So we’re back from the indescribably wonderful weekend that wasÂ Camp Bestival and I thought I’d share a few of the highlights and, in another post, my essential checklist for doing a festival with a toddler. The festival itself is exceptional for children – I would say at least 90% of the adults there had kids with them. This makes for a real camaraderie and the campsites do have the holiday-camp feel Rob and Josie da Bank were hoping to achieve, with Â people borrowing bits and pieces from each other and children playing with their neighbours. It was a bit like being transported back in time. Toilets were kept immaculately clean and there were plenty of hot showers, and although the queues were slightly off-putting, there was a lovely cafe on hand with refreshments while you waited. We were lucky enough to be in our camper van and I can’t recommend the experience highly enough – Alfie was entranced by the van and we had a big awning to sit in after he had gone to sleep. The other benefit is that you drive straight on to the site – no lugging tents and accoutrements from the car park.
Campsite aside, the entertainment on offer was extraordinary. As with all Bestival events, the attention-to-detail was second to none, with a Camp Bestival Art Book and colouring pencils including in the bag with the programme and Josie Da Bank’s amazing creative direction evident everywhere you looked – from the cute, colourful signs to the gigantic flowers. The Gruffalo Live (packed) and Mr Tumble (leading an enormous crowd in a rousing sing song on the main stage on Sunday morning) were the big-name draws, but the Kids’ Garden was where the action was – dance classes with the English National Ballet, Punk Science with The Science Museum, a school of rock, a dressing up tent and catwalk, wooden sword carving, the Mess-tival arts and crafts area, old-fashioned fairground rides, circus spectacle from Zippos and the Insect Circus, and bedtime stories from Billy Bragg and Howard Marks were just a few of the treats on offer.
We spent a lot of time in the toddler area which included a soft-play tent (a one-in one-out policy prevented it getting too scary), the Penguin Books reading tent (complete with Ladybird and Spot the Dog cushions – A loved it in here) and a Kids’ Kitchen serving up healthy meals for little ones at mini tables and chairs (again, this was a big hit). There are too many gourmet options for us big people to mention, but our favourite was theÂ River Cottage Field Cafe for the delicious locally sourced, reasonably priced food – Hugh F-W was spotted tucking in there himself over the weekend. ‘Art circus’ The House of Fairy Tales, created by Gavin Turk,Â had a fantastic field with weird and wonderful activities, including an amazing sound tent and a two-storey caravan, and there was a sports area with parkour, boarding, football and loads of other energetic stuff for older children. We also watched jousting performed by Horses Impossible which was a huge hit with all ages.
To be honest we didn’t get to see much in the way of music as we headed back to the van for A’s bedtime each night, but we did catch Lee Scratch Perry, Seth Lakeman (A’s favourite for dancing to) and Mr Scruff – all of whom were great in their very different ways. If you were camping with a big group and could share childcare duties it would have been well worth checking out Singstar’s Cocktails and Dreams arena for karaoke with 80s pop stars, the Silent Disco pitting DJs against one another or one of the talks or comedy at the East Lulworth Literary Institute tent. All in all, something to keep every member of the family happy. Early bird tickets for 2011 go on sale this Friday at 2010 prices (with a payment plan option) – I suggest you snap them up quickly as they’re bound to sell out. See you there!