I’ve been a Bestival attendee many times over the years, but I’d never been to Camp Bestival. Probably because my parents were never festival-goers and I don’t have kids of my own. All I knew was that it was the ‘family version’ of Bestival. I’m all for trying something new though! So when the lovely people at Strong Island invited me to review Camp B for them, I jumped on the chance.
Set in the grounds of Lulworth Castle on the coast in Dorset, this would be the first year that Camp Bestival & Bestival would be back to back, one week after the other. This meant logistically, the team had a crazy two weeks on their hands with a full changeover in the middle. What an undertaking!
My friend Katey and I arrived bright and early Friday morning to glorious sunshine. There were no queues at all to go through security or get wristbands, so we managed to be all pitched up by 10 am! We camped right near the arena entrance. A large percentage of people at Camp Bestival come in camper vans or stay in Camping Plus, so the ‘normal’ campsites were fantastically spacious! I’d been to the Lulworth site for Bestival last year (2017) so it didn’t take me long to get my bearings. It was time to get glittered up and enjoy our weekend!
I’ve put together my Top 5 things I experienced at Camp Bestival below, and would love to hear your favourite things in the comments too!
Katey and I arrived bright and early Friday morning to glorious sunshine. There were no queues at all to go through security or get wristbands, so we managed to be all pitched up by 10 am!
I know you saw it on the news but I just had to start with this amazing moment! During Rick Astley‘s Friday headline set, they wheeled out a second set of drums with none other than Mary Berry sat behind them! She then went on to attempt to play the drums for him. It was easily the most surreal festival moment I’ve had this year – I definitely wondered if I’d fallen asleep and was dreaming, or if someone had slipped something in my drink!
Rick Astley’s set was great, it’s obvious he still has a fantastic voice. It did feel a little like a church sermon in parts, but who doesn’t love a passionate gospel choir? Of course he ended on “Never Gonna Give You Up”, and much to everyone’s delight he made it an extra long fifteen minute version, and hearing the crowd sing every word in unison was a special moment.
I am all about festival food, and I was super excited to try out the Feast Collective area at Camp Bestival! There was everything from bao buns to seafood laksa, vegan kebabs to Japanese barbecue, and raclette poutine to edible, alcoholic shots. I gave it my absolute best and tried as much as possible.
I had to start off with my favourite, Happy Maki. These lovely people serve vegan sushi burritos and I love them! I went for the Hoisin “Duck” which has fake duck (seitan), cucumber, avocado, red pepper, sesame seeds, spring onion, wasabi, ginger and hoisin sauce all wrapped up in sushi rice and nori seaweed. Delicious!
Next came Butchies buttermilk chicken burger which was out of this world. The piece of chicken you get was huge for £7, and the buttermilk batter was twice fried so super crispy. I’m definitely going to be visiting their Shoreditch restaurant again soon!
I went adventurous and had my first taste of okonomiyaki from Oishii Yatai – it’s a savoury pancake from Japan made from eggs, flour, and spring onions. I had mine topped with bacon and chilli flakes, served with a noodle salad on the side and it was phenomenal! I’d never heard of okonomiyaki before but I will definitely look for it again!
We also tried Shrimpy having heard incredible things, and were not disappointed. Katey got the Shrimpster burger and I got a Tub o’ Shrimp to keep it simple. The burger consisted of huge shrimp fried in dill batter (or can be grilled if you prefer), signature salads and optional avocado/bacon. The shrimps were big and juicy, but the real star was the batter. It was light and delicious; you could really taste the dill.
On to the drink! We tried the intriguing Ooho! edible shots. They’re made by Skipping Rocks Lab who are trying to eliminate single-use plastics. They’ve made edible pods from seaweed (they don’t taste of anything at all) that can hold any liquid. Primarily they focus on edible water blobs, but at Camp Bestival they also had a range of cocktail shots to buy. Katey and I tried the Blue Lagoon and Tequila Sunrise ones. They pop like cherry tomatoes in your mouth and taste delicious! The kids loved trying the water and juice ones too.
The Feast Collective area also played host to Rob & Josie’s Gin Festival Bar where they served over 50 different gins from all over the world! I tried the “Death’s Door” which was 47% – super strong! And Katey and I each had the Frozen Italian Sour cocktail – a slushy cocktail made from gin, Aperol, Limoncello, grapefruit and tonic. Delicious! I could have spent all day in there…
This has always been one of my favourite areas at Bestival, and this year at Camp was no different. It’s built from old caravans and circus bits and hosts a range of entertainment including Cirque Bijou – circus, cabaret and bands. On Friday we came across Junior Jungle purely by accident – essentially a kids rave! They were brilliant and got the kids on stage to show off their best rave moves. The main stage in Caravanserai is a circular open-sided tent filled with lampshades and other knick-knacks. It’s small enough to be intimate but with enough speakers to serious pack a punch.
Much later on (midnight)we returned for Dat Brass who blew the roof off the tent (almost literally). I love a brass band and these guys combine hip-hop with brass, and that’s just about my dream combo! It was so loud in there I could feel my brain vibrating, and jumping around in the crowd was incredible fun.
Inside Caravanserai there is a bar that serves delicious cocktails; I tried their espresso martini which was smooth and perfect, and also a gin fizz (can you tell I like gin?). These were properly crafted cocktails and were pretty reasonable at £7.50/8 a pop. There are also lots of booths to sit down at inside the area, which makes it the perfect place to chill with your friends.
At 11pm on Saturday we watched the cabaret show as my friend Lizzie was in it, and it was actually great! The performers were on point, they gave great physical comedy with gasp worth circus feats. And following on from the cabaret, we got to the front for the fantastic Oh My God! It’s The Church on the Caravanserai main stage. Always magnificent, these Holy Rollers will get you dancing with their mix of covers and original tunes, with the Reverend preaching a sermon on how to turn sinning into winning. If you get the chance, I urge you to go to Church next time they come to your town!
I was first introduced to The Cuban Brothers at Bestival in 2013, however I’ve since learned that these guys have been a staple of the Bestival & Camp Bestival line ups almost since day 1! They take songs you know and Cuban-ify them, adding in buckets of fun, a pinch of sleaze, and hilarious audience interaction banter that will have your face hurting from laughter.
The four members of the Cuban Bros are Miguel – the lead singer and head honcho who has a penchant for thrusting, Kengo San (lovingly known as Kenny the B*stard) – their DJ and roller-skating aficionado, Archerio – a man who looks like he should not be able to wear skin-tight catsuits and break dance (but can!) and the youngest member, Juan Erection, who’s acrobatic breakdance moves and/or dashing good looks will make you gasp.
They know their audience and Miguel knows how to push boundaries. Their show at Camp Bestival had the parents howling with laughter, and the kids looking entertained but confused. He words his “naughty jokes” so perfectly they go straight over the children heads. They played an hour long set as a special La Familia show; full of plenty of costume changes (their suits and fringed catsuits are a thing of beauty), and the addition of a live band.
Katey and I were lucky enough to watch the second half of their set from the side of the stage! This is something I’ve always wanted to experience, so it was super special for me. The view from the stage out over Lulworth Castle is magnificent. I even got to meet Bam from legendary hip-hop group The Jungle Brothers while up there.
The Bollywood tent was where Katey and I showed off our best dance moves over the weekend. Despite not having any sprogs in tow, we had to check out the Big Fish, Little Fish rave on Saturday featuring Basement Jaxx on the decks. It was amazing to see all the families dancing, young and old! I’ve always been a bit terrified of the idea of having kids; thinking I’d have to stop doing the things I loved, but the BFLF vibe was amazing and showed me that you don’t have to stop dancing, just bring the kids along too! Basement Jaxx played some tunes, and my favourite bit was watching a 5 year old on his Dad’s shoulders screaming out the words to ‘Romeo’.
We also went to Bollywood for the infamous David Rodigan‘s Ram Jam reggae roots set. Though it started out a bit slow for our liking (and considering it was 11pm!) the pace soon picked up and the dancehall bangers got the whole tent jumping. Rodigan is an absolute legend in the reggae and radio circles, and he regularly chants into the mic “give me some signal!”
This tent has been a part of the Bestival furniture for a few years now and it’s remained one of my favourite stages. With its uber colourful interior and decadent lampshades, giant welcoming elephant archway entrance, and the biggest, bassist speakers on site, it’s an absolute must visit.
I couldn’t write this review without mentioning that the last day of Camp Bestival was cancelled due to weather. Everyone on site was gutted! Katey and I had stayed up Saturday night until about 3am in dry, warm conditions, and it was only as we were walking back to our tent it started to gently rain. We went to sleep all snug listening to the raindrops but were woken at 8am to howling winds and battering rain. I’ve been in some nasty festival weather before but this was something else… my tent was being whipped so hard by the rain it almost went flat. We tried to stick it out; redoing tent pegs and hoping it would all blow over, but at 12.30 there was a particularly violent whip of wind that shattered two of my tent poles, so we had to quickly pack up and retreat to the car.
I know it must have been a difficult decision for Camp Bestival to cancel the final day, but honestly having been there and experienced the weather for myself, it was definitely the only safe thing to do, especially with so many children on site. If it was rain OR wind we could have persevered, but the intensity of both combined was too much. I have to say huge props to the production team for helping everyone exit the site and putting on such an incredible show for the three days of sunshine we had prior! I always thought Camp B was Besti’s smaller little sister, but I discovered that they still know how to party, and put on an eclectic line up of music and entertainment to keep everyone entertained, from toddler right through to grandparents.