy! I think that someone must have taught me how to knit when I was very very little and I’d completely forgotten about it until now.

Still, I am very lucky as I live within walking distance of a fab knitting shop, Get Knitted and I’m heading there next week to get kitted out with wooden needles and sparkly wool. My first project is a Gryffindor scarf for Felix and um I’m drifting off the point, aren’t I? Anyway, best £3 I have ever spent!

For free fun, I liked going into the Smiffy’s dressing up tent where women were trying on brightly coloured wigs and giggling at themselves and putting a brown wig on over my pink hair and laughing like a crazy person at my reflection.

Oh yes and Dave saw someone called Jon Ronson talking about psychopaths, a non existent Robin Ince gig and er not much else. He’s very into his comedy but it seems that the Camp Bestival organisers had managed to book a selection of his least favourite comedians for the event so he wasn’t greatly enthused about it this time around, which is a shame.

Oh crikey, we had so much fun though. The boys loved spending so much time with us and being outdoors and all the interesting and fun things they had to do. Even a simple quiet walk around the lovely old church in the castle grounds filled them both with delight. If you asked Oscar what he liked best then I think it would be the evenings when we made the trolley all snug and comfy for him then plonked him in it with a blanket and pulled him around the site, meaning he could lie down all cosily and still join in. We took him out for occasional run arounds and a go on the brightly lit up merry go round but he was always very glad to be back in his trolley again! We found that the best way to stay on top of things was to go back to our tent at about four then snooze and read until seven before venturing out again for weird comedy shows, food and then lounging around in the Children’s Garden field as the dusk fell and the rides, castle and huge tulips that lined the grass became lit up.

I still think that the target audience of Camp Bestival is middle class families (as previously noted, we don’t mean this in a bad way as, let’s face it, that would be deeply hypocritical) in their late thirties but there was more of a mix this year, which was nice. There were still plenty of wild haired men frowning into the distance with their hands on their hips, their maxi dress and Joules gilet wearing wives and tousle haired children (at the comedy show, the compere asked a boy in the crowd what his name was. ‘Rudy’ was the reply. His brother? ‘Milo.’ And yes I know my own boys are called Oscar and Felix but seriously those names are common as chips these days!) but there were also a lot more groups of teenagers about the place (most of whom were probably with their families and also probably drawn to Camp Bestival for the same reason as the families – it’s safe and fun) and gangs of men clutching cans of Stella (fathers on a sneaky bender?).

I think there were a lot more people there than last year and I don’t think the overall atmosphere was as nice somehow but it still felt very safe and friendly. I’d still wander around the campsite alone at 3am with no fear of danger and had no problem letting the children run about and do their thing as well. In fact the only Bad Behaviour I noticed all weekend was on the part of some of the aforementioned Joules gilet wearing mummies who could be kind of pushy and had clearly left their basic manners behind in the home counties.

Anyway, I’m shattered now! We’ll definitely be back next year – we were talking on the way home about either going for the boutique camping option and hiring a yurt next time or just paying extra for camping plus (which means you get a pitch close to the main site, nice cafes, a designated big pitch just for you, a closer car park, showers and probably the Mayor of Lulworth greeting you as you arrive and presenting you with an enormous gold key while a crowd of children dressed as Marie Antoinette applaud and shower you with rose petals picked by pixies in the gardens of Malmaison) as we are really not cut out for the whole camping thing and might as well just accept it.

Amazingly for us, we actually stuck to last year’s resolutions to take a trolley for His Majesty King Oscar to lounge in during the evenings; two inflatable mattresses and something else that I can’t remember and they all did indeed make our weekend much better. Next time I think we need a bigger tent with a GAZEBO and also to bring some alcohol with us – we don’t really drink which makes us a right pair of cheap dates as the only drink we bought was a pint of lager to share between us that I still couldn’t drink much of. It would still have been nice to lounge on the grass by our earwig infested (okay there was only one but once you’ve seen one…) and drink a Pimms in the evening before heading back onto the site.

(As always, we bought our own tickets so this is an unbiased review. I had to laugh in the Smiffy’s dressing up shop tent when I overheard someone say to the woman he was with: ‘Tell them you write a blog and see if you can get a costume for free…’)