Whilst the rest of the South West was drenched in rain and thunderstorms, the festival site at Lulworth Castle was drenched in brilliant sunshine for the weekend. Arriving late on Friday evening there was still plenty of space to be found in the general campsite, unlike most festivals this was no sea of one-man tents crammed in like sardines, but a polite array of giant tents each with it's own private space for eating and relaxing after a hard days festivalling. We managed to find a level spot in the undulating hilly site, within an easy walk of both the car park and the main event site. Campers were well provided for with plenty of toilet blocks, on tap water, washing facilities, rubbish collection points with bin bags provided and even a fresh coffee and breakfast bar within the camping area. If this was not enough, for an additional fee you could go Boutique Camping and arrive on site to a fully kitted out tent, tipi or yurt. Accessible camping for the less abled was also provided up in the main event site between the castle and the Children's Garden.
We made it to the event site in time to catch the last act on the main Castle Stage on Friday night, surprised to find the event so sparsely attended especially as the festival news had said it was sold out. Never the less Richard Hawley, formally of the 90's Britpop band Longpigs followed by a brief stint with Pulp, now racking up awards as a solo artist, delivered a stomping set of rock with a vague hint of Stranglers flavouring, topped off with some good old Rock-a-billy slap bass classics to close the night. Time to hit the nearest watering hole. What a let down. Whilst it is expected to pay over the odds for food and drink at festivals, the only liquor on offer other than spirits and one cider was Tuborg and San Miguel at £4.30/can, not a decent pint of ale to be found anywhere. Never mind a bottle of water and a few hours dancing would surely lift the spirits. Other than the open air Disco Shed providing the teenagers with their favourite dancing tunes, the Bollywood tent was the place to go throwing out some lively jungle in anticipation of the nights main DJ David Rodigan. Rodigan played some fine tunes throughout his set, but unfortunately he interrupted the flow every 30s seconds with his "signal me.." banter which would have been less irksome if he'd faded the music into to the background rather than cutting it off completely. Over to the Big Top to find a young up and coming London band, Filthy Boy, playing their unique brand of Leonard Cohenesque indie rock. The night finished with a silent disco battle of the DJ's, dance v 80's classics.
Saturday morning arrived with the sound of a crowded beach where everyone was having a BBQ, I had to pop my head out of the tent to double check that I was still at the festival and hadn't been tele-ported elsewhere during my sleep. The place was teaming with onesey clad little people of all shapes and sizes running around, laughing, playing and screaming, whilst their parents cooked breakfast. Attendance had quadrupled since the night before, obviously at least half the adult populous had been baby sitting. The festivities began at 9am with performances and entertainment focused on the children. The Castle stage saw a live performance of Horrible Histories, whilst the lawns in front of the castle staged a jousting competition. In the Big Top field there was a skate-park, climbing wall and wall of death ride for the adrenalin thirsty. There was a Ferris Wheel, Helter Skelter and a Carousel as well as the Big Top to add to the funfair feel, but with Blue Coats organising football competitions, hoola hoop dance offs and other gaming entertainments, it felt like a mixture of Butlins, Centre Parcs, Circus Fair Ground and Festival.
Behind the castle lay the Children's Garden, with an art marquee for the creative, a literary tent with spoken word performances, crazy science antics and the Band Stand providing a solar powered acoustic stage. Having visited Wonderland, the only real ale vending bar on site, one could sit back in a comfy sofa and enjoy the delights of the Band Stand. After a spot of European Maypole Dancing we were treated to the beautiful sounds of Lloyd Yates and his band, playing their own brand of Jersey folk rock. Out of nowhere came a pair of Giant Boxing Kangas and their handler to take a brief rest by the Wonderland watering hole, only to be set upon by a pack of boisterous younglings, the handler had to politely ask, (in an outrageous Australian accent) "Hey Darth Vadar! Could you try not punching Roo in the nuts". The Children's Garden closed with the last act at 9.30pm, Ady Suleiman. This very talented young man from Nottingham has hit the lime light this year having been aired on BBC Introducing and is touring around most of the country's festivals. Performing his own songs with guitarist Edward Black, his smooth soulful voice and funky rhythms had you captivated.
There was fine dining to be had on site with a couple of gourmet restaurants, but all the festival food vendors were of a high standard. Our favourite eating was had at the Young British Foodies food-hall, 18 stalls of high quality food from around the world, including a juice bar, cocktails, wild game, sushi, side-car coffee, Moroccan restaurant, naan bar and African volcanic foods to mention but a few. Just outside was an Asian travelling theatre company, story telling, dancing, pole acrobatics and high-wire walking, but it was the African Trio that had the mummies in a spin with their acrobatic antics wearing nothing more than a loin cloth (with shorts underneath).
The festival has recently been given a license to conduct weddings and the first was held on Saturday afternoon and celebrated with a performance by The Cuban Brothers on the Castle Stage, followed by Kid Creole and the Coconuts. There was a definite 80's theme in the line up this year with performances by Nik Kershaw, Heaven 17, Billy Bragg, and The Proclaimers. The Levellers headlined on Saturday night with their raucous fast fiddling folk rock, gearing up for their own festival Beautiful Days. With most of the children off to bed and the late nighters out to enjoy themselves, Mad Professor and his guest performers kept us dancing into the morning.
All in all Camp Bestival provided a fun weekend although it is definitely geared towards families with children, such a shame mine have grown up. In my experience children love festivals but they are hard work for parents, this festival takes the work and the hard out of it. Rather than being child friendly it is parent friendly. So if you love festivals and have children this is the one for you, but if you are over 18 and don't have children it may not hit the spot.
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