Tag Archives: camping with kids

Camp Bestival 2015 – early line-up announced

Camp Bestival in Dorset is the best festival if you’ve got kids, and the line-up is usually great for all ages.

One year we saw Blondie, Mark Ronson and Primal Scream in the same weekend, a high-point in our festival-going lives.

You can read reviews of previous Camp Bestivals here and here
Here’s the latest news on who will be performing in 2015. Clean Bandit, Underworld and Kaisers, plus The Cat in the Hat Live. Pretty good for starters. You can sign up now for early-bird tickets at www.campbestival.net

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Planning a festi-holiday: How to festival with family and a Camp Bestival 2012 preview

INSTEAD of searching the internet for prices of lovely sunny holidays abroad, I’m Googling levelling blocks. Not nice new swimsuits or sun-lotion, but levelling blocks.

These big cheese-shaped plastic blocks stop camper vans and caravans rolling off down a hill or all the blood rushing to your head when you have to sleep in one.

And for the fifth year in a row I’ll be spending my precious family break in a field, as we’ll be holidaying in our knackered old Japanese Bongo camper van.

Are you fired up for a home Olympic holiday, or planning to jet away to avoid it all this summer?

We had considered something different for our family holiday this year, other than our usual trip to a festival. But our bank balances never stretch far enough to take six of us abroad, and our annual trip to Dorset works so well we’re doing it all over again for the fourth year on the trot.

If you have children, or even if you don’t, I heartily recommend you look at what’s on offer at www.campbestival.net even if you feel like you’ve ‘done’ every festival or can’t face camping, let alone camping with kids.

Camp Bestival is the family-friendly little sister of the September Bestival festival on the Isle of Wight. It’s held each year over the last weekend in July after the schools have broken up for summer. The venue is the specular Lulworth Castle on the Dorset coast.

It’s a great combination of live music spanning the tastes of parents and teens, with a load of extra stuff for kids including the Gruffalo, Shrek, Dick & Dom, Mr Tumble and a Wall of Death! There’s a massive skatepark, street dance and DJs, comedy and jaw-dropping jousting. And as this year it coincides with the opening of the London Olympics, there’s a silly sports theme, which means you’ll see lots of families dressed in identical sports-related dressing up outfits. You can choose whether to join in or stick to the standard shorts and wellies combo.

If like us you have children spread in age from teens to tots, the site is contained enough to allow the older ones off the leash to go feral for an afternoon, while you wander around the kids’ field watching your younger ones test out ball pits and painting tents, dressing up stands and circus skills workshops. There’s something bonkers around every corner. You can also just opt to slouch about on one of many four poster sofas dotted around the festival site, cider in hand and watch the music on various stages.

Settling in

I’m not sure I can ever get as excited about a musical line-up after last year’s dream Friday-Saturday-Sunday offering of Blondie-Mark Ronson-Primal Scream. But there’s always something you’d like, whatever age or taste, from pop to classical.

The kids have already seen acts at Camp Bestival their mates are ‘well jell’ about, including Wretch 32, Katy B, Labyrinth, Florence and the Machine, Tiny Tempah, Friendly Fires and  Calvin Harris.

Camp Bestival’s music is fabulously eclectic, and this year is no different, with everything from chart stars (Hot Chip, Stooshe, Josh Kumra, Rizzle Kicks, Delilah) to old-skool classics (Happy Mondays, Kool and The Gang, Earth Wind and Fire, Adam Ant) and the downright bonkers (Rolf Harris, The Cuban Brothers).

There’s very little you wouldn’t let your kids see (except perhaps the comedy tent where we once, accidentally, exposed our under tens to Frankie Boyle in full-flow . . .). This year’s comedy offerings include the tax-dodging Jimmy Carr, which could be a lot of fun. Rufus Hound and Andrew Maxwell are regulars too.

“Daddy, they’re singing my song”

If you are camping, rather than coming in on a day ticket, there are several options. You can simply bring a tent, or you can actually pay to have someone put one up in advance for you. You can bring a camper van or even hire a teepee, or a Yurt, a Squrt, Cloudhouses, Podpads, Bell Tents, gypsy caravans or even a massive Airstream Trailer (if you have a couple of grand to spare). If you bring a car and a tent you can hire a trolley to drag your kit from car park to camping field. Or bring your own.

Camping with kids isn’t as bad as it sounds once you’ve got used to the idea of possibly wearing the same clothes for three days straight and eating crisps for breakfast. With six of us in the family, and no posh cooking or refrigeration devices, I usually bring a camping stove, kettle, gas lamps, wind up lamps and head torches, plenty of gas canisters, a frying pan, a saucepan, and many, many tins of beans and pouches of soup as I can, plus lots of packs of tortilla wraps, and bags of fruit. Milk is UHT and in bottles with screwcap lids. That way everyone gets something to eat or a cup of tea back at the tent so we aren’t always paying the best part of £30 each meal.

You’ll need wellies and warm waterproof coats as well as thin summer layers and plimsols. The weather, believe it or lot, is tentatively predicted to be good the last week in July, but even if we are spared the rain, it can get cold at night when you are sitting watching bands or traipsing back to tents, so blankets, coats and woolly hats are worth bringing too.

We invested £50 in a big metal garden trolley last year with pneumatic tyres. We left it at the tent during the day and took it out each evening loaded with blankets, drinks bottles, packets of tissues (for the loos) and coats, and when four-year-old Bonnie got tired, she sat/slept in it. It was a workout to get it up the hill to the site each night but well worth the effort and money.

Bonnie may only be four but she’s been to five festivals and survived. One year we did bring a pram, which was just a lightweight McLaren buggy. It got battered and mucky but did the job in the days before Bonnie could walk long distances. I’d leave any heavy or expensive, non-off-road prams at home. We were relieved when our heavy travel cot wasn’t needed to contain her in the tent anymore, and now we use two blow-up Ready Beds for the smaller two and camp beds for the older boys.

The most complicated and stressful parts of festivaling with family is the packing. You’ll need less than you think, and yet probably leave something essential at home. There are general stores on site selling everything from nappies to tent pegs, so don’t panic. Get there as early as you can and give yourself time to set up an organised camp. By the Sunday or Monday you’ll be stinking and tired and won’t care which groundsheet goes in which bag, but it would be good to remember where you put them.

Mobile phone reception at Lulworth is terrible, so be prepared to give up the Smartphone for a couple of days. Make sure you have regular times and places to meet up if you should separate and remember each child has a security wristband in case the get lost.

And most of all, enjoy it! It’s not that often these days we get to spend time with our kids without distractions and worries. You’ll probably find they pal up with the kids in a neighbouring tent very quickly and you may even get on well with other grown-ups too. The Camp Bestival website has a good forum section where you’ll find advice from regular festival goers.

Festival not as exciting as my phone

When you arrive it’s worth getting a programme as soon as possible to plan what you really want to see. You won’t necessarily get to see everything and need to factor in ‘down-time’ to let you recharge, especially if you have younger children who will get tired quickly. Don’t worry if all your normal routines go out of kilter, you’re on holiday.

There are a limited number of day tickets available if you wanted to try out the festival vibe without the camping (although make sure you book any external accommodation fast as everything will be booked up).

Adult festival tickets, including camping, cost £175 (add an extra tenner if you want to camp from Thursday July  rather than Friday).

Students pay £170, teens aged 15-17 pay £110 and 11-14s £95 (all under 18s must be accompanied by an adult and camp with their families).

Anyone aged ten or under gets in for free but you MUST book a ticket for them anyway.

Reviews of previous Camp Bestival outings can be found here (2011) and here (2010)


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Camp Bestival 2011 review: Primal Scream, Debbie Harry, Amy tributes and Guardian shoulder bags as far as the eye can see

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.

Hi Di Hi! (reads the massive sign they're leaning on)

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.

Castle field view

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.

"Daddy, they're singing my song"

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.

Katy B's in there somewhere, rubbish photo

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.

Settling in for Primal Scream

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!

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Ten top tips for camping with kids

BY the time you read this, we should be back from our annual camping trip. For the few days before, I wasn’t in much of a holiday mood.

Getting ready for camping with kids is like mobilising a small army. Or at least involves searching every room in the house and spending a fortune on things you probably already had.

I’ve a few tips for those brave enough to take to the great outdoors during the summer break:

1. Take a high-sided travel cot for babies and an all-in-one snowsuit. It gets cold at night and the cot doubles as a playpen.

2. Buy readybeds for under sevens. (Preferably when they are on offer out of season). These are all in one airbeds and sleeping bags that fold up to the size of a football. It’s easier to persuade them into bed when there’s Tinkerbell or Buzz and Woody on the covers

3. Use ready-made formula milk cartons if camping with a baby. You can freeze them and keep in a coldbox to defrost slowly.

4. Wipes are your salvation against stinkiness. Baby wipes for bodies, antibac wipes for everywhere else. Hand-gel that cleans without water is essential.

5. Pack light, but for all weathers. You’ll need thick coats and woolly hats for night, foldable waterproofs for days. Slip on shoes to nip to the loo, wellies just because. While my sons would happily wear the same clothes to run about in and sleep in too, I insist on at least clean underwear and pyjamas. Shoes off at the door of the tent.

6. Solar fairy lights mark out your tent at night, and we have one of those flagpoles with a fish on top to help us navigate during the day.

7. Wind-up torches are noisy and don’t last long. Gas lamps sold in camping shops are a great investment, but keep out of reach of kids. Headtorches are a great invention. A solar radio will last far longer than your smartphone’s battery.

8. If you’re cooking in camp, do it on a proper stove. A disposable barbecue won’t heat the kettle. Mornings are more manageable with a cup of tea to hand

9. Use bribes, bribes and more bribes. Colouring pads, comics, sweets, crisps – whatever it takes.

10. Be relaxed. Yes, it’s dirty, the food’s cold and you’re missing Eastenders. Get over it, let the kids go feral and crack open the box of cheap wine. You’re on holiday.

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