Having heard some great things we were all looking forward to Boomtown, especially the kids’ who were super excited. This was to be our biggest festival as a family to date. And having got into the spirit with a number of festivals already this summer we felt ready despite some people’s misconceptions of the “family nature” of the festival. This however couldn’t have been further from the truth!
The Journey to Boomtown
On arrival (a day later than planned, but more about that later) we found our way to the right gate and were directed into our very own area where we could park our cars and get our wristband.Quick tip… read your paperwork as this will tell you the entrance and colour to look out for on the road signs. I did tell him but at least Andy will know for next year 🙂
Once through security, who were very polite and friendly, we made a couple of trips back to the car before loading all of our stuff on a family buggy that was waiting just inside the entrance! Yes that’s what I said, a family buggy. It took all of us and our belongings to the family camping area. In fairness, the distance from the car to the camping wasn’t that much of a hike and could be easily done with older children. But the option is there!
Having reached the area, we unloaded the buggy and were helped to our pitch by one of the 24-hr security team. So far, so good. I’ve had worse service in a 4-star hotel. The family camping area also had it’s own warm showers, compost toilets and toddler toilets.
On way to our tent spot we were joined by another nice chap who greeted us and helped grab a bag or two. Mike “the knight” was a family camping volunteer, there with his own family, but on-hand to help make sure you camped in the right place, understood the fire lanes and generally helped you out with a bit of knowledge and know-how. All-in-all if it was a 5-star welcome and genuinely the best we’ve had at any festival. They really understood the difficulties of having little ones in tow.
As most of you know the weather across the summer can be very hit and miss and so we just hope the sun shines brightly on the days we need it to. No matter what app or weather channel you listen too, and especially the Met Office, no-one can predict the weather. After the ‘Day After Tomorrow’ style soaking at Camp Bestival last year we had checked the forecast and there was a weather warning in place.
Boardmasters had already decided to close due to the conditions and it was scheduled to thunder and lighting through the night and early morning. We’re talking ‘amber weather warning’ so this time we decided to play it safe and use all of Andy’s beloved Tesco vouchers (seriously I had to prize them out of his deathly grip) to get a hotel near by.
Weather Or Not…
As my luck would have it, and according to the law of Sod, the weather was mild and we would have been better getting one the second night. As I write this I’m holding up the tent with arms outstretched trying to add ballast to the side of our Coleman’s pinto Mountain 5 XL. To be fair, in 47mph winds it’s holding up pretty well considering the battering we’re getting. Many have fallen but we’re still standing.
The only drawback to family camping area is that it’s situated at the top of the hill. It’s very quiet (for a festival) but the worst bit as there’s no escaping the elements. The ground was very stony too – making the drainage great but tent pegs a nightmare. It’s worth investing in decent pegs. The one’s with the screw plastic tops seemed to work much better. We’ve since treated ourselves to a set of drill-in pegs for the future. You never know what the British weather can do so be prepared. Any-hoo, more about the festival…
It’s huge, humongous, colossal and proudly the biggest purely independent festival in the UK. 3km at its widest point and set in the natural bowl of the South Downs Natural Park. We probably didn’t cover half of it. The weather didn’t make it any easier either but just imagine Hunger Games and the 12 different districts and your roughly there.
Each sector had its own unique theatrical concept and identity. From The Forge, better known as Copper Country, celebrating traditional folk music and global fusion to Relic; a super-stage merging technology and nature and some stomping drum and bass beats which Chase & Status dominated.
Weirdly though although I loved bopping along to Goldie Looking Chain (they were funny, very tongue-in-cheek but played some classics) Salt n Pepa, Groove Armada and the most fantastic tribute to Keith Flint of Prodigy fame, I had most fun with the immersive story line.
Where’s the Drama?
Following on from 2018’s chapter 10, the story line evolves over the course of the festival. You play along by collecting Boomtown Dollars, completing tasks and bribing actors for information. The key message this year is sustainability and the green mission. There was evidence all over Boomtown that they really were trying to increase environmental awareness from planting 66,000 trees with tree sisters to water refill stations and recycling with the Eco Bond.
Boomtown has a rolling narrative which means you can dip in and out as you please. For those who want to go deep into the rabbit hole there’s even an immersive maze app to download so you can unlock more secrets and plot twists. We found that getting hold of The Daily Rag; The Boomtown newspaper, and speaking to actors gave us the best information.
With costumed actors and something to see or do around ever corner there’s no such thing as a locked door at Boomtown. You can see why Arts Council England supports them and even provides commissions for young artists and graduates. There was by far the most amazing sculptures, art, musicians and creative talents I’ve seen on show anywhere. On the last day the kids sat for hours watching mermaid trapeze artists, fire dancers and drummers.
A minutes walk from the family camping area, nestled next to the more holistic area of Whistlers Green – in itself home to 100’s of workshops and activities, Kidztown is basically a miniature Boomtown of its own.
It has a main stage, a high street with its own story to become part of. There’s tonnes of activities and loads of things to do, make and explore. And best of all, it’s all FREE.
My two enjoyed crafting jewellery at the Rusty Nails Workshop, practicing their DJ skills in the Kids’ Radio Station, learning circus skills and building a pirate boat. There’s even a parade on the Sunday for the mini Boomtown ravers to join in with.
I’ve been told it’s not as big as the one at Glastonbury but my kids could still have happily spent all day in Kidztown. The Kidztown area closes at 5pm each day and I wish it could have stayed open a bit more. Maybe until 7pm? But like I’ve said there’s still plenty to see in the adjacent Whistlers Green, so much so I think Wilba wants to be a fire dancer when she’s older.
Bits and Bobbies
As you’d expect, there’s plenty of toilets dotted around the site which were all very well looked after. There’s a few ATM machines which saves you needing to bring in too much to start. To be fair though, as you can bring your drinks and food in and all Kidztown activities are free we really didn’t spend much at all. The 3G/4G signal is good too which means most vendors can accept card payments. Networks for mobiles though may vary, my phone O2 was hit and miss all weekend.
What was great to see was the level of security around the place. You needed the right wristband to get into family camping which was manned 24/7. There’s perimeter security and lights at night and real police walking the festival to help keep an eye on things. As a family we were completely at ease among the other 60,000 festival-goers. Everyone looks out for each other and seem especially warming when you’ve got a child on your shoulders.
Would I come again with kids? Almost definitely! Plus I’ve now picked up some handy hints for next year so we can get to see more of it. It’s weird because the only downside to such an amazing and expansive festival is fitting it all in. Although they provide a shuttle-buggy for families which you can pick up at the bus stops we all know walking distances with kids can be hard. So don’t come expecting to see everything on the bill and certain areas like Downtown are not really appropriate after 7pm for younger visitors.
Don’t let this put you off though. The plus side of its ‘plus-size’ is the vast variation in districts. With so much to do you can create the perfect festival for you and your tribe.
Keep an eye out for tickets for the next chapter on the website. I hope I see you next year Crumblers!
* UPDATE – Boomtown have just released a new creative events venue in Bristol and will be opening their doors to Area 404 tonight Thursday the 29th of August for their Halloween Party. I can only imagine how amazing this will be get your tickets NOW!
* I was kindly Gifted tickets to review Boomtown but as always my words are my own!