I go to a LOT of festivals. Last summer I clocked up five or six, and so far this year I've been more fussy and only made it to three (not counting the five Depeche Mode gigs I've been to around Europe). Camp Bestival is the one festival that we as a family enjoy going to - it was our third year. (Pictured above: Team Moroder).
We used to be regulars at the Big Chill but after four years of doing that with very young kids, we thought we'd try Camp Bestival, (and now unfortunately, the Big Chill is no more.) We always go with good friends and have figured out the best strategy for getting the best spot (stay at a B&B the night before in the immediate vicinity and pre-book a Festaxi - pictured at bottom - to move all your gear from car to camping spot in around 15 minutes).
Camp Bestival for us is a (long weekend) holiday with great music, good friends, reliable food and a way to stimulate the kids while doing stuff we actually enjoy.
So it's with some trepidation that I have to say we'll probably be giving Camp Bestival a miss in 2014. There were some great aspects to our trip this year - again our friends, and the primo spot we got (which was a 20 second stroll from the sauna and hot showers of the Soul Park area - and for £20 we had unlimited access all weekend), but there were two issues that were really irritating: firstly, the line-up was generally pretty dire. The DJs outshone the live acts with the exception of The Cuban Brothers. The highlight by a long shot was The Nextmen (who did two sets in quick succession, double the fun). As an aside, we were looking forward to seeing Horrible Histories (pictured above), but couldn't see a thing as so many people were standing - despite it being a play/performance rather than a band - it took 25 minutes before the TV screens politely asked people to sit down, which caused an almighty cheer from the 9,000 people who couldn't see up til that point.
I had high hopes for Grandmaster Flash but his set was no better than the sort you'd hear at a bad suburban nightclub - chorus after chorus of hits and yabbering about 'putting your hands up if you know this one!', soulless, with no depth. The 'headliners' were poor - The Levellers, Richard Hawley, Kid Creole and Nik Kershaw - these names work at Rewind, but not for Camp Bestival. And the Sunday night headliner? Labrinth. Not exactly in the same league as Primal Scream or the Happy Mondays who headlined the previous two years. I was particularly disappointed by Nik Kershaw who I first saw live as a teenager in New Zealand: in the years that have passed he hasn't developed how to do good banter with his audience. Fortunately some of those who'd pitched up to see him were fast asleep so they wouldn't have heard his witless song introductions.
Annoyingly we were actually excited about seeing Craig Charles do his Funk & Soul set as per his show on BBB's 6Music, but he was a no show. Turns out he'd tried driving across south London and couldn't get very far due to the RideLondon cycling event. Amazingly he was unaware of this despite the rest of London being up to speed, and for some reason was unable to get on a train to Wareham in time. Shows a lack of initiative really.
The second issue was the portaloos. We know loos and festivals, but this year was a new low. As early as Thursday night (ie hours after the site had opened) there were unusable toilets as they were full to the brim. There were fewer loos, and they weren't cleaned nearly enough. I'm sure it's a cost saving measure to keep things lean but I don't fancy spending £400 on tickets & £800 on food/drink/activities (not including petrol, the B&B and all the stuff we'd bought with us) to then feel constantly anxious about where to find a usable loo. Even the posh loos were out of service from Sunday afternoon.
Overall, I regret not going to Standon Calling which was on the same weekend: cracking line-up, a swimming pool (!) AND flushing loos. Unless Camp Bestival pull off an amazing lineup and make assurances about the facilities next year, I know where we'll be going.