Camp Bestival is still the number one festival to bring kids from tiny babies to hard to please teens to. Its on a smaller scale and easier to mange in one day than its peers such as Glastonbury, T and Reading, and has a whole field just dedicated to the enjoyment of the younger members of the family.
There is still, also a great mixture of music to please even massive music snobs such as us! We love that the main acts tend to start later, so should your children not be used to the later nights (as the headliners were on at 10pm and finished at 11.30) you could happily have a lie in, get a good breakfast and then stroll up to whichever stage took your fancy.
For those whose children still woke early, there was no need to stay bored in the tent, as films ran from early in the Big Top and the Children's Field.
The friendly atmosphere of the festival never ceases to amaze me, within five minutes of arriving and setting up, both the children were in the thick of a big group of children in the row we were on, playing football, frisbee and trolley racing too. It certainly makes it easier when you're cooking or want five minutes peace on a chair to sunbathe and collect your thoughts knowing the children all played safely together. (a big shout to the Medway Clarkes, Sid, Violet and their Mum, Molly and her family and everyone else near Yellow Car park one and the donut stand row).
Everyone is also very sensible when it comes to pitching tents and giving each other space, and being quiet if they were back later, neither of our two were woken by later arrivals and enjoyed uninterrupted sleep.
The toilets were so much nicer in general than last year! We spotted stewards refilling loo roll and cleaning them regularly, and only once each did we go in and find no loo roll (being seasoned campers we had loo roll anyway). The water stand was also much cleaner and cold- blissfully so- this year.
We had no issue with finding the roads and right place to park either, with plentiful sign posts and not too many closures of roads either- everyone was warned about their sat nav being useless after Wareham, but this didn't matter as you find your way easily enough.
We loved the Bollywood tent, it was beautifully decorated inside, had soft carpet for those whose legs were knackered and needed a soft space to rest, and the music was great. We loved Big Fish Little Fish and Fun DMC, and the mixture of young and old showed how popular it remains. It also provided a spot from the heat too at the top of the hill.
The medical team were fantastic too, we needed to pop in with Mini after she managed to get stuck playing on the I Love Camp Bestival sign and grazed her back. We were seen within two minutes, and I was made to feel very welcome- I felt a bit daft going in but the sign was a bit minging after several hundred dusty feet had used it as a climbing frame and she was utterly distraught. She was made a massive fuss of, given a huge plaster and cleaned up. Thanks to the guys there for their help in cheering up a more embarrassed at getting stuck than actually hurt 8 year old.
90% of the stewards (more on the 10% later) as usual were amazingly helpful, friendly and fun to be around. I saw many dancing like loons, entertaining children and generally looking like they loved being there too.
Bands we loved? Cymande- who we have vinyl of at home absolutely rocked the stage during their early slot and surely should be considered for a longer slot at some point in the near future. They had great crowd interaction, and were just fantastic musically.
Soul II Soul were who we personally went to see, our must view in fact, and they didn't disappoint. Caron Wheeler dealt with sound issues very well, and you can tell Jazzy B uses his entire 30 year career experience to provide a performance that was a pleasure to watch. The fact that younger kids were driven to dance by a band that probably enjoyed their biggest career peak before they were born says it all. They were polished, and again, they interacted with the crowd well- Gadget Dad had found a T-Shirt with Jazzy on and one of the backing singers spotted it and pointed him out. He was also very pleased to hear Jazzy ask who remembered their earlier days at the Africa Centre as this is were he first heard them play back in the day.
Wretch 32 was someone I wanted to see but who Gadget Dad wasn't that bothered by, but actually ended up quite enjoying too. Again, he was a great crowd pleaser and I did indeed get my "London Skank" on as directed by Wretch himself (it's OK- Mini was off on the Big Wheel at the time).
Talking of the Big Wheel, this was enjoyed plenty of times by my daughter and her friend Helen who met up with us down there (eventually!). At £2.50 a go, it was not as expensive as I feared, as was the Helter Skelter at £2 a go. We also watched the Ferret racing and paid a £1 to bet on one of the critters. Littlest loved The Wall of Death and was amazed at the talent of those on the bikes.
From the crowdsourcing, the posher showers and toilets were very clean and well maintained, the kids fields friendly and full of fun activities which were cheap as chips and great for the younger camper too. There was free phone charging in the Hello Kitty area (great considering other parts charge quite a bit for this) and a good mixture of food areas too.
The costumes were fun too, with many people using the "Go Wild" theme as creatively as usual. The Inflatable Church was a highlight too although was booked up very quickly.
There are mixed views of things to do for the tweens aged 10-13 as some felt there wasn't as much laid on for this group that warranted a higher ticket price but other's pointing out the football skills area and skate park too.
THE NOT SO GOOD:
One thing I've always said to Festival nay sayers who say they wouldn't want to go as they hear festivals attract thieves is that Camp Bestival isn't like that. And actually, up until this year for us it hasn't been.
Sure, we wouldn't leave laptops, phones and money unattended whilst out and about, and the car was securely locked at all times when we weren't in it, but we've always left our cooker and chairs out the front (you can't and should never leave a gas bottle inside your tent as its just incredibly dangerous), and we've never heard of thefts before. We've even lost jackets and heard of other's who have lost phones in the crowds and have had them handed straight in (one Forum user lost a very expensive mobile phone and thought there was no chance of it being handed in, but indeed it was so well done to those who do the right thing).
However, this year I am sad to hear of people being robbed, a lot of people, of everything from wine boxes and snacks to money, and even thefts from tents occupied by sleeping children.
Whilst there is always going to be a chance of thefts occurring as you cannot ever have a situation as tempting as Camp Bestival, with people knowing you have a large amount of tents empty for large parts of the day, I would say some- not all- the Stewards- some of the 10% I mentioned who did little to help.
On our first night, around 2am on Friday, I was woken up by a woman of around her mid forties with our camping kettle in hand and her other on my stove. Luckily, for a change being a light sleeper due to Littlest being unwell during the night came in handy, as I managed to stop her pinching our only source of cooking for the weekend, If I hadn't, we would have faced vast costs to replace the stove and gas bottle or having to pay out for food on site.
However, we got lucky, as I have been told by the forum that they had money and gadgets pinched whilst they slept, with one camper saying she saw a male step over her sleeping child as he made his exit armed with cash and goods. One camper was told by Saturday, at least £2,000 had been stolen, as well as cigarettes, booze, food and gadgets. They also felt they knew who the culprit was too.
I cannot fault the response of some stewards who made night time checks constantly, however, there were a few who made no attempts whatsoever to check wristbands- something we have always been asked to show at all times. There were also those who reported tents full of people who had chanced their luck with no wristband or ticket and people climbing or rolling under the fences who were largely ignored. Behind our tent was a dirt road leading to the caravan park, and it was easy as anything to roll under. At one point it had been left open and I had to ask for it to be closed, I only found it open down to Littlest getting his frisbee lost over it, and then suddenly appearing with it again- I asked had someone throw it over to be shown he'd got through the fence and retrieved it. This is also a concern as some of the cars went very fast down the track and he could easily have been hit by one.
We also experienced one surly steward moan regards Mini tightening her wrist band and leaving us no option but to cut it off. We were told off and advised we'd have to pay to replace it at ticket price if she did it again!
The issue with wristbands and the kids is the younger ones tend to tighten them up and then they cannot be loosened off again. Perhaps a more user friendly wrist band for children under ten would be a good idea, similar to the plastic press popper bands which stay on all weekend with no fuss?
An issue which was mentioned in the crowdsource thread was the stewards allowing glass onto the field, again, something that wasn't an issue before. It led to one teen suffering a head injury when one person rested a bottle on a chair over the crowds head which fell two metres onto the teens head below, meaning an anxious visit to the medical tent and not the nicest end to the weekend.
I saw one young steward who was too busy being awful to a 13 year old girl over a bottle of coke (plastic and recently purchased from a stall) whilst he merrily waved through a group whose bags were clinking with bottles very obviously.
With staffing, its always going to be hit and miss as you will obviously get the odd chancer who comes along with no intention of following rules and to allow mates to sneak in or to bully others, but perhaps having a plain clothed group who watch the behaviour of the stewards and weed out those who misbehave would be an idea?
Another much mentioned issue was the sound on the main stage, which did distort down to the breeze and at times, such as I mentioned during Soul II Soul, cut out completely. Many people mentioned that unless you were nearer the front, you couldn't hear, as the Bollywood tent was quite loud as was the Big Top and all the noise mixed together. Other's suggested moving the Souvenir stall- which is right in the middle of the Castle Field- would be a great idea for next year.
One reason I'm pleased to have crowdsourced this post as it gives me an insight into experiences I would not have known of had I not asked.
Camping or visiting a festival is always difficult with children, and Camp B certainly makes this easier by hosting a varied mixture of events, tents and acts. However, if one of your group is disabled, or SEN it puts a whole new spin on what you can, and can't, take part in.
Two parent's I received a reply from have praised most of the facilities for disabled campers, but have said a few things could be improved.
They would like to see more disabled toilet facilities around the Castle Field, as one Mum had to change her older child's nappy whilst trying to hide in crowds, which must be slightly uncomfortable. They would also suggest a "Fast Track" ticketing system, or perhaps a quieter period between 10 am and 11 so they can take part in using as many activities as possible. I had never really thought about it, but trying to get a child with Special Needs onto bouncy castles or dancing during shows can't be easy or safe when lots of boisterous and excited able bodied children can't be safe, so perhaps this is something to consider?
The Wall of Death which Littlest enjoyed was also the source of disappointment for others down to the stairs to the viewing platform- one suggestion was a screen inside for those less able to manage the stairs.
Others would also like more Disabled spaces available as these tend to be popular and snapped up quickly. This shows just how great it currently is for these festival fans, but can cause disappointment for those who miss out or create issues if they go anyway and then find the Hills (of Doom) on the site a bit tough going,
As usual, a popular gripe was the loos and showers, and lack of hand washing facilities for those using the loo.
Personally, I only queued a few times, and no one was jumping in and messing about so I was pretty happy with the loo quota, they were clean and well maintained. Frankly, loos at a festival are always going be iffy- its not your bathroom at home and why companies like "When Nature Calls" can and do charge £2 a time for a Posh pee!
Others felt there were even fewer loos than last year though, so perhaps a way of bringing more next year would keep everyone happy.
We'd also like to see some hot water stations for washing up after your camp cook out or having some water to wash your hands in after using the loos, as currently there was plentiful cold water but no hot, and nowhere to empty loo buckets either.
One thing I do agree with though is the showers.
Having 20 for several thousand people on the vast Normal camping sites is just not on. We were a good 15 minute walk from the showers we were able to use, and at one point we walked past at 1pm, they were on ticket number 452 and an extra 100+ people were still waiting.
I gave up in the end and used my water jug to pour over my head by my tent, but in the heat we had over the weekend I was dying for a proper shower but didn't want to spend 3 hours waiting. No one visits a Festival to queue for a wash afterall.
We do need more shower blocks next year at the bottom of the hill in Yellow. Others camping round the site, such as in the Camper park, have expressed the same wish.
One very helpful suggestion during bone of contention chats was a one way system out and into the Castle Field, as this can get quite blocked up at the end of acts. There has to be a happy medium with those using chairs and trolleys- most are sensible and park these near the middle or side, but not all, so a few folk have suggested zones for these. Other's would like the stewards to be more pro active over adults standing and blocking views for children during children's acts on the stages.
We also weren't all fans of the Cup Collecting. Camp B encourages the kids to collect cups and return them for 10p a cup, but this did lead to some kids "bin diving" for cups (not safe when there was glass around this year) or hovering round adults they did not know to pounce on their empty cup. I see what they are doing with the recycling angle, but sadly some parent's did use this as a means of sending their older child off whilst they drank in peace- obviously Camp B can't parent the parents, but perhaps the Stewards do need to tell the kids not to remove cups from the bin for their safety.
A part from a few requests for the Illuminations to return to the Castle during the Fireworks, some discussion of for and against the Headliners (some happy with Underworld closing, others suggesting their personal requests for next year), the feedback from others, and us, is a big thumbs up.
One thing you note at Camp B is the happy atmosphere, with no trouble to speak of in the crowds, happy to help staff and great acts and things for kids.
A suggestion for next year is having a scale on the Booklet next to the activities showing how expensive they are or what is free as one thing I love about the festival is the amount of budget or free activities there are mixed in with more expensive things for those with bigger wallets.
Like any event, you can't please all the people all the time, but this year there is a resounding consensus from regulars and first timers that they will be back next year, even sparking comments of wanted acts (Kate Bush, The Cure, Talking Heads and Depeche Mode being names in the mix) and themes (Under the Sea, Childhood Heroes, Space, and Greek Mythology amongst many others) popping up already.
We have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, we saw a vast mix of acts we loved, acts we'd never heard of before, and new experiences like the Wall of Death (which Littlest is still telling everyone he can all about).
Camp Bestival are just so good, the best in fact, at catering for a massive range of ages, musical tastes and for the disabled camper too.
Sadly, the thefts this year will put a dampener on it for some, but I bet that those who run the festival will be aware of it, gutted, and will be seeing what they can do to stamp this out for next year.
If you want a friendly, happy and fun festival then Camp Bestival is a must for all.
Fancy it? Early Bird tickets go on sale from Friday at http://campbestival.net, and you can spread the cost soon with their weekly payment scheme (for around the same per week you spend on your take away coffee).
Were you there? What did you think? Comments are open :)