Live Report: Camp Bestival 2021

Kids are a pain in the ass, right, and never more so than at a festival. So what’s the point of Camp Bestival? To satisfy people like me, who still want to boogie in a field despite being annoyed by the growth. But is it correct?

Yes, I’m happy to report. The line-up is an inspired jumble of more or less cool own acts – fat thin boy, Georgia, The Sherlocks – mingled with kids’ TV staples, like Dick and Dom and Mr. Tumble.

Maybe you’ve never heard of Mr. Tumble. Good for you. You clearly don’t have children. Here’s the “King of the Clowns,” in his 14th year at Camp Bestival, singing crowd-pleasing renditions of “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and “If You’re Happy And You Know. It Clap Your Hands”. Just as bright and cheerful as he is on CBeebies – where he had a blinding lockdown, by the way, teaching colors and shapes to our country’s toddlers while we frown at laptops – Tumble was nevertheless a little exasperated by the climax of the Hokey Cokey.

Still, you get the feeling that Mr. Tumble was already in the mood to scour the front row for the groupies he would clean up. Imagine a naughty mum-of-three from Kent, knee-deep in her second Rioja box, flirtatiously asking if there’s a Mrs. Tumble at home. The geezer is a real rockstar here, that’s what I’m saying.

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Not that you’d know from the happy crowds lining up, but the global coronavirus pandemic is apparently still a thing. COVID has reared its bleak head in a number of ways, most excellently in the artists’ biting stage scheme. ‘Let’s start our side stream!’ barked the guy from Junior Jungle on Friday night. ‘Beat so sick you need a third vaccine!’

The virus has created all sorts of heartbreaking scheduling and cancellation issues. Dick (or maybe it was Dom) pulled out at the last minute. As did Friendly fire. Sophie Ellis-Bextoralas, spent the weekend abandoned in her massive, swanky kitchen, instead of directing her to the main stage, after two of her children became bored with the dreaded lurgy.

But! A genius pushed the act of tribute to Abba Bjorn Again in his place, and everything was fine. Honestly, I’ve always said that big festivals can be a little more basic. Damn thousands of us pogo’d to ‘SOS’, without having to pretend we like Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s novelties. I hope Rob da Bank paid them loads of money, money, money.

The cool kids – I mean, it’s all relative huh – spent most of the weekend hanging out at the Caravanserai, a suite of quirky mini stages and benches welded together from mangled old caravan parts, like a stack of M5 under acid. I saw a guy inside performing Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” with caustic COVID-themed lyrics, on the roof of an old gutted hearse. A little on the nose, mate.

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Live Report: Camp Bestival 2021

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There’s legit music, if you fancy it – shout out Cormac Neeson, who hands out rich, creamy Irish folk to stunned mums and dads in the intimate Pigs Big Ballroom – but the gist is really there. agenda at Camp Bestival. And it’s good.

“I fucking love it here,” purred Heather Small, you know, off M-People, Saturday afternoon. “I can be as corny as I want.”

At least she sang her own tunes. Sara Cox – on the fucking main stage please – played 80s records and that was literally it. Travel, Wham!, Dirty Dancing. “I told my manager, it will never work,” she said. “I owe him ten cents.” Too fair my friend.

What else. There’s a mindfulness piece up the hill called ‘Slow Motion’, where you can take a cheeky nap and call it a ‘sleep retreat’. someone named Tallulah Rendall offered sound healing and rose tea rituals in a yurt, of course. A nearby blackboard bore the immortal caption “Massage is the only form of physical pleasure to which nature has forgotten to attach consequences”, although it is unclear whether this is for hangovers, love handles or children.

Oh yes, children. As well as the world’s largest bouncy castle, the site also has plenty of little play areas for babies to burn off those Tangfastics you’ve been bribing them with all morning. Chatting to random young moms on the swings is, I’m happy to say, much more fun when they’re dressed up as Harley Quinn, squeezing a gin out of a box.

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Live Report: Camp Bestival 2021

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It really is a family affair, Camp Bestival. Veteran headliner Fatboy Slim’s groovy girl did a set – her festival debut, no less. Rob da Bank’s kid spun a few tunes on opening night. by Sara Cox her daughter was up there too (“she’s taller than me now – that’s my eyeliner she’s wearing!”)

Would you mind if you didn’t have kids? Maybe not. But with what The year we all had it’s damn nice to get together with our fellow breeders, cider the skull on a blanket and thumb your nose at the plague. So yes – if you can handle the moderate infection risk and cheesy tunes, Camp Bestival is well worth coughing up.

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Words: Andy Hill
Photography via Camp Bestival

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Jan G. Gilbert