Here's my 2016 Camp Bestival Review - find out we got up to at the festival, what it was like camping with kids and if we'll be going back. Hint: yes!
A few weeks ago, we packed the car and set off on an amazing adventure to Camp Bestival. I've been to loads of festivals in my pre-kids days, but since the little ones came along (they're aged 4 and 6 now), we haven't been to any. If we were considering going to any other festivals these days, we'd be quickly looking for babysitters - but not for Camp Bestival.
Created in 2008 by DJ Rob da Bank, Camp Bestival is a chance for parents to party alongside their kids. Does that worry you? It shouldn't. We had an absolute ball and so did the little ones. It brings together crafts and craft beer, big tops and banging tunes, rides and rhythms. And it is flipping awesome.
I've only ever heard great things about Camp Bestival, and anyone I've spoken to has returned year after year. That's high praise in itself and we had such a great time that we will definitely be going back next year as well.
We really lucked out with the weather. It only rained for about 20 minutes the entire time we were there. Unfortunately it was pretty heavy and came right as we were about to put the tent up. Putting up a tent in the pouring rain is definitely something I've done before at other festivals, but this time we had the challenge of keeping the kids dry. We failed. They got soaked, ate snacks and found it hilarious as we erected our weekend home.
On the advice of friends, we arrived on the Thursday so we could get a good pitch and settle in before the festival fun began. It's a slight trek from the car park to the camping areas, which are made up of hills, but we decided to camp closer to the festival so we could easily return to the tent when we needed to. We tended to go back to the tent every day to make the kids some lunch and let them wind down with colouring books and play dough before heading back to the glorious mayhem. The downtime was good for all of us!
Every year, Camp Bestival has a theme and this year it was space. From the giant astronauts that towered above the site, to the Mission Control tent, there were out of this world experiences all over.
The site is big, so we kept stumbling upon new areas as we wandered about each day. There are loads of tents with music, crafts, games, shows, theatre and so much more. The kids took part in a paper rocket competition in Mission Control, then came outside and met The Klangers. It felt that everywhere we turned there was more and more to see and do.
I loved the Caravanserai. Part gypsy caravan, part lunatic asylum, this area comprised seating (by way of old fairground rides, retro caravans and even vintage baby buggies turned into chairs), a stage and a bar.
We saw some fabulously bizarre shows in there, including space monkeys performing music, a Scottish clown who swallowed a balloon and loads of bands.
Don't be worried about the facilities - there were loads of toilets and water points. We had an absolute blast jumping around in the world's biggest bouncy castle but unfortunately at the end my daughter went over on her ankle. There's a popup on-site chemist and hospital and they quickly assessed her. Thankfully nothing was broken or even sprained and soon enough she was dancing outside the Bollywood stage to a Prince tribute like it was 1999.
Trolleys are a bit of a 'thing' at Camp Bestival. They're certainly useful, whether for carting all of the camping gear from the car, or giving little ones' legs a rest. One thing is for certain: they're everywhere at Camp Bestival!
I'm sure for those with older children they are the most hateful, shin-bruising things on the planet, but we loved ours. We only used it in the evenings, so when the kids started to get tired, we put them into their sleeping bags and lay them together in the trolley. When they became sleepy in the evenings, we put on their ear defenders and let them doze.
I love that questionable parenting is the norm at Camp Bestival. We lugged them about in the trolley as we slowly got slightly trollied ourselves. We supped a few cold beers, the kids slept and we danced to Fatboy Slim. Parenting bliss.
The set up of the site is great, so we could head over to the children's field, the chill out zone or just wander about listening to the likes of Turin Brakes blaring from the main stage. We sat down and watched the kids climb a massive sculpture made of bikes, sheds and vans and later made endless crafts with them in the art tent.
Then it's the chance for parents to sit down on the picnic blanket while the kids give it large watching Dick and Dom or Mr Tumble.
As for food, it was fantastic. There were food stalls everywhere, as well as the Feast Collective - a dedicated tent with artisan food producers and street food. There was also a farmer's market with fresh bread, fruit, salad and coffees. Even the local WI set up a tent of teas, cakes and sandwiches. I loved the Goodness Salad from the veggie and vegan stall - stalwarts (sorry) of festivals for years, I've had these salads in fields across the country. The picture above is a vegan butternut squash and bean paella. It was delicious!
Did we enjoy it? Yes. Will we be going back? Absolutely. I want my kids to experience all the crazy, madcap, bizarre happenings again and again. I want them to be open-minded to the ridiculous. I want them to absorb the absurd and have their imaginations ignited again and again. Camp Bestival is the perfect place for all of this.
Until next year, Camp Bestival. Adieu. x
Disclosure: Thanks for reading my 2016 Camp Bestival Review. My family went to the festival as guests of Camp Bestival and paid a charitable donation.