wed 24/07/2024

theartsdesk at Camp Bestival 2012 | reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk at Camp Bestival 2012

theartsdesk at Camp Bestival 2012

The sun finally shines for Rob Da Bank's family-est of festivals

Camp Bestival's target audience enjoying themselves



Whatever happened to roughing it? Camp Bestival is, famously, more an upmarket middle England fete than a festival in the Hawkwind-play-Stonehenge sense but, still, why would anyone queue two and a half hours for the “Posh Wash” showers? Barring a below-waist hygiene disaster, surely Wet Wipes and water are sufficient for a weekend?

Apparently for many, many Camp Bestivalers, like global travellers who insist on starting their day with toast and cornflakes whether they’re in Surrey or Outer Mongolia, showering is a necessity worth wasting a large chunk of the day over.

camp bestival1Ensconced onsite with my daughters, nine and 14, since Thursday afternoon, we eschew such niceties. The day and indeed all weekend is scorching, summer weather finally making a glorious appearance in full force. The 11am main stage opening is delayed and the first act, a favourite of mine, Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer, is postponed and then cancelled but it is of no matter. While it’s easy to mock how extremely middle-class Camp Bestival is, it’s also a consistently lively and invigorating environment and, most importantly, a place parents feel safe letting their children have freedom to wander. The Lulworth Castle setting is beautiful, particularly as dusk falls and the castle is bathed in coloured lights, and whether a smashing, brightly clad Indian brass band, a sea of bubble-making (pictured above) or Friends of the Earth dressed as bees, there’s never a dull moment, every space is utilised to bring joy to young ones and a smile to the rest. Camp Bestival will always be easy to sneer at and should certainly be avoided by those seeking the full chemically-enhanced madness of UK festival-land, but, for what it is, it’s a complete treat. So much so that somehow the first four hours onsite Friday disappear without really doing very much - drinking smoothies, hula-hooping, throwing a beach ball about, vaguely acknowledging performances by rising soul singer Delilah and Northern Irish stadium ravers Japanese Popstars.

campbestival2The first act of the day to warrant my complete attention is Adam Ant and his band The Good, the Mad & the Lovely Posse. I’ve heard good things about them and never seen an Adam Ant gig, so with tribal stripes painted across our noses we eagerly await his appearance. It is a big disappointment. He is suitably attired in a bicorne Napoleon hat but the sound is dreadful, classic singles such as “Stand and Deliver” have their two-drummer tribal thump neutered, submerged beneath pure mud, sounding more like a dodgy Seventies biker rock outfit than pristine post-punk pop. By the time things are vaguely sorted, it’s too late and both band and audience have lost the will to thrill, so “Antmusic”, with its catchy sing-along chorus, is wasted. Shame.


The sun is really beating down by now so a break in the woods seems in order. There, in a mossy dell, five female poets from London’s Roundhouse Poetry Collective are incongruously but effectively letting rip with passionate, tough, urban narratives, heavy with political anger and feminist oomph. Featuring throwaway sex’n’drug references, it’s close to the bone for my girls, but they are swept up by the dynamic presence of these potent young women, as am I.

campbestival3Eating tent-side each morning and evening (although snacking onsite) saved me in the region of £125 over the weekend, given that, as a for instance, a small bowl of pasta 'n' pesto worth around 50p will take you back £6. Thus, after a quick home-cooked barbecue, it was time for the Camp Bestival Olympic Warm-up in the Big Top, a giant circus marquee.

Introduced by Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer, who opens with his “chap-hop” history of hip hop, in which he performs rap classics on a banjolele in a cut-glass English accent while dressed as if for Salad Days. The Warm-up is a one-and-a-half hour variety show which features the amusing cod-aerobics of Lost & Found, the Medina Ukulele Orchestra, an impromptu BMX showcase and, best of all, Heart & Soul, a part-transvestite girl group parody who claim to have won The Yes Factor and tear into Simon Cowell’s hegemony of the bland with their version of “Fame” - “Lame”. By the time the Warm-up is finished and the real Olympic Opening Ceremony about to begin, the marquee is jammed and far outside it festival-goers squeeze together, trying to catch a glimpse of the screens. Time to make an exit. The rest of the festival site is now empty, there are no queues for anything, so we take the opportunity to go on the fairground carousel and the helter skelter, then it’s time for Hot Chip.

We run into pals with a squadron of kids, all under 10. Two of their boys are doing a brisk trade in glow-sticks. Another aspect of Camp Bestival is the pre-teen entrepreneurs, some trawling the site collecting recyclable beer cups for the 10p return, others plying the crowd with “fizz powder” which, believe me, is not the same fizz powder popular at most festivals. As we arrive, the Cuban Brothers, reliably entertaining as ever, close their set with a funk version of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”. The sun is down, and Hot Chip (pictured below right) put on a show that’s good without ever being great. They play chunks of their very decent new album In Our Heads and hits such as the wonderful “Over and Over” and “Ready for the Floor”. They also get full marks for having a percussionist playing steel drums dressed as a sailor.

campbestival4Some way into their set I feel my children growing less interested, tired, so we head tentwards as the night livens up into its dancing self. This tentward return could be frustrating but I’ve grown used to it. I recall taking my eldest to the Big Chill when she was four, sitting alone by the tent as she slept, while crowds swept by to watch Royksopp. I was heartily pissed off. No longer. These days I have accepted what it means to go festivalling with children and it’s a different set of enjoyments, so I perch by the tent on my portable three-legged stool, sipping red wine, listening to dubstep booming, and watching teenagers cheerfully showing off to each other by the glowing Cosy Camper stall down the hill.

See next page for Saturday




Today’s opening moan before we get down to business is… what’s with the picnic blankets? The cult of the picnic blanket at Camp Bestival has now reached ridiculous proportions, a festival take on the joke about German holidaymakers and their towels. Families lay their picnic blankets all over the field in front of the main stage, often corralling them within barricades of baby buggies and trolleys the size of small caravans, then, as the day becomes busier and more people arrive to watch bands, some of the blanketeers grow irritable that “their space” isn’t being respected. Teetering through the slivers of green grass visible between picnic blankets, attempting to get nearer the stage, I hear annoyed Home Counties voices saying, “Do you mind?!” on a number of occasions. This notion that picnic blankets provide ownership is a bit silly and, more to the point, impractical. Camp Bestival is still, thank goodness, a long way from Glyndebourne and some would do well to remember that.

campbestival5We take in the Lulworth Castle jousting which, having been to Camp Bestival five times, and despite some spectacular stunt-riding, loses its thrill a bit since, year in, year out, it remains exactly the same. The main stage is the place to be and we get there in time to see the last half of Mr Tumble – BBC children’s entertainer Justin Fletcher (pictured left) – whose very simple sing-along routines to a taped backing with dancers have become an odd sort of Camp Bestival cult, attended by a packed fanatical crowd where mums seem to be having as much fun as their children.

On which note, a word about Camp Bestival Woman. She really is a luscious creature. Aged between 30 and 50, she doesn’t subscribe to the dual cults of scrawn and fake youth, she has realised that a bit of flesh on the bones looks good, that curves are sexy, and she dresses comfortable in that knowledge. She has her man in his place and her children in theirs – mostly – and she’s out to party, drink wine and Pimms, jabber with her Camp Bestival Woman mates, and, when it suits her, wave her arms in the air like she just don’t care. She is everywhere here and not enough seen in the real world or media.

campbestival6Dick & Dom, the children’s TV entertainers (pictured right), are hosting the main stage this afternoon and they pull off a brilliantly funny routine where they pluck a well-muscled man from the crowd and put an electronic false mouth on him which they then manipulate to have him say bizarre flirtatious things while performing a magic trick. It’s very funny indeed. They are followed by reggae legend Jimmy Cliff whose set in the sunshine is loaded with hits and explosive with good cheer, even when playing his updated version of his hit “Vietnam” retitled “Afghanistan”. At one point he performs an extensive bongo solo with his band which proves rousing too.

campbestival7Out near the real ale bar, the Soft Play Area and the Arts Tent, there is an open-air Bandstand which is a good place to laze in the heat, taking in amusing comedy cowboy troubadour Clint Westwood and rising, tiny female singer-songwriter Gabrielle Aplin who is precisely not my thing, strumming away and giving it plaintive voice-breaking on non-specific vocals.

The Rizzle Kicks (pictured left), on the other hand, couldn’t do plaintive if they tried. On the main stage they kick up a storm. It’s gratifying that they fall into the teen band bracket but that their music is such great fun, with a live band who pull out the stops. The Brighton duo of Jordan Stephens and Harley Alexander-Sule emanate frenetic good cheer, leaping about ceaselessly. They make a giant party of “When I Was A Youngster”, the Fatboy Slim-produced “Mama Do The Hump” and others, even including a cover of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream”. They occasionally milk their teen pin-up status, rubbing a towel under the crotch and throwing it to the crowd, but mainly they deliver a crowd-pleasing good time closing with a roof-lifting version of "Down With the Trumpets".

Which just leaves it to Chic to top everything off and, in fact, blow away all competition. Band leader Nile Rodgers uses his set to showcase quite how many hits he has written and produced outside of his career in Chic – Madonna’s “Like A Virgin”, Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” and “He’s The Greatest Dancer”, Duran Duran’s “Notorious” and, sung by the drummer, David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”. With a set like that, played impeccably and super-funkily in the glowing evening sun, he cannot fail. Initially the field before him is relaxed and a little empty but as Chic gather pace things get busier and busier until with “Le Freak” the sense of excitement explodes and the stage fills with a dancing mass from backstage, including Rizzle Kicks. An encore of “Good Times” with Rodgers dropping in the opening rap from Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” is the sonic equivalent of a firework display.

Following Chic are Kool & the Gang whose slick sound and highly choreographed moves lie somewhere between Las Vegas and a sexagenarian JLS. Compared to the Peruvian flake at Studio 54 of Chic, they are the “erection section” at a nightclub in Romford. Halfway through their set, sick of slop such as “Fresh”, my girls and I retreat to the Bollywood tent where Jaguar Skills & Friends are tearing it up with electro-techno-dubstep which is a gnarly blast in an ambience loaded with the smell of strong weed. Then it’s time for my night shift on my portable stool with my wine, watching over the fizzing Camp Bestival night as the little ones fall into slumber.

The cult of the picnic blanket at Camp Bestival has now reached ridiculous proportions


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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I must have been chemically enhanced. Mr B wasn't cancelled, just a little late.

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