Boomtown Fair Chapter 11 was another crazy adventure and I’m thrilled to report back as an official blogger**. Here’s what we loved and learned at the festival this year.
11 Things We Loved and Learned at Boomtown Fair Chapter 11
1. Open your mind… and your ears (but forget about ear plugs).
The joy of Boomtown Fair is its diversity. You can mosh and josh with anyone from ageing rockers to millennial ravers. There are more than 1000 acts performing live, and you’ll find yourself nodding or jumping about to music you’ve never imagined. Wherever you are, the throbbing heartbeat of Boomtown is a bass line that beats from around 8am until around 4am. Ear plugs are a nice idea, but they didn’t work for us, at least not in Boomtown Springs. Although we’ve never been in the Family Camping fields which are meant to be much quieter at night.
2. Don’t dip your toes, just dive in.
I know it’s tempting to hang out on the edges like a spectator, especially if it’s your first time. But Boomtown Fair is a fully immersive experience and the best way to enjoy it is to get right in the centre of the action. Don’t just watch the Carnival, dance along with it from Kidztown to Paradise Heights. Get stamped with paints and lectured by strange characters and sung to in pop-up booths. Earn some Boomtown bucks. Let yourself become part of the story as it unfolds.
3. Old Town at night is unmissable.
There’s nothing like wandering through Old Town at night, when all the weirdos come out to play. Actors in costume lean out of movie-style sets, and there’s always something new to discover. On Saturday, having found The Streets’ performance a little dry (Jed’s blunt review: ‘He’s a talker, not a rapper’), we left the Lion’s Den stage and headed for Old Town. Here, we stumbled across a French band called Pineapple. Describing themselves as ‘a bastard mix of bad Punk and stupid electro’, they were flipping awesome and I’ve been searching for them on Spotify/Soundcloud to no avail. Hopefully they’ll be back rocking Boomtown one day.
4. The Woov app is cool but it will suck your phone’s soul.
One of the new additions this year was an app called Woov, that allows you to connect with friends, find your way around, and create your own timetable. This was super handy when trying to curate our ideal festival experience. Although we did get lost on the massive Boomtown Fair site, even with a map to guide us. However, without it I’d probably still be trying to find my way out through West Gate right now! The downside is that this app eats your battery like crazy, so be sure to turn it off when you’re not using it. Woov works with a number of live gigs, so check it out if you’re hitting up any other festivals.
5. You can get right up at the front with kids, even at the Lion’s Den stage.
An unexpected benefit of being a Boomtown resident with kids is that you get VIP treatment in a crowd. Several times, the boys and I made it to the front of the stage, thanks to adults parting like the Red Sea at the sight of little ones coming through. What’s more, we felt perfectly safe, surrounded by friendly revellers. The boys were thrilled to get up close at the Town Centre stage for Salt ’n’ Pepa (our favourite show). ‘Pepa smiled at me,’ Ezra said afterwards. Watching my lads wave their hands in the air like they just didn’t care to Push It is one of my Boomtown highlights.
6. People love seeing you partying with your children.
‘You lot are gorgeous!’ one guy told us, as we threw shapes to Groove Armada. ‘Is it your first time here?’ I told him it was our second year and he said he’d been coming for 9 years, and how much the festival has evolved. ‘I think it’s wicked that you’re here with your kids, it’s such a great festival’. Another group of ladies (Boomtown Springs hostesses) said the boys were lucky. ‘We wish our mums had brought us when we were your age!’ Kids do get the odd surprised look – for instance, in the heaving mash-up that was Patrick Topping’s 7-hour set at Pagoda Plaza (we danced by the sides for about an hour). But mostly, folks are cool and it’s family-friendly, even outside Kidztown. The boys got quite a few high-fives as we strolled around. They can’t wait to go when Jed turns 13 and they can stay up later in Downtown (the more hectic scene that’s closed to under 13s after 7pm).
7. Eat as much as you want. You will walk/dance it off later.
It’s a liberating feeling being able to stuff your face at Boomtown, knowing the calories will drop off over the weekend. Even if you’re not dancing your wellies off like we did, you’ll burn so much energy simply making your way across the site. Festival food stalls can be expensive (average £8-£10 per meal), so you might want to check out my festival food packing list. As a street food family, I like patronising stalls and tasting dishes from around the world. We enjoyed catching up with our fellow Nigerian – Bayo of Flavours of Africa, whom we met last year – and tucking into jollof rice, plantain and stewed chicken. This year, I also tried Tibetan food for the first time: a combo of beef and potato stew, spinach and chickpea curry, sesame chicken stir fry and beef momo (Tibetan dumplings). Yum.
8. Wear all the sparkles.
Why blend in when you were born to stand out? To be honest, you’ll be more of a misfit in plain clothes or suit and tie, but none of that matters. Wear whatever you fancy, anything goes. You can become a costumed character, according to the Boomtown storyline, or create your own invention. One thing I love about festivals, especially one as wild and wacky as Boomtown, is the people-watching. I dig the fact that the dude raving next to me wearing glitter in his beard and a mankini might be an accountant or a builder in real life. But at Boomtown, he’s free to let his freak flag fly. I came with tutus and sparkles, then picked up a super bling jacket from a festival stall. Thanks to the extra pep in my step, I even got mistaken for a pop star (Eva Lazarus) by one couple. Thanks guys, I’m flattered.
9. If you can, upgrade. It’s worth it.
Gone are the days when we struggled with our 3-man pop-up tent. Since we first glamped at Boomtown Springs last year, we haven’t looked back. I think everyone should have the proper rough and ready festival experience in a big field at least once. But if you’re camping with kids (as the solo adult), you will do yourself a massive favour by upgrading to boutique camping or glamping. Seriously, start saving now and work it into your budget.
We met another mum with kids who was buzzing about Boomtown Springs: she couldn’t get over the hot showers, pamper parlour and flushing toilets. This year, there were no mansion parties but the bar was much cooler, with a DJ day and night and all day menus. Ezra enjoyed watching Ferris Bueller’s Day off on their retro TV with VHS tapes. The Boomtown Springs hosts were as barmy as ever and it’s always a hoot to see their morning antics by the splash pool. On Sunday, it was warm enough that some guests went for a dip.
10. Whatever the weather, the party goes on.
I won’t lie, I was sort of dreading Boomtown Fair this year thanks to the weather forecast. We had a yellow weather warning in place for Friday and Saturday and my phone app showed nothing but rain. Last year, Jed became thoroughly miserable with the rain and we left early after it chucked it down Sunday afternoon. But guess what? Boomtown weather for 2019 turned out pretty great. Friday was haphazard, raining on and off, but there were enough bright spots to make up for the few thunder showers.
Friday night was intense as winds reached up to 40mph and one of the main stages, Relic, had to be shut down for safety. I kept up with Boomtown’s updates via Twitter and website, praying our home for the weekend wouldn’t come crashing down. I was impressed by the quick steps they took to make sure people were safe and housed for the night. But even those campers who had to make an emergency exit appeared to be making their way back the next day! Saturday was gusty but rain-free, and Sunday was gorgeous, barely a cloud in sight. Rain or shine, we partied on.
11. You can’t have it all, but you can still have it.
I had big plans for Boomtown Chapter 11, as the artist line-up was spectacular. We were lucky to see Chronixx (brilliant), Ms Lauryn Hill (a full hour late, but still majestic), Salt-n-Pepa (pure fire), Groove Armada, Ms Dynamite, General Levy, Patrick Topping and some more obscure bands. But I missed out on Horse Meat Disco, Carl Cox, Four Tet, B Traits, Prophets of Rage, Little Simz, Little Dragon and a bunch of others.
That’s the thing about a festival this big, there’s no way you can see or do it all. My boys feel like ‘big men’ now, so we never even made it to Kidztown this year, and totally missed the Carnival parade. It’s best to have a loose idea of who you want to see, then go with the flow. I felt as happy sitting on the grass in the sunshine, watching the boys doing kick-ups with a hackysack as I felt leaping around to amazing live music. Some of my best memories will be playing Whot tournaments in the tent past midnight. Or dancing up a storm and reminding my kids that their mama’s still got it. Damn right.
Sign up or keep an eye on the website for details of Boomtown Fair Chapter 12 tickets. Boomtown Fair is at Matterley Estate, Hampshire, SO21 1HW (Winchester rail). Recommended travel by coach (National Express), train or car share. Kids aged 12 and under go FREE, but require a ticket.
**We received complimentary press passes to Boomtown Fair and Boomtown Springs but paid for our own transport and camping upgrades. All opinions are my own.