Camp Bestival: The Good & The Bad

Following on from my post about how we made it to Camp Bestival, here is my review of the weekend…

The Good

James at Camp Bestival

The Friday night headliners, James were worth the six hour journey alone and Tim Booth’s energy infected everyone that made it to the front as we bounced in unison to Come Home and Laid, plastic wine glasses spilling their contents on fellow fans and reminding me that we were all grown ups now!

Dancing to Peter Hook at Camp Bestival

On Sunday night, we chose Peter Hook‘s set over the headliners, Basement Jaxx and were not disappointed. I haven’t danced like that in a long time! But the highlight of the set has to be dancing with Bear in my arms to Love Will Tear Us Apart. A precious moment that I will always treasure – even if the best photo of it isn’t fantastic!

Kawa Circus at Camp Bestival

Not my choice, but Kate Tempest and Scroobius Pip delivered awe-inspiring performances in both their spoken word sessions and musical sets. Chas & Dave lent a sunny afternoon crowd pleasing atmosphere that was a great warm-up for DJ Yoda. Other new discoveries were Dream Themes with their wedding receptionesque take on popular (mostly 80’s) TV theme tunes, and Kawa Circus who provided a gross but captivating show to crowds who happened by their impromptu performances in the children’s field.

Mr Trolley at  Camp Bestival

A mention also has to be made for the guys at Mr Trolley who put a smile back on my wet, tired face on the Friday evening as they gave me the last weekend trolley hire; and of course the toilet cleaners who did a sterling job of keeping the loos clean and well stocked over the weekend. A mention here also has to be made for the brilliant kid-sized compost toilets which my girls loved. The Peacock Tent in the Soul Park was a wonderful chill-out space in amongst the madness of the festival – I was so contented sat on the cushions eating cake and drinking tea I would have stayed all day if I hadn’t had children! And the Caravanserai was amazing – every town should have one. I wanted to bin the kids and sit supping kitsch cocktails all night!

And finally, the lack of late night drunken revelling that is the festival norm – meaning that we all slept; and the food and drink options that were diverse and fantastic.

Could be Better

camping equipment camp bestival

The Camping Plus check-in: no directions were given to our pitch and when we asked, we were told the sections were the colours of the rainbow and marked by flags. In a sea of colourful tents and flags this wasn’t overly helpful and after almost an hour trekking across a very big field in the rain with two whining children and a very heavy tent we gave up and asked the first person we found in a hi-vis for help.  Suffice to say, it was more than disappointing to be told that the pitch we had didn’t exist due to an error on Ticketline. Luckily the guy we’d approached was more helpful than his colleagues on the gate and not only did he find us a spare pitch, but he carried our tent to it as well. Things improved from there, but it would have been so much better if we’d been told this when we were getting our wristbands in the first place.

The Maps: On our first evening we only had 15 minutes before James began their set to find our way across the festival site. Unfortunately, the maps we’d printed from the website were next to useless and didn’t mark where the castle stage was at all – only common sense led us to it in the crowded twilight. In fact, it took us until Sunday to get the hang of them. I get that it was a large, zoned site, but 3 maps just confused us and wasn’t helped by a lack of signage on some of the venues.

The Charity Space: some of the staff in the charity tents were rather begrudging at providing the offered activities to my children despite charging quite a lot to do so. Waiting over an hour for an activity we’d been promised we were next in the queue for didn’t help either, especially as they then ignored us over and over until we left with a distraught Bunny.

face painting at camp bestival

Face Painting: I wrongly assumed that as this was featured in the festival programme it was included in the price (as it is at LolliBop). And this happened repeatedly across the weekend as we trekked across the site to an activity only to discover it cost extra and/or needed to be booked in advance. If the programme had included an indicator where activities incurred an extra charge or required advanced booking it would have saved lots of disappointment for the girls. Luckily, we’d brought Bear’s birthday presents with us, including a face paint set meaning we could do our own and avoid the long queues!

fireworks at camp bestival

The Fireworks: We didn’t really know where they were held but made an educated guess that they would be over the castle so headed that way after Peter Hook’s fantastic set was over. Unfortunately, by this time there were barriers in place restricting access to the area in front of the castle which meant that unless you had watched the Basement Jaxx set, there was no way of getting into the area to view them (especially with the trolley). In the end, we had a view of the castle which we thought would be ok, but while we could see most of the fireworks, it wasn’t as spectacular as I’d expected. On returning home, however, I found a YouTube video of them which not only showed the fireworks in all their glory but also had the music that accompanied them (that we hadn’t heard from where we were). And they were fantastic!

hills at camp bestival

The Hills: We were directed to park at the bottom of a very steep hill which meant a very tiring trek to the Camping Plus entrance, and then our pitch and the main entrance to the festival were down another hill. Once inside the festival site there was yet another very steep hill to navigate to reach the main areas. I will admit that once down it, I was less than keen to go back up it, meaning we missed anything that was going on beyond the Big Top.

The Trolleys: The trolleys were a great idea – not just for transporting all the camping equipment from the car to the campsite, but for getting little legs and all the detritus that accompanies them on a day out around the festival site at speed. However, the sheer number of them made getting around challenging, and even more so in the dark, where those not lit up with fairy lights or similar were easy to miss and walk into as they trailed behind the adults. The lack of brakes also meant I witnessed many a runaway trolley being chased by a parent who had stopped momentarily to catch their breath (us included!). I loved having one, but also saw their downside in a space full of people, hills and darkness.


camp bestival festival kids

It may seem as though this was overly critical, but don’t get me wrong – we had a wonderful time, but as it was our first experience of a festival with the children we also needed a good 24 hours to get ourselves acclimatised to the festival site and how it all worked. By arriving so late on the Friday, we missed a whole day and then spent most of the second day just trying to navigate our way around. If we go again (and I really hope we do!), I would definitely set off on the Thursday to have that extra night to get settled in. And of course, next year, we’ll already know our way around, will have our own pre-pimped trolley and will understand the set up better! And I hope that some of these points help others that might be having their first time at Camp Bestival next year too. Go! You won’t regret it!