thu 30/05/2024

Camp Bestival 2013, Lulworth Castle, Dorset | reviews, news & interviews

Camp Bestival 2013, Lulworth Castle, Dorset

Camp Bestival 2013, Lulworth Castle, Dorset

The sixth edition of the family-friendly festival rendered in digestible form

Camp Bestival is overrun with children, even the night is alive with them. Where WOMAD is full of old hippies, Camp Bestival is full of raver-parents who refuse to stop shaking a party limb, even if they must haul little Finlay around on an exotic, duvet-filled gurney to do so. It creates a unique atmosphere, a bit bourgeois but just the right amount of wild, inner children meeting actual children to wobble about to Benga basslines.

I attended all four days of it with my girlfriend and my two daughters, 10 and 15. The rain held off, the sun mostly shone and we set up a proper grown-up camp with two tents and a small gazebo. We cooked every morning and evening - sausages, pasta, eggs, burgers and more on a barbecue and gas cooker - partly because it was enjoyable and sociable to do so and partly because you could spend another £200 regularly eating from the food stalls all weekend.

But never mind that. Everyone loves lists, right? That’s the sell for magazines and websites. Lists, lists, lists. Who wants running copy when you can have a nice, neat list? Breaking it down to bite-size makes it easier to regurgitate later, like those conversational cue cards in the Hawaiian-themed torture chamber restaurant in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. On that note, then, here are the definitive Camp Bestival 2013 lists:


1. Beardyman, Big Top, 11.15 PM, Sunday

London Beatboxer Darren Foreman has pushed the boundaries of his art so far he’s redefined them. Onstage as the Big Top’s closing act of Sunday night, playing to what amounts to a home crowd, he stood in front of an array of keypads, his self-designed Beardytron 5000 Mk.II, and simply built tunes from his mouth for young and old alike, from sing-along silliness to techno and dubstep. He repeatedly apologised for the latter as unsuitable for the family crowd but they didn’t mind a jot and danced themselves into a lather. What he can do with his voice and that machinery is truly astonishing, mind-boggling. Earlier in his career he interspersed his cyber-sonic trickery with patter, and he’s a funny guy so I miss that, but he more than made up for it with an extraordinary show, including a section where he freestyled an amazing drum & bass routine a capella. Anyone who has not seen a Beardyman show should do so at once. He’s leagues ahead.

cb h172. Heaven 17, Castle Stage, 6.00 PM, Sunday

Heaven 17 (pictured right) had a few hits during 1983 and 1984 but only one true smash – “Temptation”. They should, by rights, be a tired cabaret turn yet they’re a consistently dynamic live act, reinventing their material without alienating their fanbase, providing good-natured entertainment while retaining their roots in the seminal Sheffield electronic underground of the Seventies and Eighties. Glenn Gregory is the grinniest frontman in the business and spars amusingly with partner Martyn Ware throughout. The pair duet on a sparse, elegant take on The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”, do a smashing elongated house version of “Temptation” featuring barn-storming vocal showboating by Billie Godfrey, and close with the crisp attack of Human League electro classic “Being Boiled”.

3. John Cooper Clarke, Big Top, 9.40 PM, Friday

The Mancunian goth stick insect poet never seems to slow down. His body is the same shape as it ever was and his mind fires at 150 miles-per-hour (or more). His repartee between poems is as amusing as the actual material, rambling on in his patented nasal sneer about “competing with teenagers” (electronic music next door) and his “life of penury”, interspersed with the odd poem such as “Hire Car”, “Lydia, the Girl With an Itch” (preceded by dire warning to the children present about sexual content) and the timeless classic “Beasley Street”. The man is unstoppable.

4. The Correspondents, Castle Stage, 2.00 PM, Friday

Opening the main stage at the festival's start is hardly a dream job, especially when you’re used to bumping up the bass late at night in sweaty little marquees further afield, yet DJ Mr Chuckles and MC Mr Bruce make a very decent hash of it. Their stew of drum & bass and hip hop, moulded into the big band sounds of the Thirties is both light-hearted and novel, and Mr Bruce, clad in his grubby two tone harlequin suit, dances like dervish amid their black & white stage set and kicks Camp Bestival off in wild fashion.


1. Tea, toasties and beer

A teabag and some hot water in a small polystyrene cup = £2.50. Two slivers of Aldi’s “cheddar” heated between two pieces of plastic brown bread = £4.00. One can of, admittedly cold, Red Stripe = £4.30.

cb fireworks2. Festaxis

For £20 a golf buggy can transport you the few hundred yards from the camp site to the car park or, for a fiver, drive the brief stroll to the main arena.

3. Spin Paintings

A strip of lining wallpaper spun on a disc and paint thrown at it, usually by children. £25 a hit. If the stall was open 14 hours a day and did a painting every ten minutes, minus material costs and a pitch charge of, say, two grand, that’s around £4000 profit. Nice for a weekend's work but still not as juicy a profit margin as those £2.50 cups of tea.

4. Trolleys

Hire them from the car park to drag your Roman-army-meets-Surrey-garden-party encampment onsite. £5 per half hour.

5. Posh Toilets

Camp Bestival’s bogs are fine, a bit smelly and basic but usually containing loo-paper. Pre-2003-ish, they’d have been regarded as posh by festival standards. I didn’t get a price for the actual posh toilets but paying anything so you can do a poo on a loo just like at home is beyond me. It’s a few seconds dropping faecal matter out of your arse into a hole. Get over it and get on.

More Bestival highs and lows overleaf



1. Fabio & Grooverider

Watching Camp Bestival’s final firework display on Sunday night, exploding over Lulworth Castle, drinking JD & coke with my girl while the original drum & bass dons laid it on thick was bloody glorious.

cb dick dom2. Dick & Dom

Preceding Fabio & Grooverider were CBBC presenters and all round larksters Dick & Dom (pictured right), sweaty and practically bare-topped, but their technology had misfired so they had to play their whole set off one CD. The crowd wasn’t bothered a jot as everything from Rudimental to Bon Jovi sent them loopy. Afterwards the pair posed for a photo with my daughters but the flash didn’t go off so I have a shot of indecipherable silhouettes. Bugger!

3. David Rodigan MBE

Having assured my oldest daughter, who doesn’t much care for electronic dance music, that Rodigan’s set would be a history of reggae in its many forms with the eminent dub historian and Member of the British Empire chatting us through it, he laid down instead a barrage of evil dubstep and drum & bass. This got the rest of the party's waistlines moving but we soon took mercy and traipsed away... a little unwillingly.

4. A Love From Outer Space

Hardy underground dance perennial Andrew Weatherall and his pal Sean Johnston ruled Saturday night with a set of slow-pulsing techno styles, full of sex and sedition.

5. Rob Da Bank

The man whose festival this is ends his Sunday night with his whole gang behind him celebrating. When he plays Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” followed by Aretha Franklin’s “Think” the entire Bollywood tent is rent by an absolute explosion of shouting, leaping and good feeling.


1. Headliners

More a disappointment beforehand. Surely there should be at least one absolute crowd-slaying headliner – Madness, Blondie and Chic have all played that role in the past - to give the weekend a proper festival anticipatory focus. Richard Hawley, The Levellers and Labrinth do not.

2. Timetabling

Wonky throughout. I wouldn’t mention this except that I MISSED THE WURZELS due to them not being on when they were supposed to be. I also missed the Vegetable Orchestra Workshop and half a dozen other things. Sort it out.

3. Big Top crowd for The Polyphonic Spree

The Polyphonic Spree were really quite something in their yellow Mandelbrot Set kaftans, their chic easy listening backing singers and their plethora of swingin’ brassy psyche-pop. But no-one came to see them so it was a damp squib. Shame.


1. The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – eccentric steam punk in excelsis.

2. Black Eagles Circus – gravity–defying Tanzanian acrobat dancers.

3. The Vegetable Orchestra Workshop – like it sounds.


1. The Showers

Already at least 20 people deep at 6.00 AM. At a festival. Behaviour completely beyond comprehension.

2. Dingly Dell on Saturday night

The fairylit forested section of Camp Bestival is delightful, effectively decorated as a dreamlike nighttime odyssey. But queueing for an hour for it? I don’t think so. My eldest daughter came across a queue at one point, asked a man what it was for and he said, “I don’t know but it should be something good.” The British, eh, they just can’t help themselves.

3. Churros stall

Squirted tubes of fried dough, powdered with icing sugar and dipped in liquid chocolate… actually, come to think of it, maybe not such a silly queue…


cb lulworth1. Trip to the Beach

One of Camp Bestival’s biggest sells is you can pop out to the beach at Lulworth Cove (pictured left) and the giant Durdle Door rock arch that rises from the sea. A Saturday there, swimming in the emerald surf (no, really, it was) turned out to be my daughters’ favourite part of the whole weekend. Well, equal with Beardyman, they eventually decided.

2. Merry-Go-Round

Year after year it’s there in the Kids' Field and year after year, despite the older daughter long having outgrown it, my girls embrace its Victoriana joys. They even have their "own horses", although they bemoaned the fact someone else got to them first this year.

4. The Wall of Death

Standing atop the rim of a giant barrel as motorbikes and jeeps climb towards you up the sides making an unholy racket is a great adrenalin kickstarter.

5. Plate Spinning

Circus skills should make the civilized festival-goer run screaming to the hills, clearly, but waiting in the Kids’ Gardens for one of our party to return from an extended sojourn, everything from hula hoops to diabolos laid out for general use about me, I found myself drawn to having a go at spinning plates. I admit it. I started to enjoy it. Enough.

6. Mr B, the Gentleman Rhymer

Acting as MC in the Big Top, his Salad Days-banjolele-gent-does-hip hop schtick is still great fun but it needs a twist, perhaps even a few twists, to freshen it up.

7. Pig’s Big Ballroom

A great haunt to drink and chat while listening to rockabilly and oddly dressed gents playing shellac 78s, all hosted by the unspeakably cheeky Mr Theodore Twice Rodigan (no relation to David).

cb horrible histories8. Horrible Histories.

The BBC childrens' TV success story (pictured right) has been franchised and two actors did a fair job of it – especially Henry VIII - but it was watered down compared to the real deal and, sat next to the speaker stacks, its shrill, slapstick tone was rough on heads still recovering from the previous night.

9. Fake Bush

A lady from Brighton running around the main Castle Stage in a leotard doing karaoke Kate Bush sing-alongs. And getting away with it.

10. Sam Lee

The folkie appeared after Dick & Dom had held court, pulling off a frantic party games session on the main Castle Stage, and his sudden turn to dour folk numbers about veneral disease, even with an introductory joke, was total car crash programming and the field consequently emptied.

To Conclude (Not a list - apologies)

Camp Bestival remains a gentle antidote to the madder, druggier realms of festival-land, a place to train up the young ones, part summer camping trip, part village fete, part rave. It's certainly full of novelty extras on which attendees can waste time and money but, for those who cherry-pick, it remains a sweet-natured annual treat.

Watch footage of final firework display over the castle

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