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The Young Londoner reviews Camp Bestival 2019

Camp Bestival is an award winning festival organised by Rob da Bank and his wife Josie. It takes place on the beautiful grounds of Lulworth Castle in Dorset and is THE festival for families with children of all ages.

Despite having ridiculously high expectations (we had Camp Bestival in our sights since before the young Londoner was born!) we were still in awe of the many activities on offer, the music and the general vibe of the 2019 event.

Five days of unadulterated fun where adults can become one with their children and dance, craft, make art, learn, revel in new experiences, dress up and make new friends. Plus it is outdoors amongst the trees and the bees, in the sunshine or the rain, and children love being at one with nature.

So off we went. Packed up what felt like most of our house into two suitcases (and loads of bags with random brick-a-brack) and drove down from London on the hottest day since records began. Although we had weekend camping tickets, anxiety got the better of us – was it such a great idea to camp with a toddler?

So at the last minute we booked a Premier Inn down the road in Weymouth, thought we would make a mini holiday and stay an extra day or two by the seaside. This turned out to be a bit of a fail as every evening we had to drive 25 minutes back to our hotel and imagine all the incredible fun that was being had on the camp sites without us. Plus the toddler was so tired from all the activities and stimulation during the day that he slept very well and would have been fine sleeping in a tent. So next year we will be camping. 

There are so many camping options at Camp Bestival that we are sure to find something that suits (from own tents to Glamping, Campervans and Camping Plus where you can reserve your plot!).  Arriving on Friday morning we were excited. ‘Festival’ is a new word in the toddler’s vocabulary and Camp Bestival has now loaded it with many memories and happy glittery connotations. 

Up the hill we came, (grateful for the free tractor lift we received – cheers!) and on we went on to the Festival site. We opted to bring the pram with us as we know the little one likes to take breaks (and it helps to carry things like snacks, jackets, festival purchases etc).  

First up we were greeted by the robot art installation that watches over Camp Bestival during the day and is lit up in red and green in the evening. We climbed this whilst gleeful with giggles and joined many other little people as they toddled and jumped around. By the third day this was cordoned off (probably too many happy campers getting rowdy with the art installation) so we were glad to have got in first.

Camp Bestival stood in front of all ready to be explored and we joined other revellers in Big Top stage where a silent disco with yoga thrown in was just starting. So we put on the headphones and started doing a boogie and a stretch but we were quickly distracted by the Cbeebies tent which was a hub of activity. Glitter face painting, crafts, photo walls, foosball tables, chill out zones, art and goodie bags from cbeebies magazine plus loads more as well as Cbeebies characters. Hey Dougee is one of our favourites, so when we heard he was coming, we put down the crown we were in the process of creating and queued up, only to then be frightened by Dougee and refuse to go anywhere near him. Then upon leaving the tent to declare at length ‘meet Dougee! meet Dougee!’ and throughout the festival remind both parents that we needed to meet Dougee. Sometimes there is no pleasing toddlers.

We spotted the bouncy castle. It’s the largest bouncy castle in the world. And it is truly massive! A big colourful dome inviting you in for a bounce. So we go on together (because this writer is a bit of an anxious mumma) and we jumped and boinged and got sweaty and hot. High on adrenaline and pure joy we descended the castle and went on to the Upper Kids Garden.

Here we tried different bicycles, tricycles and unicycles, played with an inflatable art installation, learned circus tricks like hula hooping and tightrope walking and checked out the literary tent. After a much needed snack and respite break, we moved on along to the Lower Kid’s Garden where we enjoyed playing in the sand pit, popping bubbles filled with smoke, chilling in the science zone, making a rocket (and launching it) and repeating the process at length. We drew with chalk on a bus, played with lego and play dough and learnt a dance by the science tent before having a go on the Helter Skelter.

Then on to the main stage for some dancing and music. The Wailers are playing and we are big fans of Bob Marley’s former backing band so we sway along to some reggae whilst enjoying some of the yummy food (Pad Thai for the parents and pizza for the toddler). 

Next up some acrobatics. Now most of the children’s activities tents close around 7ish so the rest of the evenings are for adults (which is why a trolley is super useful as little people can nap in their trolleys with their festival headphones whilst parents break some moves!) 

And as if Camp Bestival saved the best act for the end of our first day we watched the headlining act, Jess Glynne, who puts on a brilliant show – (although the toddler couldn’t make it until the end of her set). So on we went through the camp sites (with major FOMO) and on to our hotel.

Next morning we are woken up by a super excited toddler jumping up and down and shouting ‘feeestiiivaaaal’ at the top of his lungs. With glitter stuck to his face and mucky feet – he is ready for another day spent learning, dancing, discovering and munching. Us on the other hand – I feel like I have been at the gym doing an intense workout (and no wonder, all that dancing, walking and playing tired everyone out!) 

Saturday is a sunny day and we drive through bucolic countryside to the festival site. Today we are dressed as superheroes, the boys are matching Batpeople (that’s the PC description I guess!) and I am some sort of blue version of wonderwoman. When we arrive we learn that the tractor provided by Weymouth council is not functional so we opt for the festitaxi (which is a minimum of £10 but so worth it when it’s hot and even a small hill appears like mount Everest to the city dweller). 

Saturday is all about nature as the toddler has discovered Lizzie’s Way and is keen on the mud kitchen – he served us mud cake, mud ice cream, mud bolognaise and mud soup (watch out Ramsey there’s a new chef in town!) Afterwards we venture into a wooden puppet making workshop and we make a character and also put on (a somewhat non coherent I’ve lost the plot sort of show).

As we wander from stage to stage we come across the Blue Coats, they are doing a superhero training show and somehow we have become part of the cast – we are dancing, freezing in Superhero poses and giggling as we learn what a DILF is…any guesses? It’s a male version of a MILF – A Dad I’d Like to be friends with (obviously!)  And talking of DILFs, we caught up with FOD or Father of Daughters and had a boogie to his set alongside Mother of Daughters. We jumped around, toddler on shoulders so he could get in on the action too. More carousel rides later, figures made of plasticine, science, music and everything in between and somehow it is dusk and as the sun is setting behind Lulworth Castle we are enticed by a travelling circus with the world’s youngest contortionist, men dressed as monkeys and a Russian leading man. 

We also got to be part of someone’s wedding celebrations, learn how to dress at a festival from Instagram’s @dresslikeamum and sample lots and lots of unhealthy food! It was a blast.

With darkness all around, we don’t make it to see the headliners on Saturday because the toddler is exhausted but too excited to sleep and the adults are feeling pretty tired too (plus we have the drive back to the hotel. Fail.)

Camp Bestival was a magical weekend where we got to party with our two year old and spend some quality time together as a family in a beautiful environment with loads of activities to keep everyone entertained. Bring on Camp Bestival for 2020 (where we will be camping and going for the whole long weekend!)

Camp Bestival 2020 is on July 30th til August 2nd and first tier have already been released and can be purchased here.

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