Family Travel

5 lessons in rewilding from Camp Bestival

11 August, 2015

Last weekend you might have found Ramona and I sitting in a tiny big top, watching a shadow puppet ghost show run by a mum and her two daughters, complete with piano accordion accompaniment and tap dancing. Or you might have found us capering about to a cover of Ice Ice Baby done by a skiffle band. Or making mud gargoles to stick on a collective mud mural. Or you might have spotted Tim, dressed as a giant croc getting started on by a giant tiger…

Because, OBVIOUSLY, we were at Camp Bestival. The only place you can hope to do all these sweet/ absurd things.

This year I attended partly as a blogger, intending to write about it, and partly as an artist.

I was the tantalizing gogo dancer for the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. Did you spot me?golden wings

I jest, I jest.  That would be my dream. Getting my proper super duper weirdo moves on in front of 30,000 people wearing 4 metre gold wings. HELLO.

In actual fact I took the stage in a bit more of a sit-downy fashion at the Guardian Literary Institute being interviewed by the (hilarious and brilliant) Scummy Mummies about my book Happy Hair (no golden wings but I did wear sequined hot pants.) It was so, so much fun and definitely a massive highlight for me and my book!

Camp Bestival also provided exactly the thing I needed for my next book; a ginormous dollop of motivation! This year Camp Bestival was all about being wild, which, perfectly, is exactly what my next book is about. A thirty day guide to rewilding our families, due out within the next 30 days. (Hehe.) That word rewilding is something I am really delving into. It speaks of restoring a part of us that has been lost, our wild selves.  I think you are going to LOVE it. Eeek, I have the biggest smile on my face just thinking about all these inspiring little stories in it… gah…. I so want to tell you more but I think I should save it for when it comes out… *internal struggle*

Let me crack on with a few of the things Camp Bestival inspired me about, when it comes to rewilding….

Many kids want time in the wild more than anything else
One of the most loved parts of Camp Bestival is the Dingly Dell- a collaboration between nature and artists. There are nature walks and activities, forest crafts to make and conservation knowledge to learn. Mostly there is mud. And where there is mud, children are happy. On Sunday afternoon we spent 4 HOURS playing in mud, along with a hundred other families also playing in mud. We had a mud tea party and made mud sculptures and some children covered their whole bodies in mud and others managed to make mud pies without getting any on their hands at all. It is funny that at a festival where there is every delight a child might possibly fancy, it is this muddy haven that remains the most captivating.

Here is a little video I made in the Dingly Dell – can I tempt you with a, erm, cake? A mud cake?

Native english moths and primates are basically twins
Talking with one or two of the organisations present (WWF and Wild Futures specifically) it became clear just how related the insects in our gardens are to those rare primates that are on the brink. Both are in decline as a result of human activity, and both can be restored if we take our role seriously and if children fall in love with nature. It is absolutely true that saving the world’s wildlife begins in our backyard. (More in the book!)

Nature has the power to suspend our cynicism
One of the most inspiring conversations I had over the weekend was with a chap from a little organisation that runs holiday camps for children, run by teenage volunteers. He was sharing story after story of how too cool-for-school teens came along to camp, who, by the end of it, had their stony facade broken down and were trusting themselves, and others, and nature again. Seeing the magic. Finding the space simply to be. He told me how on Saturday night a few of the teenagers ditched the Kaiser Chiefs and came to the Dingly Dell and simply sat in the dark, under the stars, weaving nettle braids.

We all want to secretly embrace our wild side
There are three things I love about Camp Bestival. Firstly, seeing families rocking out together. I love it. Teenage boys raving with their mums. Daddies and daughters busting their moves to Ella Eyre (who was one of the absolute stars of the weekend, as well as Crazy old Arthur Brown.) I actually get emosh seeing families dancing together. (Bit strange, I realise.) I also love the thought put into the festival creative- incredible installations and artwork everywhere you look. Finally, I love how people throw themselves into letting go – mostly in terms of dressing up. The amount of mums who had quite obviously said YES to their kids painting a rubbish animal mask on their face. Hilar. And onesies, and ears and tales and sparkles. No one really trying to look good, but everyone just embracing this little wild part of themselves, the bit that we normally kind of repress in order to stay sane on the daily commute. Hehehe. So great.

 The wild can transform us
I spent a lot of the weekend interviewing people from different projects and was overwhelmed by the stories people were sharing of how nature has transformed someone’s life. From the 3 year old preschooler who got a huge boost of self confidence from learning bushcraft, to the teacher who found a vocation in helping people see themselves as pivotal to the thriving of wildlife. I had a book partly written about the power of nature, and now I have one bustling with actual real life stories of it. So, so incredible.

So, yep, there goes Camp Bestival being legendary again! (If you want more Camp Bestival goodness do check out 76Sunflowers– who took the above picture of me and the Scummy Mummies- Mammasaurus, Kate Takes 5 and a whole bunch of official Camp B Bloggers.)

The only downside to it really was that I think it has grown up a bit quickly – it is like the adolescent boy who had a growth spurt and now his  trousers bash his ankles, revealing mismatched socks. On the Saturday afternoon the kid’s garden was utterly rammed and it was actually hard to move around. I hope they consider capping numbers or expanding the venue for another year. And, of course, the cost… it is absolutely stuffed with value, and worth every penny…. but still, I can’t help but feel a bit bummed about how prohibitive the ticket prices are, and the potential for things like this to become a middle class love in. So far it hasn’t, there is no rich-kid vibe at all. But perhaps for next year they can release the first 20,000 tickets at half price to bonafide socialists or something? Hehe.

Let me leave you with another video – a day in the life at Camp Bestival – see how many Ninja Dinos you can spot…

Have you been to a great family festival this year? Would love to hear from you, and any thoughts you have about rewilding…

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  • Michelle 11 August, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    I think we could all benefit from some rewilding! I know I could 😀 I loved being away from everything for the weekend, and have been on a right misog comedown since we got back. Love the video – wish we had gotten the chance to go into Dingly Dell – planned it for Sunday, but I got sick and we went home a day early >_<

  • Siobhan 11 August, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Can’t wait for the new book! How exciting! Back to nature for kids is sooo important. Just back from visiting g I laws where my sister in law (a primary teacher)insisted on driving 1/4 mile to the tiny playground set on Tarmac in the middle of stunning Irish countryside of lakes and mountains – then bundled the children back in the car when it drizzled for a minute – in Ireland! Are her kids nervous of outdoor play? You betcha! These are country dwelling kids, not urbanites… Oh and yes to stopping crazy festival prices. We can no longer afford to go 🙁

  • Emma 12 August, 2015 at 6:07 am

    I’m so jealous of everyone that got to go to Camp Bestival, it looks AMAZING. i reckon I’d have spent most of the weekend in Dingly Dell.

  • Cathy 12 August, 2015 at 7:17 am

    WELL excited by the sounds of your new book. I found Last Child In the Woods a really great read and am completely passionate about time with nature for all of us – adults and children alike. I’m quite proud of the fact that we all spend masses of time outdoors and being in nature is a hugely important and significant part of my children’s childhood.

    It was a hugely significant part of my own too. I found real solace in nature and the outdoors when I was growing up. My parents weren’t active or outdoorsy so it was something I found by myself, and even now when I feel low or blue I know nature will comfort and soothe me.

    Camp Bestival sounds amazing. I’ve actually never been to a festival but it’s on our to-do list. They are eye-poppingly expensive though! When I found out how much tickets were I was honestly gobsmacked.

    • Amanda A 12 August, 2015 at 7:11 pm

      I’m exactly the same Cathy!
      I’ve never been to a festival but you like you, it’s on our to do list.
      When I discovered the prices of just a SINGLE ticket – my husband had to pick my jaw up off the ground!
      The reason we haven’t made it yet as I just cannot justify the prices of tickets! I have a huge internal fight inside me going on as I have a “you want to go, it will be fun, cool etc/Noooo….at that price not on your nelly…”

  • Emma 12 August, 2015 at 8:23 am

    Rewilding sounds well – wild and just what families need.

  • Donna @ Little Lilypad Co 12 August, 2015 at 9:02 am

    I think we all totally need to embrace our wild side and I need to take heed of this!

    I am so nervous of festivals but I think I need to be brave and give it a go!

    Good luck with the new book!

  • Michelle Twin Mum 12 August, 2015 at 9:09 am

    I’ve never braved a festival yet as I’ve not camped since I was 14 years old but we do get loads of time in the outdoors luckily. The joy of living 220 glorious acres. Mich x

  • HPMcQ 12 August, 2015 at 9:52 am

    can i embrace wild but in a boutique tent with a bed, duvet and gorgeous linen though?
    the dingly dell is the best place. i’d love it to be at the bottom of my garden actually 🙂

  • Penny Alexander 12 August, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    I missed it this year, I loved the wild theme last year, led to some great discussions, but there wasn’t enough space to be really wild there – my kids are a bit older now and needed more room, and were also more immersed in the main bits of the festival. I also wonder if they are also preaching to the converted on being wild, my kids do wild stuff in nature all the time, that’s why we go to festivals. Just some ponderings – you clearly had some great conversations and that’s the really lovely bit about like minded people coming together. Great video and wonderful post, love that bit about the gold wing gogo dancer, fooled me!

  • Boo Roo and Tigger Too 13 August, 2015 at 3:29 am

    The Dingly Dell sounds amazing and how much fun the children must have had playing in all that mud – fabulous

  • Andrea 13 August, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Sophie has spent the last year attending forest school and I cannot begin to describe what it has done for her. She loves being outdoors and now has bags of knowledge and confidence. I think we all need to embrace our wild side a little more and get in touch with nature. Its so good for the soul.

  • Laura 13 August, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Saw your talk at camp bestival and have not stopped talking about you and the meeks (or used shampoo) since! Am in the process of breaking out of the normal 9-5 grind but sometimes feels a bit lonely (and judged) so stories like the ones I heard that weekend have really inspired me, thank you so much x

  • Kara 15 August, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    My kids would have spent the whole 3 days in the Dingly Dell if they could – was disappointed it didn’t open until 11 and that there was already an almighty queue. We did think it was the best Camp B yet, but it was full to bursting, especially on the saturday

  • Stephanie 15 August, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    Fab post. I’ve been considering a Bestival visit myself, but have wondered about the busy side of things! We have four kiddiwinks therefore a busy festival may prove to be tricky until they are older.

    The other reason I have yet to make Bestival is because we have just done Starry Skies for the third year. It’s I. The stunning Brecon Beacons and Is the ‘baby’ festival to Shambala. It’s a more intimate family fest – 200 families where the children roam free! We love it!! Bestival happens a few days after, we may attempt that one in a few years time!

  • 76sunflowers 20 August, 2015 at 3:22 am

    Ha! I love your half price ticket idea! Wildness all the way I say. Because of you and your wild ways I am now day 13 of no poo so go you 🙂 Oh, *whispers* I can’t see my photo of you!?

  • kumari linley 21 August, 2015 at 8:40 am

    I am sooo excited about your rewilding book! We are taking our small people to the Into the Wild summer festival to rewild. And we are in the process of moving from East London to the Blue Mountains of Australia later this year to help us get in touch with our wilder, more authentic selves. You and your little family have unwittingly inspired us so much with your running at beauty with wild wind in your shiny poo free hair….xxxx