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Festival Guide 2012: 'Bestival's for adults as well as kids'


If the term family festival conjures the unwelcome image of bouncy castles and entertainers, Camp Bestival might change your view.

Five years ago, Radio 1 DJ Rob da Bank and his wife Josie thought twice about taking their young sons to Bestival, which they launched in 2004. "It's quite hedonistic, so we were worried that it wasn't the place for the kids," Rob recalls. So he set up Camp Bestival, a family festival and "cool place for kids to hang out".

On the site at Lulworth Castle, Dorset, you'll find all manner of entertainment, such as appearances from the Gruffalo, Peppa Pig and Shrek, face painting and talks by children's authors. But it's not just a kids' festival: it's for families.

"If you have a two-year-old or a 16-year-old, it's friendly, and it still has a cutting-edge musical line-up," says Rob. "We've had everyone from PJ Harvey to Laura Marling, Bon Iver and Primal Scream playing. The emphasis is as much on the adults having as good a time as the children." Hot Chip and Earth, Wind & Fire play this year; Jimmy Carr heads up the comedy tent.

"People have this thing in their imagination that it's just going to be kids' tents, but it's not like that at all," says Rob. "People find their own space, it doesn't feel overrun."

Their careful design of the site ensures that it doesn't resemble a birthday party. There's the wide-ranging appeal of the Insect Circus Museum and vintage fairground. "There's not too much tacky stuff. You'll find groups of adults hanging out as well. So everything is designed to work for any age."

After dark, when parents have tucked their children into bed (babysitting duties are shared), they can enjoy the music. "It's fun but it's also really safe," says Rob. "There aren't people rampaging around. It's quite well behaved."

When they're not managing the site, the Da Banks can be found sitting in front of the stage with their two sons watching the Gruffalo. Last year Rob da Bank took his eldest to see Primal Scream. "I want them to see what's on offer musically."

The formula works so well, it has expanded to accommodate 15,000 adults plus children. "We get parents saying 'how are we going to make the rest of the summer holidays live up to this?' And kids say 'are we going back to that festival?' I think it leaves an impression."