Live Report: Camp Bestival 2022

Sun-kissed family-friendly gathering where magical memories are made

‘Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!’ Or so I tell my grouchy, mildly-sickly eight-year-old as we dawdle over the parched Camp Bestival lawn of Lulworth Castle under probably the dreamiest azure skies in British music festival history.

Honestly, that Friday was so sparklingly blue, so intensely ‘July’ it was borderline trippy. Reminded me of Coachella, if Coachella decided its theme this year was ‘provincial cider festival.’

It’s a family shindig, remember. Aimed squarely at folks, like me, who used to be cool, but now find themselves irksomely sprogged up. First up, my lad and I made a beeline for the superb family field, complete with THE WORLD’S BIGGEST BOUNCY CASTLE, and a bunch of Victorian fairground rides he enjoyed way more than you’d expect from such an iPad-addled little scrote. Our maiden trip around the ferris wheel was probably the most romantic of my life, as Toby smiled broadly and clasped my hand, and the opening bars of ancient banger ‘Hot In Herre’ by Nelly drifted up at us unironically-for-a-change from the baked field below. 

Sunny celebratory vibes radiated off every single one of the assembled Camp Bestival breeders – high on the weather, the Wagatha Christie verdict, the Lionesses final, not really having a Prime Minister, not exactly being at war, yet. All that happy stuff. I’m already reminiscing, hard. 

Heat doesn’t agree with my boy so we settled into a shady nook to watch Razorlight. Who were awesome, actually – just what the doctor ordered, a giant crowd of sunburnt emmas yelling lustily along to ‘Golden Touch’ and ‘America’. By the time the band – each rocking their own take on male pattern baldness, from Johnny Borrell’s cherubic curly forward sweep to guitarist Bjorn Agren’s no-frills Jean Luc Picard – strummed into ‘Somewhere Else’ it was obvious my boy was coming down with something grim. Coiled in my lap, he embodied the true spirit of the lyric – ‘I just can’t help myself / I really, really wish I could be somewhere else’ – way more profoundly than the pogoing hordes around us.

That put me in a bit of a spot. But he agreed to tough it out for another hour or so. Up next, Jo Whiley spinning some 90s tunes. Shania Twain, that sort of caper. Blows my mind you can get away with that – literally just playing records! On the main stage of a household-name festival! – but everybody loved it, especially the geezer next to me who was gushing ‘wow, she is so damn good!’ basically the entire time.


Live Report: Camp Bestival 2022

Try as I might – with a fat dollop of Calpol, by far the most abused drug at Camp Bestival – I couldn’t convince Toby to stick around for Rag’n’Bone Man. From the happy chatter I overhear later, from our tent, as my boy snoozed on my chest, he kicked ass. Which I’m sure is spot on.

Saturday morning our little soldier rallied, a bit, so we plonked down on the edge of the Big Top and caught a few acts. Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer – remember when your mate used to ironically rap the Fresh Prince Theme in the middle of their set? That’s his whole act! – was well attended and popular with the kids. Lovely Eve Owen delivered an incredibly moving three-quarters-of-an-hour of tender, ethereal tunes. A delightful palate cleanser. 

Rooted to the spot, guarding my precious dozing mite, I was at least afforded some unbeatable people watching time. Camp Bestival attracts a glorious mishmash of British tribes. The wizened greybeards, gamely glittering up their quiffs. Soft-bodied Doom Bar dads resolutely making zero effort on the costume front. A species I’ve decided to christen ‘Razorlight auntie’, sneakily huffing a rollup on her way back from the bogs. 

The band Mermaid Chunky – still at the big top, Toby hasn’t moved for like three hours now – are bloody nuts, I’m sure they won’t mind me telling you. Dolled up as Disney milkmaids, honking into a recorder that’s also inexplicably hooked up to a loop pedal… it’s like vibing to your own tinnitus. Arty, I suppose. At least as legit as Jo Whiley anyway, or Gok Wan, who apparently DJ’d here on Friday night. Some genius tipped an entire Bloody Mary over my mate’s kid at Gok’s show, by the way. Yes, that is hilarious.

Sadly – heartbreaking! – little Toby begged me to go home after that. What else can you do? I grabbed us lunch to go from Tandoori Quacks, a spot-on little Indian joint which definitely deserved a bigger queue, lovely lads as well. 

Live Report: Camp Bestival 2022

So I missed way more than I saw. The Guinness World Record for the biggest ever disco dance was broken, apparently, with a little help from Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Saturday’s spangly double bill – Kool and the Gang! Earth Wind and Fire! – smashed it, by all accounts. There’s some lovely footage online of a big crowd, still in the sunshine, watching England thrash Germany on Sunday afternoon. 

What can I say? Camp Bestival is a bloody gem, jam-packed with uplifting vibes and brilliant, brilliant people. Especially if you have kids. It’s not Rob Da Bank’s fault kids are a massive pain in the arse. Toby’s fine now, by the way, sat next to me on the iPad. There’s always next year…

Words: Andy Hill

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