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Camp Bestival 2017 - reviewed by Clare McGrath

The tenth anniversary bash for the UK's top family festival went down a treat - despite the weather!

Last weekend saw the tenth anniversary of Camp Bestival – a family festival held in Dorset in the grounds of Lulworth Castle.  The Bestival brand is the brain child of DJ Rob da Bank and both Camp Bestival and her older brother, Bestival, are well known for their quirky, hippy vibe with Camp Bestival placing the emphasis on kids and family.

The line-up often has nostalgic feel, appealing to the thousands of parents in the crowd and this year was no exception.  Madness, Right Said Fred, Holly Johnson, All Saints and T’Pau (yes – T’Pau) all nestled in quite snugly with younger acts like Louisa Johnson, Anne Maire, Mark Ronson and DJ Yoda.  Something for everyone, not forgetting the knee height festivellers who had the likes of Mr Tumble, Dick and Dom and Mr Maker on tap.

There was definitely a gap in the market for teenagers.  A tent called ‘The Den’ (an instantly unappealing title for any self respecting teen) had been set aside for 12 -17 year olds and it hosted events from glitter workshops to a meet and greet with you Tube sensations Max and Harvey.  However, it was really more suitable for tweens and the actual teenagers had not much to do during the day until they all raved their way into the Bollywood tent after dark.

Even with a sold-out capacity of 30,000, Camp Bestival had a safe and friendly feel, and despite the terrible weather last weekend the general buzz was smiley and upbeat.  After all, nothing we Brits like more than not letting the weather get us down.

Sarah Cox
Sarah Cox

Friday night kicked off in style with an 80s DJ set from Radio 2’s Sarah Cox.  Playing from a booth at the base of the ‘world’ largest glitter ball’ Cox had the massive crowd eating out of the palm of her hand as she pumped out classic after classic 80s hit.  The feel-good factor was at max level and all the artists who came after her that night owe her a drink for getting everyone so well warmed up.

Friday’s headliner was DJ and producer Mark Ronson who took to the Castle Stage all alone with just his laptop for company.  Despite the lack of band or any other company on stage, Ronson commanded the night with a nonstop, upbeat mix of tracks, not forgetting the ubiquitous Uptown Funk which sent the crowd into a frenzy.  Musical purists might comment that his set was just a standard crowd pleaser but that crowd wanted to be pleased so it was a win-win situation.


Have you ever met anyone who doesn’t like Madness?  The loveable Nutty Boys from North London were the main event on the Castle Stage on Saturday night and they didn’t disappoint.  A slickly shambolic mix of hits, banter and larking about, the performance delivered exactly what we all wanted and expected.  Even the driving rain couldn’t stop us bouncing up and down.

When the Castle Stage had cleared each night, one of the best venues of Camp Bestival was Caravanserai.  An intimate ramshackle collection of vintage caravans and fairground rides with a small stage showcasing eclectic performances like the Ska Vengers.  By day the area hosted circus skills workshops and by night it became a magical, fairy lit gypsy camp – stepping through the door was like stepping through the wall in Stardust.  Oh, and the bar served the best Aperol Spritz on site.

Sometimes you just have to give in to nostalgia and head down Memory Lane full throttle.  There was ample opportunity to do that at the weekend as Carol Decker and T’Pau belted out ‘China in Your Hand’ or Right Said Fred maintained that they are still too sexy for their shirts.  Rounding that off with a dose of Holly Johnson giving us the Frankie back catalogue and we felt pretty satisfied as far as golden oldies were concerned.

Right said Fred
Right said Fred

Food!  Dancing is hungry work and if you add that to the miles of walking involved in any self-respecting festival then you are going to have an appetite.  Camp Bestival had a fantastic variety of food on offer.  There was a smattering of bog standard burger and hot dog stands around the main stage but, on the whole, the offerings were varied and tasty.  One of the best eating areas was the Feast Collective, a tent serving every kind of delicious street food along with a bar and its own resident DJ.  Also worth a mention are the Dorset Coffee Co. where the best and cheapest coffee could be found and the cheese toastie stand because sometimes you just need something to soak it all up.

The camping set up deserves a mention in despatches.  There were many levels of camping from general, pot luck grab a pitch where you can, to luxury hotel tents and high end glamping.  Somewhere in the middle sits Camping Plus which was purchased as an upgrade to your weekend ticket and offered a pre booked pitch of your choice.  The Camping Plus site was near the action and had (some) flushing loos and showers so although we may have had to queue it is worth it in the end.  There was also a dedicated café situated in a red double decker bus, perfect for early morning bacon sarnies or mid afternoon tea and cake.


Not quite in the Great section but defiantly worthy of a spot in the Good were Sunday night headliners Leftfield.  Performing an a non stop set of their 1995 album Leftism, the electronic group lulled us all into a nineties trance.  Yes, we did have to shift our dance style from the carefree bouncing of the weekend to a more measured, cool approach but the whole crowd fell under the hypno spell.  It was maybe an unusual choice to finish the festival, it felt more like those still sleepy hours as a party winds down than a big exuberant finish.  Still, they were followed by the grand finale of the fireworks and light show which was a fantastic finish.

The Ugly - the weather has to take the number one spot here.  It’s true that even the great Rob Da Bank cannot control the elements but although the rain was well forecast, there was insufficient provision made for it.  Yes, it was muddy, but that is kind of a festival thing.  Parents of younger kids dragging huge pimped trollies through the mud had it worse than those of us who only had ourselves to wade.  What Camp Bestival really lacked was any kind of cover or shelter from the rain.  When it really started belting it down there were limited places to hide so 30000 odd people were all trying to cram into the Big Top, Bollywood or the Greatest Tent on Earth.  A few last minute awnings and tents would have made all the difference, especially on the Saturday when the rain was pretty relentless.

Camp Bestival 2017 was meteorologically challenged for sure and probably not what the event organisers had hoped for the 10th birthday celebration. Despite that, the weekend was relaxed, entertaining and varied.  There were a few blips in the line up but the quirky specialties such as Disney Rascal (Disney hits with a SKA beat in fancy dress – yes, really) made up for that.  You only had to look around to see thousands of people laughing, dancing, and generally getting into the Bestie mood.  All in all a brilliant weekend.

Suggest you get your early bird tickets for Camp Bestival 2018.

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Clare McGrath
6th August 2017
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Camp Bestival 2017 -  reviewed by Clare McGrath

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