...sparkling stars and eagerly anticipating crowd

The first thing you noticed, apart from the massive, blue floodlit castle of course, were the hundreds of bright, flapping flags – the proof this was a real festival and not one of those Dorset middle-class ‘open-air’ events I have frequented so many times.

Once settled, I, a few pals and my pregnant super-mum friend and her two young boys trotted off to the main stage. By this time it was night, but the sparkling stars, fresh sea air and eagerly anticipating crowd were perfect for the treat we had in store.
On he walked. At 81, you’d think Chuck Berry would be a shadow of his former self, but no. He lit up the stage as he played all the classics from the golden era of his career. Standing way at the back of the crowd is avoided by some, but for me, guarding the kids, it was wonderful to see how many had turned out to watch him. It was a rippling sea of appreciation.

As Chuck bid goodnight and the children were tucked up in their tent (with mum I might add), it was time for the grown-ups to have some fun. But by the time we had finished our second can of warm Carlsberg, the ‘bouncers’ were telling us to go to sleep. It was 2am.

As the sun rose over the grassy Lulworth fields on Saturday morning and we awoke to the sound of cawing peacocks and the sight of men pissing in a field, we were reminded of the day ahead with the bing-bing-bing from Hi-Di-Hi and a ‘hello campers’ message. It was a nice, if not cheesy touch, but you always have to expect a bit of mature chedder with Bestival.

In daylight, the fancy dress tradition was in full view. Alice was joined my many a bunny late for the mad hatter’s tea party, a few ‘eat me’ snacks and a deck or two of playing cards. There were groups of bearded wizards, burly men in skin-tight dresses, ball gowns and sword-wielding knights.

The main stage kicked off at midday and was full of such delights as DJ Barry Peters and the Cuban Brothers, who spectacularly entered the stage standing on a box pushed by his catsuit clad cronies. Brilliant. Later in the day, a chilled out audience sprawled on blankets and supping beer heard from electro hotty Ladyhawke and the beautiful Fife twang of King Creosote, joined by guitarist the Pictish Trail. You could see the nerves creep in when the band realised they were being watched by Dorset local Billy Bragg and Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne.

So, where was I, oh yes, one of the best shows Dorset has ever seen – Wayne Coyne emerging from a real castle, zorbing to the stage. Ironmen pranced around on stage as a big screen zapped images of Japanese TV into your eyes. The sky was clear save for some cotton wool clouds lit by an almost full moon. Babies were made that night, I’m sure of it. The Flaming Lips rocked out, as they always do. Their epic numbers from Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots were accompanied by Coyne’s trademark ticker tape and giant balloons. Amazing. I loved it. I love him.

The earliness of the end was frustrating and not needed. For a family festival, it is understandable that crazy antics and drunkenness should be kept to a minimum, but you can’t stop them. Forcing us all to bed merely forced groups into campsites, where the children were sleeping. Really there should have been some more late night fun to be had, even if it was just an open bar and a couple of DJs. But what really got my goat was not the end, but the rude security. This is Dorset mate, not Dalston. We don’t need to be pushed around just because we don’t want to go to bed. You’re guarding a tent, not the Taj Mahal!

The hangover kicked in early and I awoke at around 7am. Hot, hot sun, followed by cold, cold cloud, then sun again. Bloody weather! Sunday was a day of relaxation. The festival crowd was divided between those eagerly waiting for Kate Nash and those who would happily joust her in the face if they saw her. I was of the latter. We swanned around with blankets, listening to winding and jaunty tales from The Hat, a couple of sets from the superb Beardyman, a few numbers from the beautiful Emmy the Great and the sultry tones of fest-veteran Suzanne Vega.

The treat of a Pieminister put us remaining girls in the mood for a bit of luxury. By this time, it was late afternoon. The boys had gone, the kids needed bath time at home and we were left alone. Sauna time! After an eyeful of Mr Sauna’s own Pieminister (argh!), we sweated it out in a sauna ti-pi. Gorgeous and well worth a mere £3. We relaxed the night away with a bit of comedy from the Andrew Maxwell and the Fullmooners – mostly a great laugh, but I wasn’t sure about the 11-year-old being given a larger or the religion chat. It was, however, the almost-perfect night to an almost-perfect festival. All I need to do is line up some more kids to take with me next year.


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