Camp Bestival is best described as Glastonbury meets Cornbury, with a whole host of fun thrown in. Whilst they seem to have borrowed bins, signs and the general ethos of Glastonbury (complete with a mini healing fields section) it has the essence of ‘Poshstock’ with a multitude of tents boasting bunting and more activities aimed at kids. With the House of Fairy Tales, live performances of the Gruffalo and TV favourite Mr Tumble it wasn’t long until I regressed to a 7 year old version of myself, far more interested in the non-musical delights on offer.
Whether it was the Freesports park, which hosted displays from pro inline skaters and cyclists, the jousting delivered by Horse Impossible (who’ve appeared in the likes of King Arthur and Harry Potter) or the abundance of fancy dress which made my jeans and t-shirt look boring, it soon became clear you could probably spend the entire weekend at Camp Bestival and never witness any music. My personal non-musical highlight (and judging by the turn out, that of many other adults) came in the form of the Sooty Show and the brilliant moment when new assistant Richard told Sooty ‘you’ve not got the legs for that’ after attempting to get him to jump.
Musically the line up was varied. Eliza Doolittle and Ed Sheeran seemed to pull in the youngsters, the Castle Stage and Big Top both littered with tiny bodies for both sets. Whilst I didn’t hear much of Ed’s main set, given the sheer volume of squealing from the crowd, This City and Grade 8 both carried their weight. Unsurprisingly The A Team received the biggest response, fusing Ed’s soft vocals with poignant lyrics and confirming why he has appeal for both young and old alike. Nevertheless it was his secret gig in the Dingy Dell which won me over. Airing a selection of new songs, including the New York penthouse inspired Topfloor and Drunk, despite still awaiting the release of his first album, it would appear there’s plenty in the pipeline for the second. Rounding off with the traditional Irish song The Parting Glass I decided that if Ed Sheeran manages to make traditional music appeal to the masses, he is quickly going to get my backing. Meanwhile Eliza delivered a pop-fused set embracing the fancy dress theme to some degree, adding a sword to her outfit. Whilst I’ve never been a fan in the past, Moneybox made me reconsider my stance, it’s simplistic pop vibe forcing my feet to tap to the beat.
For the acoustic guitar lovers amongst the crowd, Laura Marling and Newton Faulkner both delivered inspiring sets in the Big Top. Having only ever seen Laura in more stripped back settings, her full band performance confirmed why she’s flying the flag for young folk artists. Opener Devil’s Spoke was fuelled by thumping bass rhythms giving it more weight than the album version, whilst Rambling Man boasted more texture. Meanwhile I Was Just A Card and her Don’t Ask Me Why/Salinas melody from forthcoming album A Creature I Don’t Know, confirmed that Laura is set to make another sterling release later in the year. Newton on the other hand simply confirmed why he’s a regular on the festival circuit, his intricate playing style coming to life in the live arena. Badman highlighted his ability to act as a one man band, whilst a cover of Massive Attack’s Teardrop and his self penned Dream Catch Me reflected a more sensitive style.
On the Castle Stage it was Blondie and Mark Ronson who delivered the stand out sets of the festival. Whilst Blondie are no strangers to the live circuits, even after a 20 years of performing they still manage to sing their hits with conviction. Maria was an obvious favourite but Tide Is High also seemed to inspire both those who knew the Blondie version, and those more familiar with Atomic Kitten’s take. Meanwhile Ronson pulled out the special guests, opening with Zuton’s Dave McCabe for a tribute to Amy Winehouse in the form of Valerie. With versions of Kaiser Cheifs Oh My God, Radiohead’s Just and another nod to Winehouse in the form of Back To Black he was undoubtedly the highlight of the weekend for me and many others alike.
With other key moments including an unorthodox protest organised by the fine folk at the House of Fairy Tales, which included demands to ‘save the people’s random protests’, the chance to dance the Hokey Cokey in the Black Dahlia tent and the ‘Hi De Hi’ speaker announcements in the camp site there was only one real fault with Camp Bestival; the fact that there was no way of finding out stage times without forking out £10 for a programme. Suffice to say if you’ve got children and have the cash to splash, Camp Bestival is probably the most family orientated festival I’ve been to, with a lot more to offer than the musical line up.