Saturday is ruled by the all-encompassing fancy dress carnival

Shambala 2008 review

published: Wed 27th Aug 2008

the carnival

Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th August 2008
a secret location in the Midlands, Northamptonshire, NN6 9LY, England MAP
adult weekend £89, child (5-17yrs) £25, under 5s Free - SOLD OUT
last updated: Thu 21st Aug 2008

Saturday saw us treated to a healthy dose of majestic sunshine, and with the imminent carnival parade, gradually more and more people in unusual outfits. Our day however started with the dawning that our 10-year old son was running a high temperature and lacking any energy. Even dosing him up with the relevant medicines could hardly shift him, and so after a morning of contemplation at the tent, his mother took him back to the car where it was somewhat cooler and calmer.

The rest of us set about exploring the Kids' Area. First up, decorate your own cake with various coloured icing sugars, myriad sweets, and an unhealthy dose of wasp if not careful, the blighters having a field day in all areas today. Next, bird-silhouette painting for the younger child whilst the elder found a bike-cum-paint-stirrer to expend his energies on. Add a climbing frame here, a trampoline there, a science show with household objects that are made to do unexpected things like fizzing madly, and a good range of other stalls offering their experiential wares, all free as far as I could see, and the area seemed spaciously well-suited for families.

fun and games

Thereafter we trekked forward for a game of crazy golf along with many other lucky folk in The Village Green. This was an especially set-up area of very original golf holes that culminated, for instance, with hole 9 doubling as a pinball machine. Around us various sports activities took place, badminton and cricket for all-comers as long as dressed up, and football just for all-comers. I later learnt that a binocular-football match took place, where one had to wear binoculars and have distorted distance perception, clearly a spectator sport for the likely number of air-kicks taking place. The Green also sported, for instance, a selection of hot tubs, a man-made beach area, and a Time Machine that simply unnerved.

We ventured past the lake and into the Wilderness Woodland. This was a separate tree-covered area with café, huge net climbing frame, and background music, along with various visual effects on the paths in and out. We found a wishing tree that was being extensively added to with various heartfelt, foolish, honest and idealistic scribbles. Our daughter wished to be a mermaid, possibly peeved that the gorgeous lake was not for swimming in, and then a toddler ran up and told everyone that "I wish for chocolate", which many of us could surely empathise with. We also tried the whole area at night, where the lighting effects were stunning, particularly when looking up at the trees in the glade which pulsed with relentless moving swirls.

the carnival

Highlight of the whole festival was however the Fancy Dress Carnival, photo galleries of which can be seen here. Our daughter had her fairy dress, and I had an Abe Lincoln hat/beard, but pathetic excuses all round as we cottoned onto the whole shebang far too late to put in any real efforts. A huge number had however made that effort, my guess being around every other person we saw. And what costumes some people had! Whilst a number had done fine by raiding the nearest fancy dress shop/website, many had designed their own gear. My favourites included King Neptune, a row of prisoners in chains, some walking pocket calculators, and a carrot. Add to this a fair few crowd-surfing mega-puppets such as sea-monsters and pirates, a number of stilt-walkers, various walking bands including a samba team and erstwhile festival regulars The Glitzy Baghags, and we had a huge carnival walkabout taking place throughout the whole site. I've not seen anything like it at a camping festival, it was a huge focus of the weekend that anyone could join in with, and it was thoroughly entertaining. Words alone cannot describe it all, do see the photos.

Music on Saturday, with family priorities and the carnival, generally passed us by. We did hear some folk-ska courtesy of Oystar at the Lakeside Stage whilst playing golf. They opened with a jolly cover of 'Ready or Not', had a song about babies in tequilas if I heard right, and sounded overall like good fun. Later at the same stage, The Manor House Quartet, clearly a set of classically-trained musicians, entertain a select few of us with their takes on popular song. Memories include 'Sweet Home Alabama' and an eyebrow-raising 'I Fought The Law'. Many others may have been converted from the safety of the large, covered seating area attached to the café that was stage left. We also noticed that Cut a Shine had strong support as we walked by in the distance later that evening.

Cut A Shine

One thing I liked about the set-up of the festival was that we could hear music from the main stage at our tent and even the car park, clearly but not imposingly. Consequently I can report that The Destroyers vs Dhol Blasters sounded most enjoyable early evening, with prominent fiddle that reminded me of Gogol Bordello. Following them, Overproof Soundsystem reminded me fondly of Dreadzone, with a dominant dub-bassline and hints of reggae, even on a cover of 'Summertime'. I am however lucky enough to witness Dr Meaker as our healthy kids indulge themselves with bubble fun and demonstrations courtesy of the Bubble Inc stall. Dr Meaker have a range of influences, with soulful female vocals, full meat-&-veg band, electronica backing, and I believe a brass section like every other band at this fest. Plus they’re all wearing boiler suits despite the warm evening. They remind me mostly of a cross between Pendulum's hard-hitting sound and the range of styles that Basement Jaxx manage. They are I think the only band to get me jigging, as they do with most of the crowd. The music includes a version of 'Ride of the Valkyries' and a calmer song possibly called 'I Feel Your Loving'.

Our kids eventually run out of things to do with some remarkably huge bubbles, and we wander off for the next round of hot chocolate tasting, but not before some suspicious characters in masks, with bags labelled 'SWAG', earnestly & in slow-motion try to remove my mobile from my hands whilst I text unawares. Genius! They wander very slowly into the night with a flamboyant tutu from The Fairy Shop and a grinning shop-assistant ambling after them...
review by: Clive Hoadley

photos by: Phil Bull

Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th August 2008
a secret location in the Midlands, Northamptonshire, NN6 9LY, England MAP
adult weekend £89, child (5-17yrs) £25, under 5s Free - SOLD OUT
last updated: Thu 21st Aug 2008


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