Dear Mummy, life on the ocean wave is never easy and at this years Camp Bestival we certainly had everything thrown at us. From basking in a heatwave to camping in a yellow weather warning with high winds, it certainly was a festival experience we will never forget.
Camp Bestival is a festival tailored for families, created in 2008 by Radio 1 DJ Rob da Bank. It’s the little sister to the mighty Bestival which follows shortly after on the same site. It’s located on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset and is four days of fun, great music and kids activities.
The first couple of days at Camp Bestival were brilliant and we were greeted with glorious sunshine. This was our third year at the festival (read our reviews of Camp Bestival 2016 and Camp Bestival 2017) and it is the highlight of our calendar. We have got pitching our tent down to a fine art after years of practice and expert packing by daddy. Arriving in plenty of time this year, just after the campsites had opened on Thursday at 10am, helped us miss the queues on the A31 and surrounding festival roads.
Infact it was such plain sailing getting into Camp Bestival that we couldn’t believe our luck. By lunchtime we were settled on top of the hill in the yellow camping area. We always opt for general camping, and if you arrive in plenty of time you can grab a fab pitch giving a view of the whole festival site which is rather spectacular! Plus there are areas that are flat if you know where to look. We also like to be closer to the free showers (which daddy loves) and campsite stalls, which there seemed to be more of this year which was great. From smoothies to filtered water, a campsite shop to the Dorset Farmers Market, it covered pretty much everything and was great to see. The Farmers Market would play a pivotal role on the Sunday but read on to see why!
Have a look around the festival site on our YouTube video and see what we got up to!
The festival has a capacity of 30,000 people and even though it was busy at the main Castle Stage watching the acts, it never got overwhelmingly crowded walking through the site as it’s spread across a large area of land. We would recommend a trolley, buggy or sling for little ones though to save their legs, as I was knackered walking around all day. Plus is makes a great place to have a little daytime nap.
By setting up on Thursday it allowed us to explore the festival site before the day trippers arrived. The weather was balmy and with few crowds around allowed us to capture photos of the famous Camp Bestival sign (which seemed much smaller than usual) and the giant disco ball, before it deflated due to a technical hitch we believe.
Looking around the Magic Meadow we noticed the layout had changed. Nothing major but it threw us a little and we lost our bearings trying to get to HMS Camp Bestival which we could see poking out behind the quirky Caravanserai area.
We needed a compass, but our trusty programme (£10) in a canvas bag with lanyard plus a colouring book helped us plan and navigate around the site. One of our favourite parts of the experience is sitting in our tent planning the activities for the weekend.
Walking around the site this year some parts looked a bit unfinished and not screened off, so we didn’t know whether some set designs were for Camp Bestival or Bestival. Lots of metal barriers and unscreened urinals made it feel less family friendly than it has done in previous years. While some food / clothing stalls were crammed in, other attractions seemed really spaced out which impacted the character of the festival this year.
That didn’t put us off, there were some fab food stalls and even though some traders didn’t seem overly friendly this year it didn’t ruin our fun family vibe. There’s definitely too much to see and do in one day, so we’d recommend staying the duration for the best family experience.
Returning back to our tent on the Thursday evening we were anticipating a rather good festival. It’s just a shame that Tokio Myers had to pull out before his set, due to illness as Mummy and Daddy were looking forward to seeing him in the run up to Clean Bandit.
Friday was the best day for us as we headed to our favourite area of the whole site, The Dingly Dell. With Lizzie’s Way inside the woods we could have spent all day here, making potions and mud pies, role-playing and dressing up. It really is a fab area with the kids play park next door. We missed the zip wire this year as the queues were massive and it would be great if they could look at pre-booking this popular activity online or put on more wires for us kids as I loved it last year.
Slow Motion, a wellbeing area with yoga, healthy food and wellness activities was moved behind the Dingly Dell and for us this didn’t work as well. Moving it back to a larger space would be better, nearer the campsite to help festival goers remember it was there in the mornings for treatments and yoga.
The Wall of Death had been moved up the festival and for the first time we were intrigued by the motorcycle death-defying spectacle. However, the fairground rides distracted us away as I wanted to ride as many as possible. Look at the joy on my face!
Just make sure you take plenty of pocket-money! A lot of these rides were an extra £2-£4 per person, so every time I would want a ride it would cost us an obscene amount of money each day. In the end my folks refused and I was happy to play at the free activities like the giant sandpit and craft tents. We’ve been to other festivals where some of the rides are included in the camping ticket price which would certainly help the family appeal here and demonstrate that the organisers acknowledge it’s family appeal for all.
There were some really great areas at Camp Bestival this year like the giant ship called HMS Camp Bestival and I loved watching the Pirate Panto and joining in the dances with the Blue Coats. The stage was something else and made a fab backdrop, daddy kept saying it was awesome and he wanted to know how they had done it. It seemed a shame it was not more of a focal point as some of previous years like the robot and the spaceman.
It also played host the following day to the fancy dress and ‘pimp my trolley’ competition plus the nautical parade which is such a fab attraction and embodies the spirit of the festival. The theme this year was ‘Camp Bestival Sets Sail!’ and we saw lots of fab costumes and amazing carts with festival goers really having fun dressing up. Seeing smiles on people’s faces always underlines the reason we love going and participating.
My daddy dressed up as King Triton with plastic bottles collected in his net, while I was perched on top of a giant clam shell as a mermaid floating on a sea of plastic waste. Our take on the theme this year was meant to be #PlanetorPlastic raising awareness of single use plastic in our oceans (but daddy managed to get this wrong way round on the cart, silly daddy). It’s great that Camp Bestival was supporting the cause by reducing their plastic waste at the site with refillable water stations and a ban on plastic straws. In fact we saw very little rubbish or litter on the site which was very impressive.
Our festival cart came together really well and everyone was so friendly, asking us to pose for many photos. It seems all that hard work paid off and it brought a lot of joy to children who thought I was a real mermaid! We love participating and immersing ourselves in the full ‘festival’ experience plus I got a chance to be a mermaid for a day!
Unfortunately we didn’t really get a chance to explain our festival trolley design as there was so many wonderful participants this year and DJ Sara Cox was rattling through them at pace. Keep your eyes peeled for the 2018 photo gallery on the Camp Bestival Website to see some of them!
Lunchtimes were always a joy at Camp Bestival and we didn’t really have to queue long for food. We enjoyed fish and chips (£7), pasta dishes (£9), halloumi (£6) and pizza (£12). Along with the Feast Collective offering world food, DJ BBQ putting on a show and the famous River Cottage there really was something for all tastes. I would have eaten more from the stalls had there been more kid sized portions on offer. They can be found but it seemed silly that you had to ask when surely it would be easier to advertise the fact.
We were super impressed with Dorset Cereals #BreakfastOnTheSlow having already sampled their delights at another festival. We woke up with a spot of yoga and some yummy free breakfast at the campsite each day and I managed to sneak a second bowl of yummy natural yogurt and granola each day! This was my highlight of the mornings.
There were some amazing offerings at the festival. River Cottage offered a fine dining experience for upmarket festival goers which you had to pre-book and was a bit steep for us at £80 a sitting, though friends who did eat there said it was lovely. There was even a crumble food stall which mummy and daddy were very excited about, maybe next time we’ll warm up with a hearty dessert. Daddy was a bit sad as the pie stalls weren’t there this year either however there was plenty of variety if you looked.
There was so much fun to be had right across site from Blue Coat madness on HMS Camp Bestival, arts and crafts in the Dingly Dell and Spinney Hollow, circus action in Caravanserai, incredible activities, a world record for L.O.L Surprise and playtime galore in the kids’ gardens. As I love to dance to all sorts of music it’s also great that where ever you go on the site there’s music to enjoy.
There were some amazing performances during the festival from Rick Ashley and special guest drummer Mary Berry (she looked a bit like Granny), Clean Bandit, Basement Jaxx, Rae Morris, Declan McKenna, The Cuban Brothers, Mr Tumble, Dick and Dom, Dinosaur World Live, Hey Duggee, just to name a few. It would be great to see some more big acts given the ticket price and as I’m getting older and can stay up longer (or just sleep through them so mummy and daddy can see them!
A special mention to the Bollywood tent as it was a real feast for the eyes this year with its brightly coloured tassels, parasols and intricate carvings. I even raved with my folks with Big Fish Little Fish and it brought an amazing amount of colour to the site after all the dry weather.
Check out our chatty video to see what we thought…the good and the not so good…
However the Great British summertime stopped play and sadly organisers had to make the difficult decision not to open the arenas on Sunday due to extremely high winds which was beyond their control (45-50 mph). Of course due to the horrific weather conditions on the Sunday we missed the fireworks finale, Simple Minds and Shed Seven, as well as doing things we hadn’t done the previous days as the festival had to close.
We could tell something wasn’t right as the winds on Saturday we’re getting stronger and stronger as the day went on. When we woke on Sunday morning our tent was shaking like an angry crisp packet with us trapped inside. Signs were flying, flag poles tapping and portaloos toppled like dominoes. Horizontal rain and tents flying away caused a lot of people to abandon during the night and head home or to their cars or even local hotels.
When we ventured outside there were collapsed tents everywhere. It was really sad and quite scary for me as a little person. Festival organisers kept us updated via social media as much as they could and kept putting off the decision to shut early. Watching the weather closely. But at 1:30pm they cancelled so we packed up and headed home. Totally understandable and they had to put safety first.
So deflated, we packed up in the rain and headed home. My mummy shouting over the wind and rain ‘abandon ship’. In my little life I’d never seen anything like it and it was certainly an adventure I will never forget. A massive shout out to the Dorset Farmers Market who remained open serving much-needed warm drinks, bacon rolls and other snacks. Their efforts gave those of us that needed shelter and safety from the weather. It would have made me feel safer if there had been more security or festival crew in the camping area to help but they may have been needed elsewhere on the site.
Camp Bestival has just had a really bad run with the weather these last two years. But it’s not their fault and we certainly won’t hold it against them. We really hope we can return next year and actually see the grand finale and fireworks we’ve missed. As for now we’re enjoying looking back at our videos and pretending to be mermaids in the clam shell that we brought home!
Love Bella x
Disclosure: We were gifted weekend tickets to Camp Bestival in return for an honest review, all wind-blown hair and sticky smiles are our own.
Early bird tickets go on sale on Monday 6th August at 10am from campbestival.net, with adult weekend tickets priced at just £160 and available to buy with our monthly payment plan. Camping Plus, Hospitality and Backstage Camping upgrades will be on sale at early bird prices, too. All our ticketing information and lots more can be found at campbestival.net
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