So we went to Camp Bestival. It rocked. This actually surprised me a bit…
Last time I went to a festival, I was one of a bunch of stoned teenagers raving to Orbital and the Ozric Tentacles*. It was Glastonbury 1993, and there were twice the amount of people there that there should have been, because some of them *ahem* hadn’t paid to get in. It was like Piccadilly Circus – and absolutely no place for children. There were a few kids with New Age Traveller parents in the Green Field, but they were very much in the minority. It was young people and drug dealers all the way.
It was also the last time I went to a festival. It was then that I realised I didn’t like camping, having greasy hair, or the Ozric Tentacles. Also, the toilets, oh, the toilets. Consuming large amounts of narcotics and undercooked sausages, then taking a dump in the dark in a chemical toilet with no paper, does not make for a happy toilet experience – particularly for the next toilet user, which generally seemed to be me.
A mere 17 years (and two kids) later, and my attitude towards camping and therefore festivals had mellowed somewhat. Friends had told me that Camp Bestival was so child-friendly that, in fact, you seemed a bit weird if you went without children. I was reassured that the toilets would not give me screaming nightmares. Mr Peas was up for a festival experiment. So we booked tickets to Camp Bestival and off the four of us went to go mad in Dorset.
It didn’t start well. We got to the site – in picture perfect rolling green countryside – and were allocated a nice, more-or-less flat pitch for our T25, but Mr Peas fell into a sulk at the speed with which the next van (a posh new T5) set their stuff up, barbecued their supper and were off for the night, while he was still struggling to erect the tent awning. ‘They must think I’m a total amateur, and I’ve been camping for years,’ he told me angrily. I tried to placate him by pointing out that it was only our third trip in the campervan so there were bound to be a few teething problems, but his male pride had evidently taken a terrible beating. I would have pitied him, but I’d just realised the fridge wouldn’t work off the campervan battery (there was no electricity hookup) which meant we had to barbecue all the meat. Four packets of it, on a tiny bucket barbecue. It took some time. By the time it was all cooked, nobody wanted to eat any of it.
Somewhat fraught, with over-tired children, we decided to go to bed. I was going to say ‘have an early night’, but by this point, it wasn’t. The baby, who goes nuts if you even say the word ‘bedtime’ to her, refused to go to sleep and did an angry projectile vomit (her party trick) all over herself, her sleeping bag, and me. Still, at least I learnt that a) there were showers and b) nobody else was using them at 11pm. Good to know.
A stroke of luck
But the sun was shining when we woke up, and when I went outside in my Minnie Mouse PJs, I spotted a four-leafed clover in the grass. (It’s currently being pressed in my campervan cookbook.) I had a feeling things would look up after that.
And they did. We got dressed and wandered off to check out the festival action. It was quite a hike from the van field to the main area – which was fine, only crazy loon teens actually want to camp near the all-night action, anyway. Most of the other parents were pulling their kids along in low trolleys they’d hired at the festival box office, which they’d pimped out with fairy lights and fancy pillows. They looked really cool – and are a great idea, particularly as they’re also useful for stashing beers and picnics – but they were £25 a day to hire, and we were too tight for that, so we just took the pushchair for the baby and forced the 3-year old to walk. He has to walk everywhere, and can cover a couple of miles now, no problem. He’ll thank us for it one day, I’m sure.
We stopped at the Great British Sausage Company food stall for one of the best sausage sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. It made me very happy. Over the course of the weekend, I also had some Indian food, another sausage sandwich, and a Wagamamas. They were all great. (There definitely wasn’t a Wagamamas or a Young British Foodies tent at Glastonbury 1993 – I refused to touch the food that was on sale that year, because as a vegetarian, now sadly very much lapsed, the only options revolved round splodgy looking lentils, and chips. Given my fear of using the toilets more than was strictly necessary, I stuck to eating spaghetti hoops straight from the tin.)
It was only 9am, but the site was teeming with parents and kids. Unsurprisingly, teenagers were thin on the ground, although we did spot a lone group of lads already getting stuck into the beers. Mr Peas looked shocked. ‘They must have very tolerant parents,’ he hissed. ‘You know, they may actually have come on their own,’ I said. Mr Peas looked like he was struggling to process this. It seemed my friends were right about Camp Bestival being mainly for the kids…
What we did next
The 3-year old burnt off some of his breakfast bouncing on the bouncy castle and trying out some tricks in the circus skills field, while the baby and I played in the toddler area. Mr Peas loves a novelty act so wanted to see Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer and his brand of ‘chap-hop’ (hip-hop for the Home Counties). His unique rehashing off loads of 90s indie tunes was really rather spiffing. The Bopps (although technically that should have been The Bopp, as only one of musical duo from kids’ TV channel Nick Junior turned up) kept the 3-year old entertained, then the kids found some little friends to play with while Mummy and Daddy enjoyed a quiet cider in the sunshine. It shone all day. It really was fantastic.
We sauntered back to the van field as evening drew in, and I cooked up a storm (tuna fishballs with pasta and sautéed potatoes since you ask – sounds weird, but it worked, even my fussy 3-year old scoffed down the lot.) To our incredulous joy, after so much fresh air and running about, both kids went to bed without fuss, at a reasonable time. After a couple of drinks, we followed suit. I know it’s not very rock ‘n’ roll, but at the moment, sleep wins out every time over any attempt at serious boozing. It’s just too painful next day, looking after two little kids who absolutely don’t respect a hangover. Nor should they, come to that.
Equally amazingly, both kids also slept in until 7am, which counts as a lie-in for us these days. 5.30am starts are not uncommon in this house, unfortunately. The 3-year old was desperate to see Mr Tumble – and one of the highlights of the festival for me was looking out over a sea of mini-moshers seated on their daddys’ shoulders. Mr Tumble drew the biggest audience of the entire festival, I should think.
A revelation (that wasn’t particularly good)
My other highlight was the jousting, which was done by ‘The Knights Of Lulworth’, aka some shit-hot equestrian stuntmen. But it was here that I experienced the sharp elbows of the middle classes – because, make no mistake, it doesn’t come more middle class than Camp Bestival. Nobody else could afford it. Anyway, we got there early to get a good spot, and I spread out The Guardian (yeah, you don’t get much more middle class than me either) for a peaceful read while Mr Peas took the kids off to the loo. Suddenly, a small foot appeared in the middle of a review of a book on the Tudor Reformations, and I looked up to see my space had been invaded by little children. A woman was staring crossly at me. ‘Would you mind moving so my children can stand there?’ she said. Subtext: eff off out of it, you selfish, childless giant space-filler. I was a bit taken aback. Yes I do mind moving, I told her, I’m saving this spot for my own children. She glared absolute daggers at me, and I realised thatthis is what my childless friends complain about; parents who are so convinced of the wondrousness of their own offspring that they believe everyone else should dance attendance on them too. It’s actually really rude. And, of course, I had to stand next to her for the whole of the jousting event. The 3-year old, sensing an atmosphere, decided to lighten things up. ‘Look at me, Mummy,’ he beamed. He had his willy flopping out over the top of his shorts. As I rushed to put it back in again, I suspect my cool parenting hauteur may have slipped a little.
That night, once the kids were in bed, I ventured out to meet some friends for drinks while Mr Peas babysat. I discovered that, once the sun had gone down, the kids had gone to bed and the DJs had got to spinning the decks, the teenagers came out to play too, all glossy in onesies, sparkly glitter and false eyelashes. I’m pretty sure I didn’t look anything like that in 1993, with my unwashed hair, Body Shop powder foundation that gave my already pale face a chalky white appearance (I wasn’t a Goth, just slightly anaemic from my veggie diet), and cut-off jeans. Teenagers these days are like beautiful butterflies – well, the girls anyway, the boys are more or less the same as they’ve always been. Talking of which, there were also loads of Festival Dads, raving it up, and I’m pretty sure I recognised some of them from 1993 – older, balder, a bit more wrinkly, but still wearing more or less the same clothes and dancing to more or less the same tunes. The Prodigy, House of Pain, Chemical Brothers, you know the score. Camp Bestival certainly knows its audience, and for the most part, its audience (or certainly the part of it with wallets and credit cards) is in its mid- to late 30s.
That makes me sound a bit cynical and I’m not, I found the whole festival endlessly entertaining, and the kids were in their absolute element. The 3-year old is going to be boasting about Camp Bestival to all his little mates for months. Yes, it’s expensive – all festivals are these days – but it delivers value for money, and if the sun shines, you’ll have the absolute time of your life. I did.
It does make me wonder, though, as my friend Ben pointed out: if festivals now are aimed squarely at 30something ex-ravers, will they continue to evolve as we get older too? In a few years time, will there be festivals kitted out with moving stairways and zimmer frames instead of kiddy trailers, with the Happy Mondays video-linking their headlining set directly from their old people’s home? Something to look forward to, then. Who says old age has to be dull?
*If you are not mid to late 30s and from the West Country, this band will probably mean nothing to you. They were a sort of dreadlocked rave band, massively popular amongst the Exeter Sixth Form College rave massive. For yes, there was one. I was one of it. We were well cool.
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