Our fifth Camp Bestival in 7 years and in the words of headliners Clean Bandit, it was the year of ‘I do it Solo’ as my husband had to work. Luckily my friend Louise and team My Gorgeous Boys let us camp near them and bagged us a space, especially awesome given I realised we had forgotten our tent poles! Luckily we just nipped out and bought two new two man tents, so the kids who are now 9 and 11, have no excuse but to get into going to festivals now.
Camp Bestival is an awesome place for tweens to explore, gain some independence and learn to festival safely. Join us on for our day in the life of Camp Bestival…
My 9 and 11 year old got wind of Dick and Dom’s Silent Disco by overhearing Louise’s husband’s eager tales of stumbling on it on the way back from the main stage headliner. It quickly became fixated in their minds as their MUST DO.
Even if it didn’t start until gone midnight.
First though, we had a whole day of other must do things…
Louise and I decided we absolutely must test out the gin bar, it was new this year, we love gin and as I was parenting solo at Camp Bestival I felt I especially deserved a gin. 11.30am is not too early either. It was so pretty, and the gin cocktails were lots of fun, mine had elderflower in it and tasted divine. The bar was like walking into a posh cocktail bar, but in a field. I love that contradiction about festivals.
Next we found the Vegan Society tent, my youngest jumped on a bike that powered a smoothie machine, which neatly illustrated the idea that eating vegan has a lower carbon footprint, and my daughter and I signed up to a 7 day vegan challenge. We’ve now completed it and are steadily preparing to go vegan! I love how festivals have causes and campaigns, such a great way to inspire kids.
With the gin making me relaxed and smiley we continue our wanderings, stumbling on the River Cafe people doing a cooking demo, while the kids found a Punch and Judy. So far the adult vs, child juggle was going well.
Punch and Judy made me quite wistful, they’ve been watching the same show at Camp Bestival for six years and despite growing up far too quickly, seemed to be happy with the nostalgia fest. My two love the familiarity of the festival as well as the new things they see each year. Kids like routine even if they don’t admit it. But the wistful moment soon passed when the roasted fennel and squash was passed round off the River Cafe BBQ and my taste buds exploded. I vowed to up my skills in the kitchen as well as go vegan. I love the inspiration I get from festivals.
My 9yo decided he absolutely must get a new Diablo from the circus kit stall, despite having one at home. Note to self, always pack the Diablo, they may lie forgotten in a toy box all year, but when it comes to buying extra time to watch bands before anyone gets restless and entertaining them back at camp, Diablos really come into their own.
My eldest wandered off while her brother was choosing a diablo and came back covered in glitter face paint. Now they are 9 and 11 they can wander off on their own more which is lovely. Camp Bestival is a magically safe place to learn how to festival.
Sadly Camp Bestival have ended the scheme whereby kids collected abandoned cups, returned them to the bar and received 10p a cup. It was such a brilliant way to keep kids occupied, (especially boys like mine who struggle to sit still). There was a magic moment though, when my son taught a GIRL (he normally ignores them) to Diablo as we watched Sara Cox DJ at the main stage, and then she went and bought one and so the festival magic continued…
He then discovered a giant pirate ship made out of cardboard boxes in the art tent and joined a merry band of boys sticking more bits onto it with tape. He was happily amused for another 20 minutes while my eldest read her book and I lay on a bean bag and watched a toddler playing and marvelled at just how long we have been doing this Camp Bestival thing, what a marker of time it is and how wonderfully grown up my two are now.
By now tummies were grumbling, my eldest decided she must have a giant corn on the cob and my youngest’s must have was a toastie followed by churrios while watching Dick and Dom. (This gave us an interesting comparison for later at the silent disco…) I tried something new from the Feast Collective food tent, Zoe’s Ghana’s Kitchen in fact and then we bought some cake from the WI tent to keep us going. I love eating at Camp Bestival, festival eating is about indulging your whims and finding things you never even knew you wanted too.
In the afternoon the kids knew I must meet my blogging friends for cocktails in the Bollywood bar, it was magical this year as I found myself in the middle of an amazing choir flash mob. Here I am in the middle of some of my lovely blogging buddies.
Meanwhile the kids decided they must see Max and Harvey in the Big Top. Luckily Louise’s husband was happy to take them, although they probably could have managed alone, or in a group of kids now they are older. It is so safe surrounded by other festival goers who are all families. Max and Harvey have bypassed me completely but still how fab that the line up is a mix of the music of my youth and theirs. I could hear The Stereo MCs in the distance and then Jesus Jones. Our childhoods intermingling.
And then we decided we must do a quick bit of pole climbing in Caravanserai, the most incredible bar/cabaret area made out of caravans. You can see my youngest enjoying shimmying up a pole like he was born to the circus over on Instagram. Or in the video below.
Then it was time for a siesta back at the tent, but not before bumping into Uni friends I hadn’t seen for at least 10years. Hugs and giggles aplenty. I’m surprised how many people I know who go to Camp Bestival and how easy it is to bump into each other. Each year is a different reunion of sorts.
Snacked and layered up with hoodies and hats we headed to the main stage to appreciate Clean Bandit. An incredible show. Beautiful lighting, stunning costumes, cheeky and fearless performing and so many songs I recognise – they also weren’t really on my radar until my daughter came bounding into my room with a copy of the line up back in June, saying she really wanted to see them.
My youngest danced to the first couple of songs then snuggled down on the rug and we covered him in blankets while he napped. He was back on his feet for the encore though. My eldest took loads of photos and video clips and enjoyed her awe moment – seeing a band she wanted to see for the very first time. I am sure I was at least 14…
The next bit was a little grotty, we were tired, it was dark and there was a little wait until the silent disco. We knew it was going to be a challenge, so we keep on smiling and chivviying them through. Chips and nachos as we watched Basement Jaxx in the queue.
While the kids queued with Louise, I nipped into the medical tent to see if I could get my ear checked out. Swimming in our local pool gave me a raging ear infection and although I read most ear infections sort themselves out, this one didn’t seem to be. The staff were fantastic and it amazing to go behind the scenes and see what a professional, mini hospital set up they have.
And then it was silent disco time, and my goodness it was incredible. For those who haven’t been before, and I was one, the concept is you wear headphones and listen to a DJ, for some reason is seems to free some inhibitions and encourage you to really go for it dance wise – everyone is so in their own world. It’s amazingly liberating!
For this slot it was Dick n Dom versus another DJ so you can change channels and listen to either DJ. The DJs use increasingly underhand techniques to lure their opponents’ listeners over. Your headphones display the colour of your team – red or green. This created much family hilarity.
You can tell kids are listening to and laughing at by the colour of their headphones. Dick and Dom swear a fair bit at night, my kids are of an age where they are just learning to navigate swear words so find this fascinating. We all pulled mock appalled and aghast faces, but I will always remember the silent disco as the event that helped us navigate that parental milestone, from ‘you must never swear’, to ‘ok, you are going to swear I accept that, at least do it properly’.
Eventually the time came to admit defeat and quit while we were ahead. We lost my youngest momentarily and it was a little worrying for a moment as everyone has headphones on so we couldn’t shout for him or ask for help. Luckily though he’d ‘just been for a little wander’ round the big top tent and not fallen asleep in a corner.
One last dance and then the walk back to the tent under stars and moon.
The kids zipped in the tent snug and sleepy and just as my tired and happy head hit the pillow the rain started to pour down.
We had three days of wonderful adventures, so when I woke up and it looked like the rain was not stopping, the wind was raging and my ear was more swollen, I decided we’d once again quit while we were ahead and head home.
It had been perfect, we were sad to lose a day but our hearts were absolutely filled up on the time we had. Plus, after the 2am finish the kids would have been good for nothing. Sometimes quitting while you are ahead is a wonderful thing.
I woke the youngest and he simply said ‘Oh is it raining?’
He’d slept through the storms, my meticulous attention to tent pegging had kept his tent dry and safe in the high winds. My biggest tent tips in bad weather are 1. Buy rock solid tent pegs, the ones you get with tents are rubbish in bad weather 2. Peg your tent straight, inner away from the outer so they don’t rub and leak in 3. Always peg the guy ropes 4. Take a mallet. 5. Make sure kids keep things away from the sides of the tent and bring lots of bin bags to cover rucksacks etc.
The kids were awesome and throwing all our stuff into the trolley and lugging it up the hill to the car in the rain. One of the wheels kept coming off our trolley, but we didn’t let it get us down, the kids took it in turns on wheel spotting and pushing duty. We learned loads about coping with new situations and challenges and building resilience, which is why I think travel plans going wrong is a good thing sometimes.
I stopped on the way home for a power nap just as my friend Louise sent a text to say it had been announced that the festival had been closed for the day due to the weather. Right decision made. I was sad everyone missed out, but my heart was full and the kids were more than happy.
Will we return?
Yes absolutely and despite the weather spoiling play on the Sunday. Having attended bi-annually for the last four years and for a couple of years before that, I can see next year there will be no excuses, my growing kids have had a taste of the freedom of festivals. There is already talk of bringing friends, and definitely Dad next year. Having always been with Mr A before, I missed him hugely and it didnt seem quite the same without him. It’s absolutely doable however, solo parenting, Camp Bestival feels very safe and going solo was a lovely way to bond with the kids. I know lots of people who actively choose to go solo and single parents who pair up with friends to go.
Top tips for solo parenting at a festival:
Triple check all your packing. My packing was utterly on point, bar the tent poles which due to our new tent I was not used to having to check for. NEVER rely on the rest of the family to pack a tent up properly when playing with it in the garden. In my defence also, loads of people hadn’t even bothered to pack wellies or raincoats, so I felt pretty smug leaving on Sunday, but not as smug as the family with waterproof trousers.
Buddy up with other families and share the load.
Make sure the kids understand they will have to take it in turns to do stuff, and let you do what you want too!
Take plenty of money and lots of snacks.
Festivals are hugely stimulating, kids eat a lot more and need more breaks.
Give yourself lots of breaks too!
Here it is in video format!
Thanks for having us Camp Bestival, for more information and to book for 2019, go check out Camp Bestival’s website. Update – 23/9/18 Camp Bestival released a statement about the festival’s future here. We wish them well in finding a new partner and securing an excellent festival in 2019.
Disclosure – We were supplied with a family press pass in return for preview, live and review coverage of the festival. All opinions remain our own.