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What is it really like to go to a festival with children? We trialled Camp Bestival 2015

Writer (and auntie) Lucy Self found she needed: "Some careful planning, some stylish sound-cancelling ear muffs for the boys and the double buggy for when bedtime came..."

Posted: 13 August 2015
by Catherine Hudson

We love Camp Bestival
Getting crafty
Ear defenders are a must-have
Lots to keep kids entertained
Happy campers

"It’s 6.50am on Saturday morning. I’m lying on a blow up mattress in a tent in the middle of a Dorset field, attempting to sleep off a particularly ferocious hangover. Suddenly there’s the sound of a zip being insistently pulled and my three-year old nephew’s wide-awake face pops into view. “Aunty Lucy, shall we do some colouring?”

This exchange, repeated every morning of the four-day festival, pretty much sums up my experience of Camp Bestival 2015 – the first I’d ever attempted to do with young people in tow. Before then, my only festival outings had been with a friend who shared my love of wine, dancing until the last act was done and tent slumbering until at least 11am.

But that was then, as they say. I’ll happily admit that is was me who bullied my brother and his wife to not only buy tickets, but convinced them it was completely fine to bring along my aforementioned three year old nephew Oliver and, wait for it, two month old baby Henry. And you know what? Despite Henry wailing through the night to be fed every hour and Oliver using the whole excursion as an excuse to become my shadow (I didn’t wee, think or wake up by myself for four days), it was hands down my favourite weekend of the year.

Camp Bestival is the sister festival to Bestival, swapping the Isle of White for the stunning surrounds of Lulworth Estate and is generally known as the more family-friendly version. Created by DJ Rob Da Bank and his wife Josie, the intention was to put on a music-led event catering to families without dumbing down the entertainment for adults. Having attended for the past two years, once with children and once not, I can fully attest to the fact it works on both levels. The only real issue is trying to cram it all in.

For the kids the array of activities are endless, Oliver alone tackled the ‘grab-a-paint-brush-and-get-decorating’ castle, a hat-making workshop, explored the Dingley Dell forest, made a den out of sticks at forest school, got his face-painted into a tiger, made the biggest pile of cushions I’ve ever seen in the soft-play tent, climbed aboard a train – and that was just one day. We watched a performance from Dr Seuss characters on the main stage, observed the crowds at Oberon’s Observatory, investigated fossils at the Dinosaur CSI tent and listened to The Jungle Book read by Sarah Cox, Howard Marks and Michaela Strachan. Being two months old, Henry was slightly less demanding. But his mum Holly, was thrilled to find a baby chill out tent where she could breast feed in peace whilst chatting with sleep-depravation with other mothers.

I would have been entirely content to follow my two young charges about but, like most of the parents at Camp Bestival, my brother and his wife wanted some fun too. With some careful planning, some stylish sound-cancelling ear muffs for the boys and the double buggy for when bedtime came, we managed to bop to acts including Clean Bandit, Ella Eyre, Underworld, Rodger Sanchez, Soul to Soul and Kaiser Chiefs. For those without kids (or for those that could palm nephews off on family members) silent discos, dance tents, cocktail bars and plenty of other nightly pursuits carry on well into morning.  

Details are the thing that make Camp Bestival so darn special - from the kiddie-sized loos complete with mini steps to a fabulous wine-tasting event for mums called the ‘Knackered Mothers Wine Club’. The food is fantastic, the best coming from the Feast Collective tent. The music top notch (watching Oliver breakdance to DJ Yoda’s set was one of the highlights). And the atmosphere nothing short of magical, starting with the first site of the kaleidoscopic kids field to the final night firework extravaganza that lit up the Lulworth Castle. 

As we left the campsite, Oliver asked “Will we be coming again Aunty Lucy?” (Camp Bestival 2016 early bird tickets are already on sale for those looking for a bargain). I said yes without hesitation, mentally packing a padlock for my tent…"


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Posted: 12/03/2017 at 18:45

I went to a festival with children. Word of advice, bring a vr headset there but never bring children. They will constantly irritate you and you won't have fun.

Posted: 24/09/2017 at 18:38

I thinks it's going to be fun and disaster rolled into one. Especially duringMarch Madness Bracket.

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Posted: 23/12/2018 at 13:38

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