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Camp Bestival 2012


Lulworth Castle, 27-29 July, 2012

We’re a funny lot, us Britons. Scent of a cock up and we’re in like Flynn. How we relished the comforting predictability of a penalty shoot out exit from the Euros, the Jubilee would have been pretty good if it hadn’t been for the damp squib of a water pageant and the Duke going down with a bladder infection. As for the Olympics, well...

But hang on, for all the pre-Games angst about G4S, trademark cops and legacy, the opening ceremony snatched a home draw from the jaws of defeat – even Paul McCartney being a bit rubbish couldn’t spoil it.

Riding the euphoria of that Olympic opening weekend, what could possibly go wrong for Camp Bestival? In truth, not a lot. The sun shone all weekend on Britain’s nicest festival as 30,000 people had a ball in the shadow of Lulworth Castle, what’s to say?

It all started on Friday afternoon with a shot of olde English dissent as hoary troublemaker Keith Allen presented his anti-Olympics opera Will Cliff Be There? Accompanied by former Black Grape rapper Kermit and various others (including a batch of his kids), Keith bowled the Olympics great balls of ire, imagining how the torch had sucked up the anger of a nation before laying waste to the Olympic Stadium and forcing the Games to be played out on school fields and village greens. Unknowingly it foreshadowed Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, which rather softened Allen’s thunder, but was a laudably audacious attempt to go against the grain.

Adam Ant, on the other hand, is bidding to get right back in the grain with his resuscitated pirate act and a new band, The Good, The Mad & The Lovely. He gives it loads, trots out the hits plus a bonus Get It On and gets off on a genuinely affectionate reception. A trouper to be sure.

Saturday brought a best of Camp Bestival set from Nile Rodgers’ current incarnation of Chic (the disco auteur had been just as gripping in conversation in the Little Big Top earlier) that topped a day’s merry making in the sunshine. Rizzle Kicks had thrilled their young devotees, Jimmy Cliff reliably jollied up grown ups, the Cuban Brothers’ off colour gags made the parents wince, knights jousted, the Insect Circus acrobats astounded all and everything stopped for the Chapel service.

Sunday was noticeably quieter all round, but Lianne La Havas did her best to raise spirits, Rolf Harris did his best to be heard as the wind stole most of his set and carried it off towards the Purbeck hills beyond, a couple got sort-of married in the chapel, Russell Kane read his book out loud, The Moonflowers gave their all to a sparsely populated Big Top and Happy Mondays huffed and puffed their way through a closing set that, for all the piquant recollections it triggered was pretty short on the bite, bile and sneer that once made them roar.

And if there was any doubt, the rapturous reception reserved for the closing fireworks and animation extravaganza projected on the Castle walls confirmed gazing at the sky through rainbow eyes has long since lost its appeal. Indeed, bills, frills and mortgage payments replaced pills, thrills and bellyaches years ago, but the continued success of Camp Bestival clearly testifies it’s great when you’re straight. Yeah!


All photos © Jack Churchill