We’re just back from Camp Bestival 2011. I meant to ‘live blog’ while we were there, but the phone reception at beautiful Lulworth Castle in Dorsetshire-by-Sea is non-existent.
Which means it is a pretty good place to host a load of tech-addled parents and their phone-addicted offspring in the first week of the school holidays.
We’re seasoned festivalers now. Helped enormously by owning a knackered rusty Mazda Bongo campervan whose seats-which-are-meant-to-collapse-into-a-bed but refused to budge on the evening we arrived. We had severe camper-envy on the distant hill on which the campervans were precariously parked.
Camp Bestival is truly the mother of all family festivals. Created by DJ and Dad Rob Da Bank and his fellow festival-loving music media workers, who have an uncanny ability to book a seamless line-up of classic bands, up-and-coming musical wizards, intelligent speakers and kid-friendly entertainers whose appeal spans generations.
We came prepared. We had a Luggable Loo in the awning and a garden trolley to cart any tired children around during the evening. The campsites had opened on the Thursday this year to allow a more leisurely set-up.
We were ready.
Friday July 29 – Priorities: Food, Carl Barat, Jon Ronson, Labrinth, Blondie.
We encountered our first long walk of many long walks from tent to site, found food, the cleanest composting toilets, kept the kids away from the queues for the fairground rides and heard a little of Jon Ronson’s book talk. We tried and failed to find where everyone had got their bright yellow Screamadelica Guardian shoulder-bags.
We split up late afternoon, with me taking the smaller two of our four children back to the tent for a chill-out and food bribes, while Dad and the oldest two watched Labrinth.
Back at camp we could hear ‘Sunshine’ sung across the valley in the blazing hot weather. Lovely.
We packed jumpers and waterproofs into the trolley for the night run, and got a plum spot to watch ABC and then Blondie, who did a fantastic set. We tried to explain to our sons why so many Dads were staring misty-eyed at Debbie Harry: She was hot when your Dad was your age. Sooo hot. And she’s still got it.
We headed home to the van each night knowing we’d missed lots of shows more suited to adults in the comedy tent and the silent disco but we were grateful the kids stayed up happy enough for us to watch the headliners.
Rain on Friday night didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.
Saturday July 30 – Priorities: Find a Guardian bag, watch House of Pain, Mr Tumble, Mark Ronson, Groove Armada
What a day. A lazy breakfast and then down to see what was going on in the Castle Field.
Somehow we timed it perfectly to catch Dick and Dom getting thousands of children (and adults) to shout “Bogies” as loudly as possible.
Then to our three-year-old daughter Bonnie’s delight and bewilderment, the entire crowd sang “My Bonnie lies over the ocean.” Her song.
Perched atop Daddy’s shoulders, she then had a perfect view of the Zingzillas.
Her tiny mind was further blown when non-other than the iconic Mr Tumble took to the stage. And she didn’t bat an eyelid when Keith Allen wandered past with a pair of pants on his head. Best day EVER!
Back to the tent for half of us while the oldest boys were allowed a little free-rein to watch (running late) Miss Dynamite and Gentlemens Dub Club. We heard The Wonderstuff and Eliza Doolittle back up at the Hill.
Back down for a fat burger and chips, in time to feel the ground shake for House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around.’ Into position for Mark Ronson, who opened with Dave of the Zutons for his original rendition of Valerie, in tribute to Amy Winehouse. It was the first of two versions of the song by Ronson, who also included a cover of Winehouse’s awesome, melancholy ‘Back to Black’, performed by Charlie Waller of the Rumble Strips.
It was a scorching set by Ronson and the Business International and guests, including the Bike Song, Somebody to Love Me and Bang Bang Bang. And this wasn’t even the headline act.
We’d been looking forward to Groove Armada but technical hitches (lack of sound and the big screens) led to us getting bored and restless and heading back to camp.
But we did get a couple of bright pink Guardian bags that day. £1.50 for the paper and the bag came free! Bonus!
Sunday, July 31. Priorities: Find the corn on the cob van, walk the Dingly Dell trail, see Sound of Rum, Wretch 32, Katy B, Nero, Primal Scream and the fireworks.
By now, we’re all knackered from so much walking and so many late nights, but somehow all still positive. The kids had made friends with neighbouring kids on each side, and were happily kicking footballs at each other and clambering over better vans than ours.
In the morning run up to the site we spent £2.50 three times on identical copies of the Observer, just because we wanted the new bright green bags, emblazoned with Primal Scream’s anthemic song title ‘Get Your Rocks off.’
We had a wander and settled for lunch in the kids field to be treated to a troop of Indian dancers and acrobats doing daring deeds and telling a sad traditional story of a princess and her suitors.
Pauline Black and The Selector were Ska-ing up the main stage with relish, and we settled into our tried and tested spot to the right of the stage for Wretch 32. Only a short set, including an out-of-character cover of a Script song. He pulled it back with storming versions of Unorthodox and Traktor.
Newly orange-haired Katy B, who was the breakthrough act at Glastonbury, proved her vocal dexterity with an energetic set including Easy Please Me, Katy on a Mission and Perfect Stranger.
We’d have liked her to do more, and she could have, because dubstep duo Nero were a no-show, having already had their place in the pecking order elevated. Bah, losers.
Their slot was stirlingly taken on by beatboxer extraordinaire, Beardyman (who as far as we could see had no beard). A sublime set, clever lyrics and amazing visuals. Son 2 turned to his Dad and said: “You have to buy his album, so I can nick it off you.”
Then it was the big one. What we’d all been waiting for, either to reminisce about life before kids to the soundtrack of the Screamadelica album in full (us) or see what all this Primal Scream fuss was about (the kids).
What a soaring, hands-in-the-air, Bobby Gillespie rock-god worshipping experience it was. By the time they reached ‘Come Together’ it was as though the whole field could solve all the worlds’ problems just by singing. Incredible. The kids totally got it. Eldest son hasn’t taken off the t-shirt which cost him all his weekend cash.
The evening, and the festival, was topped off by a truly awesome fireworks display from the top of the castle, which had animation projected into it while a booming soundtrack accompanied the visuals.
The kids were still buzzing with excitement by the time we got back to the tent (Bonnie was asleep in the trolley on the way back). Our airbed may have acquired a puncture but we slept well, and when it came time to try to get the seats back into postition to pack the van and drive home, they slid into position effortlessly. Obviously good karma.
Mr Da Bank is, we agreed, a Top Bloke for putting on the best Camp Bestival yet (and we loved the previous ones too). Many thanks to all who came together to make it a festival experience to remember.
No fallow year either: next year’s Camp Bestival is already scheduled for Thursday 26th to Sunday 29th July 2012. Book early!