Camp Bestival Shropshire 2022
When I tell you I screamed when I heard Camp Bestival was coming to Shropshire, I mean you could have heard me from the moon. As a long-time fan and attendee of the original IOW Bestival, as well as the later Dorset version, and having been to one CB-BC (before Child) – travelling for an hour to a Besti-vent instead of around 5 including a ferry trip… is a LUXURY. Praise be to the DaBank fam for deciding to give us a shot up here. The location is Weston Park, we’ve got a car full of rainbow clothing, and one very excited toddler – let’s go!
Arriving through Green gate, we’re pleasantly surprised to find ourselves parking so close to the campsites that we can literally see our car from where we’re setting up camp, though there’s a part of me that thinks both this orientation and access may change a bit next year with bigger ticket sales. We’re definitely not early doors, there are heaps of tents here already and the family set up is WAY plushier than your regular festival garb. A family near to us genuinely has a whole dining room and kitchen set up, it’s wild!
I do feel I need to address the toilet issue… this year there are no portaloos to be found on site (except for the single accessible toilet in each camp), instead we have long drop compost loos that look like proper Aussie dunnies/redneck moon-and-stars style toilets, which are very tall, and feel very unstable if I’m honest. The smell isn’t bad due to being largely open to the wind, but there’s a bit of me that thinks they would be absolutely deadly slippy and dangerous if the rain really came down. There’s absolutely no grip on the steps inside, and the chained up loo roll runs along a wall which would almost certainly get soaked in any sideways weather. My main complaint was the fact that there were 10, yes only 10 – for the entire Green campsite. No kids ones either, despite these being available in the main arena.
We took a walk around the campsite and into the main arena, after being confused and disappointed that what looked like an entrance on the map between Green camping and the Big Top – just doesn’t exist? There seems to be absolutely no rhyme or reason to not putting another entrance through from Green camp to the arena, and making everyone walk the entire uphill loop of camping to get in, especially when carting around wagons full of children and their gubbins. Please just make it easier on everyone I beg, festivals with kids are already tiring – and this is a family festival.
Anyway, as we walk into the arena we are greeted by the beautiful and familiar sight of the flowy silky rainbow flags waving in the wind, pretty fairy lights everywhere and just… colour. Every Bestival site is beautiful, but there is so much crammed into a small space here, it is just joyful to the eyes. It’s definitely not busy yet though, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that a lot of sales this first year are non-camping people who are testing the waters before committing – I feel next year could be very busy in comparison.
We decide to amble around and look at everything, before grabbing some of the most incredible festival food I’ve ever consumed from Mexican Seoul. Barbacoa beef tacos, and gochujang fried chicken… it feels like I’m at some trendy Shoreditch restaurant not a field in the Midlands. The site isn’t huge, you can basically walk everywhere within 5 minutes (except for the Temple Wood) but there are some nice little pockets which feel distinct and separate enough to change the experience as you move around. Roll on tomorrow…
After the saga of ‘Toddlers-first night-in-a-tent’, we are up bright and early to don rainbow colours and head out into the festival for day one proper. Over in the Ha Ha Land area, there are already heaps of kids in the Tic Tac Skate Workshop learning to land board flips on the grass, and the shop seems to be doing a roaring trade in board set-ups as well. The level of ‘festival souvenir’ has really peaked since the days of bootleg tshirts outside the gates hasn’t it? The Extreme Bike Battles Show has a bmxer and motorbike rider facing off doing tricks in an impossibly small area, to a sea of tiny awed faces, wondering if they can do a bar spin off the park bench at home. Good luck with the inevitable slew of injuries, fellow parents!
Dungaree darlings Lucy and Yak have a veritable social media palace set up including a huge shop, lounge, and a pink campervan for taking selfies. We grab a festival wristband from them and a free tote bag for signing up which is nice, everyone loves a festival freebie – so then we head next door for to the Thatchers sampling lounge for some cold cider from the very cute Barrel shaped bus.
Heading over to The Feast Collective, a giant marquee full of delicious eats with a DJ booth, and lots of outdoor seating areas to chow down – we are caught in the drift of the most incredible smell, and as we come over the rise it’s clear where it’s coming from… an entire side of beef cooking in a giant rack over and open flame. Shropshire Lad’s pre-order beef sandwiches with something that sounds absolutely magical ‘three-day-gravy’. There were some slots up for grabs without pre-booking but the queues were understandably vast so we missed out this time.
Anyway, It’s such a hot day we sneak ourselves under a shady canopy and grab a fruit platter from The Lille Fruit Cabin with Vietnamese spiced salt to dip into, and a ridiculously good strawberry smoothie which saved our souls. I also feel particularly smug that the toddler is eating something healthy at a festival, 10/10 parenting thanks. While we eat we are treated to the sound of a fairground band… who are on stilts playing Eye of the Tiger. Nothing surprises me at Besti anymore, but it definitely delights me.
Nearby in the same field is the Wonky Bikes park where children are attempting to vehicularly assault each other and their parents (very entertaining chaos), The Scouts are giving demos and letting kids toast marshmallows in their fire-pits, and there seem to be kids wielding bubble guns all around us so it’s just bloody beautiful everywhere. It’s quite hard to describe actually because it feels like you’re never not looking at something interesting or pretty, it’s a little bit overwhelming at times, until the next exciting thing happens to distract you.
We check out the World’s Biggest Bouncy Castle, but determine it to be way too chaotic for small beings (it looks like the Hunger Games in there, I’m scared) and instead opt for watching people having a go at swinging on the giant Trapeze. Again, where else can you possibly walk from one experience to the next like this? The vintage fair ground rides are absolutely full of gleeful kids, proving that the classics never disappoint, it’s all very twee and makes my soul sigh.
Over in Temple Wood we head to the absolutely gigantic adventure playground which is positively teeming with shrieking wildlings. There are three sizes of play equipment so all ages are catered for, and there’s even a tiny steam train giving rides around the park (for a small fee) which is full of excited children and their equally excited Dads.
Elsewhere in the forest in a little secluded dell, a joyful cacophony can be found at The Orchestra of Objects – a playful pile of tubes, pipes, wood and jangly things for kids to bash around and make music. Just another of these thoughtful little playspaces that take Bestival events to another level and makes it feel immersively fun, like you’ve just stumbled upon something magical and secret. If nature itself is your jam, you can join in on one of the tree identification guided walks, stop at one of the little tents offering wood weaving workshops, or give whittling a go.
Even if you spent a full week at this festival, you wouldn’t be able to do everything there’s just so much. I’m going to have to be more brief to fit as much in as possible here. Elsewhere in the woods we tried out some circus skills like stilt walking, diablo and poi spinning, before catching an absolutely stunning acrobatic show by Cirque Bijou who had beautifully feathered ‘birds’ doing daring displays hanging from the trees. We tried our hand at tie-dye which was quite messy and very fun – you take your creation home in a Ziploc bag for washing, and I can tell you that despite the child rather excessively tipping half a bottle of dark violet ink on hers, it actually turned out really nicely and she was so proud to wear it to nursery after the festival.
Coming out of the woods back into Ha Ha Land, we take a chill half hour to play in the Pirate Ship Sandpit, across from a huge under 5’s Soft Play tent, a Baby Chill Out Zone, and a tent entirely dedicated to giving festival makeovers like glitter, facepaint, henna and hair braiding. I genuinely can’t think of an age group that isn’t catered to in some way here.
After that little interlude we hit up the H&M Kids Science Stage and Workshop Tent and were met with a host of things for (slightly bigger) kids to do, all aimed around STEM learning. Lego, tower building, slime making, colouring sheets, architectural drawing… you name it. They also thoughtfully gave out certificates and badges, and there was even a Camp Bestival special edition of The New Scientist magazine which my inner nerd was very impressed by.
Before heading over to the Park Stage to actually you know, see some bands play (we kind of forgot that we were even at a music festival today) we caught a bit of Karauke in Pig’s Big Ballroom, which is a really cute tent full of comfy old sofas and a little stage. Karauke is exactly what it sounds like by the way – a Ukulele band plays covers for you to Karaoke over. Paint It Black was a personal favourite, shout out to whoever chose that one, I’ve never heard it on the Ukulele before and possibly never will again in my life.
On the Park Stage, The Proclaimers are tempting me to walk 500 miles in the opposite direction… no that’s not fair, they’re good just not my vibe. Plenty of people out there were having a lovely time, they were just all over the age of 50. Luckily there’s a plucky child giving the plant-based sausage rodeo bull a go, and it is absolutely bound to end in tears, so I’m off to watch a bit of that.
After popping back to The Feast Collective to grab some dinner (fried oyster mushrooms and chimichurri from The Cajun Rainbow – JFC they were good), we catch a bit of Scouting for Girls, or to be more precise we catch a lot of drunk parents caterwauling ‘She’s So Lovely’ right over the top of Scouting for Girls. Yeah they’re pretty cringe but quite fun, there’s lots of ‘oggie oggie oggie’-ing and telling people to hug each other, Drop Dead Fred would barf everywhere at this mush.
Now for something completely different. We head over to my soul-space, my favourite place, the place a little bit of my festival heart will forever reside in – Caravanserai. How can I explain this to you. The front doors are unassuming, a little dark entryway under a beaten up sign, flanked by high walls made of roughshod steel and boards. Inside however, is the junkyard circus-runaway, 70’s caravan park of dreams. Around the edges are little open fronted houses with psychedelic wallpaper and velvet lampshades, cut in half caravans with chandeliers, and vintage waltzer booths or little tea tables everywhere to be sat at. The day is dimming and Caravanserai is lit by hundreds of bulb and fairy lights, we grab ourselves a fancy cocktail from the bar and head into the old carousel towards the stage adorned with more tasseled and bejeweled lampshades, to see the gorgeously talented Mr. Bruce (of Correspondents fame).
Mr. Bruce is Besti fan favourite, for very good reason – he is one of the most intensely electric performers you will ever see in your lifetime and it’s both a crying shame AND absolutely perfect that he’s out here playing on one of the tiniest stages at the festival. Being up close and in the moment with him is unforgettably fantastic. The mix of electro-swing, hip-hop, drum & bass… it’s weird and wonderful and so completely unlike anything else out there. New song ‘I am Disaster’ is excellent and his chaotic dancing has the entire tent whipped up into a frenzy along with him. There’s an inevitably sad shout out to Correspondents band mate Tim ‘Chucks’ Cole who died unexpectedly in 2020, and a brilliant cover of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ and I just can’t rave enough about him. If you ever have the chance, do not miss the opportunity to catch Mr. Bruce.
On the main stage, London girl Mae Muller is out in a two piece outfit that looks like it’s made from a towel (but she looks great in it, how dare she) and she’s shouting out a fan in the front row who she chats to on Instagram. It’s the teen’s Birthday and it’s an adorable interaction that kid is going to remember forever, even if Mae quips that she’s been told she isn’t allowed to swear in the Birthday song she’s about to sing titled ‘HFBD’ – iykyk. It’s her lyrics from another song that really get me though “…you don’t need a girlfriend, you need a therapist” – I am absolutely all about this being the narrative our female youth are getting instead of the crap we were fed as kids. Big up Mae Muller, it’s going on my playlist.
In the Big Top, Gok Wan’s DJ set is going off to a pretty decent sized crowd, before our (extremely late billing – why so late CB?) headliner: Becky Hill. Under a swirling LED backdrop and amid clouds of smoke, a spraypainted old style phone box stands in the centre of the Park Stage – lit with the name ‘Becky Hill’ where ‘telephone’ should be. If she turns out to be the next Doctor Who, I may actually watch it.
There’s a fairly long winded little conversation act in the phone box, in which we can hear her saying something like “…yeah I’m about to headline a festival can I call you later” which I suppose could be considered a subtle Dom Joly tribute (who incidentally is also performing here this weekend). Anyway, despite the fact that it’s a little stilted, when she pops out of the phone-box aided by her dancers, she is clearly here to party and definitely looks the part – in the most eye poppingly bright neon green and pink jacket, skirt, corset top, and monster stacked platform rainbow boots. Two female acts to close the first night at CB, and a female DJ on the decks – those boots were made for stomping, the patriarchy.
Becky shouts out to Shropshire and the Midlands in general, saying this is the closest she’ll ever get to playing a home crowd, as she’s from Worcestershire – before the stage is lit up with sparklers and fire cannons as she dances around on her enormous death shoes. The crowd is about 80% teenage girls at the moment, who are screaming their heads off, and Becky’s deep melodic voice is absolutely incredible. She calls out “Who here likes drum and bass? I like drum and bass, it’s my favourite genre of music. We’re going to take the tempo up to 174 finally” for ‘Here For You’ but the standouts for me were the big beats Gecko ‘Overdrive’ and ‘Afterglow’. There’s nothing like a night full of lasers and dancing with wild abandon though, is there. I personally think Becky Hill absolutely smashed that performance, and by the sheer amount of people who were out jumping in that crowd, I’d say she did her home region proud.
Saturday morning brings a light rain shower, but nothing is going to dampen our spirits and it soon brightens up for us to walk the colourful site again. Today we pop in on the African Activities tent to give some group drumming a go (very fun), then we laze about on the soft chairs in Bollywood for a while listening to Mr. B – Gentleman Rhymer in the Big Top (also very fun). The arena is definitely busier today, it seems like a lot more day tickets have been sold, which is understandable with tonight’s headliner.
Into the woods we go to check out the Wild Swimming and Paddleboarding area across the water from Slow Motion. Extremely jealous as it’s hot today – why oh why didn’t I pack the swimmies. Slow Motion itself is a lovely quiet tucked away area, with everything from wood fired hot tubs to extreme ice-baths, slow flow yoga sessions and even a tent specifically for napping. If I was a different kind of person, I think getting up early for yoga and a dip in the lake would be flipping lovely. Alas I am the kind of person who crawls out of the tent nest groaning and eats a kitkat.
Under the Sharp’s Doom Bar canopy, we stumble upon a gang of kids attempting to bury a Dad in the sandpit – which covers the entire dancefloor of the space, and includes a rather jazzy little desert island DJ booth. After a little while people come round with free samples of beer, and of Chef Niall Keating’s beer battered sausages with curry sauce. Now that is service.
Over near the Lovebot (I love you Lovebot, what an icon) we catch a leek juggling/acrobatic performance at Rimsky’s Yard, check out Junior Jungle in the Bollywood tent to throw some shapes, and see a bit of a slightly confused parade go by – complete with an entire Dalmation family in tow. Actually the costumes today have been brilliant, we saw a host of Minions as well but our favourite was the family who came as Freddie Mercury in different guises. The Dad was in the pink cleaning outfit – epic.
Up next on the main stage, not to be missed EVER – The Cuban Brothers. Spinning tunes is Kengo on the decks, with Juan joining him for synchronised dance in their snazzy red suits, before “…everyone’s Uncle Miguel” hits the stage. Half Hip-Hop, half drug-baron is the vibe I feel – laughing “We’re the only band who’ve had the privilege of being at every single Bestival and Camp Bestival ever” before getting the crowd full of kids to shout “Kenny que pasa” instead of ‘The Bastard’. “Thank you all for not swearing… this could have been really fucking bad” almost makes me spit my drink out – especially since backstage he had told me there were actually signs in their dressing room asking them not to swear, because this is a family festival.
Ahh well, you’re never going to reign these boys in – their set is full of hip hop, break dancing, flips and fun, and as expected, during ‘Ante Up’ Miguel takes his trousers off to reveal a pair of pants with a tiger face on. “Sorry for the wardrobe malfunction, it’s the eye of the tiger” he quips before shouting out to all the parents bringing their kids here this year. Miguel notes that this is the future of music – and why Camp Bestival was made in the first place. The small moment of sincerity is short lived though. So their set isn’t the filthiest I’ve witnessed by a long shot, and they’ve been bloody brilliant as always, but I can’t help but notice some parents covering children’s ears while he rambles on about his 4th penis reduction surgery in Zurich this year and wonder if they’ve written them off as trouble (which I assume is their ultimate goal to be honest) but my child is currently attempting to do all of Juan’s breakdancing moves on the floor, so I’m going to give them a solid thumbs up as always.
Next up Sara Cox (of radio 1 fame), is giving a DJ set, and although she looks absolutely resplendent in a sparkly outfit – is reminiscent of every hateful school disco I ever went to. The tunes are classic cringe and yes, I do know everyone else loves that but honestly, I wish she’d been on in a tent somewhere instead. I will allow for one amendment to that though – watching a huge crowd of people sit down and do ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ was quite funny, especially all the people dressed as morris dancers.
Eventually the last peaks of burning sun die down, and we are met by the extremely bright pulsing lights of Example. Wearing Mc Hammer pants and a smiley acid tee he is clearly full of energy for this tonight as he jumps and runs around the stage. The crowd is going absolutely bonkers for it, a writhing mass of teens bouncing as one as he yells “kids on shoulders, kids on shoulders” to get as many in the air as possible. It’s a great amped up set to get everyone in the mood.
Next up: the man, the legend, Fatboy Slim. You absolutely cannot live in this world without being a fan of something this man has produced, and although 10.15pm is a very late start for a headliner – the Park Stage area is absolutely rammed with people – and yes, kids galore, mostly wearing ear defenders in preparation.
Bursting on stage in an inflatable blue parrot costume (unsure as to why), Norm is immediately into the fray with ‘Eat Sleep Rave Repeat’ and some bone crunchingly loud bass. There’s too much to mention really, the set is beyond incredible, and I say that as someone who has seen him perform multiple times. It’s not a ‘press play on the hits and let it ride’ sort of affair, he is mixing up every single bit of his work and live mashing it into other things – something totally unique and special. Zombie Nation gets a feature, as does his Nancy Sinatra cover ‘Bang Bang’ and in contradiction to CB’s ‘rules’ he is caught yelling “IT’S BESTIVAL BITCH” over the mic. Ok ok so he didn’t play more than a tiny clip of ‘Fucking In Heaven’ but it was funny.
There are visuals, there are lasers, the crowd is going berserk… his Abba ‘Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie’ mix is absolutely epic and there’s a little nod to the Stranger Things crowd (there were a lot of Scoops Ahoy employees around site today) with the inclusion of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’. We also get some Underwold ‘Born Slippy’, the Ukrainian flag on the screens and then Greta Thurnburg’s soliloquy that very helpfully ends in her saying ‘Right Here, Right Now’ – which sends everyone into an absolute frenzy. It’s truly an immaculate set – we get a bit of absolutely everything. Finishing up with mixes of ‘Praise You’, ‘The Rockafella Skank’ with a bit of The Stones ‘Satisfaction’ and then The Ramones ‘Hi Ho Let’s Go’ – it’s a long one, but so so worth it. I find it truly fantastic that the daytimes here can be so kid oriented but the nights can feel exactly like my original hedonistic Bestival memories.
On Sunday we head over to see the progress of the Woodland Tribe Big Build (an area full of bits of wood, hammers, and some very questionable DIY skills) but holy wow it’s amazing! There’s a huge Tower Bridge type construction which children are carefully hammering bits onto, even if the people in charge of making sure it’s safe do have the faintest look of concern on their faces at times, colour me impressed.
Everywhere tired parents are doing their last ditch efforts to drag festival trailers around the place (some are decorated to a very high standard, one is a full on pirate ship that blows bubbles from the mast) and almost everywhere you turn people have colourful braided hair or sequins all over them. It may have taken a few people a day or so to get into it, but I expect next year to feel even more like Bestival now that they’ve got the spirit of it.
We take a peek into The Grand Indian Art Bazaar, and unfortunately realise that we’ve missed the opportunity to sign up for things, BUT it really is amazing in there. You can watch cooking demos, have Mehndi done, dress up in beautiful clothes, have a go at wood block printing or even take a textiles class – as they have an entire sewing machine set up in there. There truly is something for everyone at this festival.
We take a quick squiz at the Above and Beyond arial performers doing some beautiful moves on hoops and straps, before heading to the main stage for a bit of afternoon movement with Mr Motivator, who looks and sounds quite literally the exact same as he did 30 years ago. The man is a machine, and as always is wearing one heck of a leotard.
Later on Rascal Raves are giving the soundtrack to Bollywood, before an Indian walking band stroll over to play us some more beautiful music around a tuktuk. Sentences you can only write at Camp Bestival for 100. Taking our final opportunities to sample the incredible festival food today, I opt for Bayou – Blackened cajun shrimp with a creole sauce on top of spicy fries, cheese sauce and slaw. I could eat this every day of my life I tell you. However it is spicy enough to warrant another strawberry smoothie so we head back up to The Feast Collective, only to find party curator and main man Rob Da Bank playing a DJ set in the corner. Smooth tunes and food in the sunshine – heaven.
After this pitstop it’s back to the main stage for Elvana (Elvis fronted Nirvana), who jokes that he sometimes sounds like Nick Cage, sometimes like Matthew McConaughey, and hopefully with a little luck, a bit like Kurt Cobain. Elvis’ red caped outfit is extremely jazzy, he spends the entire time rocketing around the stage and jumping up and down, before getting into the crowd to see all his fans. It’s actually bloody brilliant music – not just a fun show. I’ll never get to see Nirvana or Elvis, so I’ll take it thanks.
Over in the Big Top, Dom Joly is talking about how nothing good comes from France and that actually Belgium is the best, but refuses to go all Trigger Happy TV (which let’s face it, is what most people know him from). We take a trip to Caravanserai under a rapidly darkening sky, to hide in a quirky cubby before the rain sets in, and OH but it does. It’s a brief but heavy downpour and we end up singing nursery rhymes with a lovely family we appear to have squashed ourselves in alongside. Eventually the rain dies down and we ruffle our feathers to head off again, but not before catching a bit of Doghouse Derelicts in the Carousel, who are excellently funky.
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin in the Big Top pull a decent crowd, but the lion’s share of people appear to be in the Park field for Sister Bliss’ Faithless DJ set. Rocking a sparkly bomber jacket, she gives us exactly what we want in the form of classic Faithless sounds ‘We Come 1’ and ‘Insomnia’.
Out of nowhere we’re suddenly at the Sunday headliner – Rag’N’Bone Man, a definite change from the hyperactive club feel of the previous two nights. Making his way on stage wearing a Raiders jersey and a giant smile, Rory just looks so happy to be here. There’s no denying that he has an absolutely incredible voice but it is a bit of a culture shock after the big beats of Sister Bliss amping everyone up half an hour ago. Regardless the entire crowd is joining in on the likes of ‘Skin’ and ‘Human’ and his voice carries across the entire site. It’s pretty clear he’s got a lot of fans here, the site is absolutely packed with people, carts and kids still up dancing.
I wish we weren’t going home, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what CB Shropshire has to offer – the sign of a great Bestival. Alas it ends, in the most incredible fireworks show over the Castle which is lit up in rainbow colours. See you next year CB – what a successful and ridiculously overwhelming debut. I need to lie down in a dark room for a few days now.