“The UK’s maddest city!”
Date: 9th – 13th August
Location: Matterly Bowl, Winchester.
Security: Lenient and sparse
If you didn’t go to Boomtown Fair this year, then I’m sad to say that you missed out BIG TIME and if you have never heard of it before, you have been missing out on one of the most unique festival experiences out there. It’s all very reggae and roots based, with ska and a lot of gypsy funk, but even if that’s not your thing, you can still guarantee yourself a good time.
“Not for the faint hearted – an absolute nightmare for health and safety inspectors. You need to see this to believe it.”
Matterly Bowl is an interesting venue. You will most likely be pitching your tent up on the side of a hill. The initial walk into the site is killer. If you’re carrying a lot, you will need a few breaks on the way. The main town and campsite are located at the bottom of the bowl and in that heat, it’s one of hell of a mission that will leave you getting pretty ratty with your friends. That is, until you find your space, put your stuff down and crack open your first beer.
Now one of the best things about Boomtown Fair is that once you’ve gone past the first bag check where you scan your ticket, that’s it, you’re in. You can set your tent up less that 15ft away from the entrances to the town, if you wanted to. This means no being searched before going in, which means for a very messy festival. Being able to take your alcohol into the venues is a luxury that shouldn’t be taken for granted.. and it certainly wasn’t. Absolutely everyone was smashed. Smashed in a incredibly friendly manner. Festival goers are easy to talk to and it’s easy to meet new people. In a place where you are so mentally enriched and blown away by all the small details means that there is always something to talk about.
The organisers and decor team did an incredible job in actually creating a town. When you walk inside you are actually entering “Boomtown”. Each entrance leads to a venue, a shop or just some random little installation. You can look in all windows and go through every door. It’s actually amazing, even if you are totally sober. There is some crazy stuff wondering around town as well.. You will almost always come across something that will make you look twice:
Health and safety inspectors would have had a heart attack at this festival. I just looked behind me to see this metal beast/motorbike stomping my way and bursting flames out from it’s mouth, without a steward to guide it in sight. I absolutely love this nitty gritty and dirty feel, where you’re not being coddled by officials every step of the way. Although I wouldn’t be too surprised if I heard that some people got burnt.. or even run over. Then I originally thought this was just a lady with some nice get up transporting her baby around, then I looked in the pram to see this bruised up face with powder all around her face staring back at me. I followed them for a little while just to watch other people’s reactions. These are just two of the hundreds of little details that made this place so mental and pretty fucking trippy.
The hidden forest was a great place to escape the heat, when you were sick of melting to your tent or turning into a pork scratching outside. It was full of fairy lights and suspended butterflies playing funky reggae beats. Laid Back were sick with trippy effects echoing all around and plenty of spliffs lighting up all over the place. In fact, I saw more spliffs this entire festival than I did cigarettes.
Arcadia will blow you away, quite literally.
Arcadia spectacular was most people’s favourite place to be at night time. Midnight is when the Arcadia show kicked off and the acrobatics, pyrotechnics and laser show started. There is something truly exhilarating about raving to this lighting show and nothing more satisfying than a huge fuck off burst of flames lighting up the crowd as the music drops. Krafty Kutz did a seamless set on the final night that had everyone moving. Just behind Arcadia once a night a massive atomic bomb type blast exploded on the hill and sent a mushroom cloud up into the sky. Stanton Warriors killed it, whilst Shy FX sort of missed it a bit with sound issues interfering with the vibe on the first night. Over all quite astounding.
The final night showed a firework display like no other I have seen before, lighting up the entire sky. I felt bad for people who were inside tents at this point because it lit up the sky and had everyone oohing and ahhing. There were even a few smiley face explosions.
There were also plenty of mobile stages and DJs. From the church on wheels, to the jail house that moved all around the festival to the “Police Rave Unit” which looked just like a real police van and blasted out “woot woot, it’s the sound of the police” as the ravers partied through the crowd.
I would have given this festival 10/10 if it were not for the problem with the water taps on the first and second day. There was no water available from any of the taps on one of the hottest days of the year, so thousands of unprepared festival goers with crazy come downs and mad hangovers had no where to quench their thirst. Even the stalls were putting up signs saying “No water available here”. Once the taps were fixed, it was quickly forgotten, because everything else was just so good. Everywhere you looked there was entertainment. Whether it was the music, the street performers or the festival goers themselves, there was always something going on.
Big up the security for ignoring the jays being rolled all over and allowing people to keep their nos and cannisters. I expect there just wasn’t enough space or staff to deal with this many wreck heads. Police presence increased after a serious assault on the second night, but only on a mission to track down some one in particular. Otherwise you could see them having a good time and laughing with the festival goers.