A sky high pile of envelopes addressed to ‘the parent/carer of’.
Walls wearing unfinished paint jobs, countertops aloft with leaning towers of ironing and a smattering of wrinkly spring onions in the gritty bottom of the fridge.
Trump on the news again doing another something or other terrifyingly ridiculous.
The life/work merry-go-round in perpetuity.
Sometimes I want to get off. To run away from responsibility. To hide from the underbelly and coarse features of humanity that are thrust at us from all directions around the clock. International politics. War. Poverty. Bureaucracy.
Sometimes I only want to see colour. To be part of something free and joyful. To feel warmth of spirit and carefree human connection. To be in the moment, enjoying the present without fear of what the next moment may bring.
Of course those colourful moments exist in the everyday without having to throw oneself off the merry-go-round at full pelt. But to bask in it, to linger in the reverie and emerge renewed, there’s nothing quite like packing up your family and most of your belongings into a van, pitching a tent in a field, donning a pair of neon mermaid leggings and dancing like a maniac for a weekend.
Unlike most of my friends, I was never a Glasto-goer in my twenties. Until about five years ago the closest I’d got to a festival was a muddy, shouty, teenage weekend wearing my one-of-a-kind G’n’R spray painted DMs at Donington Festival of Rock, pretending to enjoy the sepulchral screeching of ‘Pantera’ as fully grown men hurled flagons of lager-piss above the crowds.
When we moved to Cornwall, we discovered the glorious Port Eliot Festival. Literary heaven, quirky music, colourful theatre, boutiquey food and drink, secret midnight discos, wild swimming and fashion life drawing. A weekend of magic, right on our doorsteps, that we could flit in and out of to our hearts’ content and come home to a warm bed.
We’ve been every year since 2012. But this year, we stretched our festival legs a little further afield to Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle in Dorset.
It was our first ‘proper’ festival experience as a family. Full on camping, complete with festival loos and zero electricity. Wholly immersed in the festival, on site and in deep.
We henna tattooed and braided ourselves.
Wore silly hats.
Ate incredible food.
Drank gin slushies and rocked out to the DJ BBQ.
Sat under blankets in the shelter of a neon-lit castle chilling to Clean Bandit and snacking on churros.
Discovered music we didn’t know we loved in the alluring voice and songs of Rae Morris.
Re-discovered music from our childhoods in the 80’s shaped ham of Rick Astley and marvelled at his cameo drumming partner, (who knew Mary Berry could play?).
Re-connected with old friends over G&Ts and made new ones over a delicious communal dinner at the River Cottage tent.
Rode on the swing carousel approximately 800 times.
Giggled and boogied to Indian brass band music.
Met Max and Harvey (if you’re 9, you’ll know this is pretty much hitting the big time).
Sat in the sun and chilled in the beautiful castle grounds, with music and festival fun all around us.
Cried with absolute joy and delight at our boy revelling in every second of Mr Tumble at the Castle Stage.
A life moment none of us will ever forget.
Unable to tell us with words of his excitement, he showed us instead with a beaming little face and bursting-at-the-seams dolphin kicks. We took turns to hold him as he went full on.
Cheering and flapping and lurching in our arms, electrified by the real life stage show of his TV hero happening right in front of his eyes.
There was absolutely no doubt in our minds that, for those forty jubilant minutes, our boy was enraptured.
Moments like that are not easy to come by when your child can’t talk or walk, when he can’t enjoy or perhaps even understand many of the regular common-or-garden things that bring magic to a typical childhood…
…Writing Christmas lists…The tooth fairy visiting…Winning pass-the-parcel at a birthday party…Fairground rides…Unboxing Shopkins…Climbing to the very top of a tree and hiding…
But there he was, partying like a pro and completely spilling over with joy and excitement.
Sheep dipping ourselves into festival life for a weekend also felt a little like rediscovery.
Remembering who we were before the small people arrived.
Remembering who we were before we tripped over the cliff into a world we knew nothing of and where we are still finding our feet, navigating childhood disability and the melee of physical work, admin, persuasion, fear, re-building, trauma, dusting-off, over-organising, isolation and emotional baggage it brings.
In a world where just leaving the house for a day out involves a major planning exercise, for a few days we could just be spontaneous.
But we couldn’t have done that at just any festival. Camp Bestival made it easy for us to do this because they have worked hard to be inclusive.
The accessible campsite was perfectly sited up close to the action but sheltered from noise. With enough showers, toilets and space around us to make it manageable for a family with a wheelchair user.
The Mobiloo was on site with its changing bench and hoist so we could comfortably and safely change our boy. (Although next year we’d LOVE to see a second a third Mobiloo on site at the Castle Stage and down at the Big Top to save the schlep back to camp).
The wheelchair platforms at the Castle Stage make it possible for wheelchair users to see the main acts in comfort and safety.
The main thoroughfares are all step free and wheelchair accessible. We saw many a person zipping about the festival in electric wheelchairs and the terrain was perfectly manageable in our all-terrain buggy.
And most of all, it’s a friendly, understanding and judgement-free kind of a place.
After three days of unadulterated glitter-strewn fun in the sun, we were of course deeply gutted to have to cut it short on Sunday as the wind and rain called an abrupt halt. We weren’t quite done.
As campers across the castle grounds made a Great Escape from the brutal conditions, we glumly packed up our belongings and headed back west along the A35, exhausted, but brimming with the topped-up feeling of a great time had.
At that moment we could have quite happily stayed in festival mode forever.
The laundry pile, however, says otherwise…
Until 2019, Camp Bestival.