I wasn’t sure if a family trip to Camp Bestival was going to work. It wasn’t that I was worried about taking the kids – they are six and nine now (yikes!) – so big enough to look after themselves (to an extent). It was more whether I could overcome my residual dislike of festivals. The smell of wee. The discarded plastic cups. Well, it turned out I could. More or less.
The smell of wee was still there. But in the ten or so intervening years since I last went to a festival, my tolerance for other people’s bodily functions has obviously got much higher. Nearly a decade of handling my kids’ toilet habits means I am no longer as squeamish about wee and poo as I used to be. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it does make the third day at a festival easier, when the loos are at capacity.
Discarded plastic cups were less of an issue. There were virtually none. I don’t know why I hate them so much, I think they just drain the magic out of any view. You may be looking over the hills of Dorset, at an ancient castle, but if the bushes are full of plastic pint glasses, it can be hard to ‘feel it’. Luckily the plastic glasses in question were generally of a good quality and there were too many well-behaved parents there to discard them in front of their kids.
So, an overview: Camp Bestival is what a kid would dream up, had they been around in the 90s, dancing around to house music. Fat Boy Slim was there. As were Bananarama and Tears for Fears for some 80s kitsch.
Ostensibly the theme was Outer Space and there were some good costumes on the theme as well as some interesting stalls. However, it was the stuff which you wouldn’t have clue about if you read it on the programme that was most entertaining. The (male) Blue Coats in their neon lipstick and worrying wigs orchestrated glittery rocket launches, using Robinson’s Lemon Barley bottles, pimped up by the kids. There was the ten year old who sang Frank Sinatra songs with such assuredness , along with conspiratorial asides; “Now I want to get to know you,” he said to the audience, that it was difficult to know what to make of him. These more idiosyncratic shows were what did it for me. That and the heart-stopping bravery of all the kids who got up on stage and danced/sang/gymnasted their little hearts out. I don’t know if it’s the X-factor generation, or if kids have always wanted to perform like this (I think I did, but back then there wasn’t an outlet for it, except long-suffering parents!). I watched child after child rap, dance, sing and each time I’d get all choked up and emotional, glad that I was wearing sunglasses, so I wouldn’t have to try and explain it to my kids. There were other highpoints. We went in the camper van, and the big advantage of this is that you can feel more organised, cleaner, less stressed than the poor sods in a tent. However, when they force you to camp in a field which only has camper vans, we had to take our usual position at the absolute bottom of the organisational stakes. First we had to ask our neighbours to borrow their mallet, because we’d ‘forgotten’ ours. Truth be told, a mallet had never even occurred to us. Then we were back ten minutes later for a cork screw. A mallet, fair enough, but a cork screw? What kind of semi-alcoholic adults are we?
But the big discovery was a new way to punish our children. Tickling has long been our punishment of choice for the past few years. It’s ‘fun’, but let’s face it, there’s definitely an edge to it. But with the 8 year old turning 9 it’s harder to wrestle him to the floor. So my punishment has become embarrassing him. And at a festival there are so many opportunities! Dancing! Singing! More dancing! Singing really loudly!! Threatening to sing on stage with lots of kids! Trying to do a dance off with a cool kid doing a body pop! Oh, it was a revelation. And worth the couple of hundred pounds the festival costs. So, see you next year? Yes, probably.