Camp Bestival

July 19-21, 2008

Lulworth Castle

by Joanna Orland

I’m a festival snob. I like the sun to be shinning when I attend a festival. I like my festivals to be in a ubiquitous rural location. I like my festival crowds to be shiny, happy, laughing people preferably in fancy dress. I like my festivals to have sponsors that don’t feel the need to attach their brand logo to every stage, bar, tree or cow within the festival site. I like my festival food to be from the local area and not take the form of a £5 burger in bun. I like my festivals to make full use of their locations by encouraging those attending the festival to explore the location. I like festivals to have clean toilets with toilet paper. I like festivals to have a cheap and non-complicated means of getting to the festival site. I like festivals that make all people welcome regardless of age, mobility or background. And of course (and no I hadn’t forgotten) I like my festivals to have a wide and varied line-up from musical acts, to theatre, circus, spoken word and everything in between.

Ah, if such a festival existed………… Well, funnily enough, I think I may have found one that comes pretty close. ‘Camp Bestival’ is the ‘boutique’ alternative to its’ big brother ‘Bestival’, on the Isle of Wight. Hosted by Rob da Bank, this was the first ever ‘Camp Bestival’. The site was at the gorgeous Lulworth Castle in Dorset (nearest station Wool, baa). I admit I have a slight obsession with the South West of England, but if you ever go there you will understand why. The journey from London was about 2 and a-half hours (not the one and a half that was quoted on the web site!), but it was worth the journey. From the station we caught a shuttle bus to the site (£6 return).

If you didn’t know, each year at Bestival there is a different theme and everyone dresses up according to that theme. The same applied at Camp Bestival. Unfortunately, due to the reviewer drinking a little too much sangria the night before, she didn’t quite have time to get a costume together for Camp Bestival (but she does promise to next year!). The theme was Alice in Wonderland / a Mad Hatters Tea Party taking place at the festival. When we arrived we were greeted by the sight of hundreds of Alice in Wonderlands, white rabbits, mad hatters, king and queens’ of hearts, Tweedle Dums and Tweedle Dees and the occasional Cheshire Cat (if you have no idea what I’m talking about shame on you, you have not read Alice in Wonderland). If (like us) you had arrived without a costume, there were several fancy dress stalls where you could hire clothes or buy costumes (we still didn’t do it though due to our inability to narrow it down to our fave choices…..).

One of the first things that I noticed about Camp Bestival, were the number of children (ok I can hear some of you already grumbling about children having no place at a festival etc etc). However, this festival was perfect for children, in fact I think it was probably one of the most child friendly festivals that I’ve been to. Each area of the festival had something for children to do, like art classes, or games to play, and one area was pretty much dedicated solely to children, which is where we spent most of our time (the Insect Circus rocked and the Women’s Institute were selling amazing cakes and tea!!).

We did manage to move away from the cakes for long enough to explore the rest of the site. I am a big fan of an MC called Scroobius Pip, and as well as being an MC he is also well known as a poet. So, as we were wandering across a field in search of more food (it was a long walk from the cakes to this part of the festival) I heard a voice announce from inside a tent ‘I am Scroobius Pip’. So, being a bit of a fan, I dragged my friend towards the tent (but kind of forgot to tell her what I was doing and she got a little confused when we landed in the middle of a poetry reading…). Scroobius Pip was hosting the spoken word tent so we spent about half an hour listening to a poet called A.F.Harrold and his completely surreal poetry (the climax of the set was a poem entitled ‘Cats Are Better Than Fish’).

So, after some poetry, a little King Creosote and some Giddeon Conn (really don’t get him……), we continued our exploration. We meandered our way down a path into the woods following a masculine looking Alice and a couple of white rabbits and found ourselves in a farm. Genius! They had peacocks, rabbits, chickens, a pig called Barbara, sheep, a ginger lama (Jo-lama), ponies, goats and a duck, with ducklings, all of which made me very happy and made me decide that this may be one of the best festivals around at the moment.

Finally, I must mention the food. I went to a festival last year in Scotland (called Connect) and a big part of the festival was the food. I like burgers and chips as much as anyone, but I really don’t get why festival food has to be so expensively bad. Connect drafted in local producers and the food was amazing. Camp Bestival was similar. There were the usual festival stalls, the vegetarian curry place, the noodle place, the fish and chips, but there was also local farmer’s food and a stall selling locally caught and grilled mackerel and of course the Women’s Institutes’ cakes. Yum! I think I shall be returning to Camp Bestival next year.

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