It’s official – Spring has sprung. With the longer days and shorter nights, many folks are already itching with the summer bug. Scorching hazy days and wild nights, muddy weekends and free-flowing beer are just around the corner.
If you’re up for a kooky weekend in a whimsical pop-up shanty town surrounded by Wild West rodeos and shipwrecked pirate boats, Boomtown is the festival for you. Nestled in the rolling Hampshire hills lies the most incredible summer surprise. As you enter into this visual cornucopia, you can imagine that this must have been how Alice felt as she walked into Wonderland. The second you pass through the gates you’re surrounded by punters and performers in fancy dress and outrageous costumes, an abundance of international cuisine and a feast of some of the best festival market stalls I have seen – the fun is only just beginning.
Musically speaking, Boomtown ticks all the boxes for me as a punter. From dub and reggae headliners like Damian Marley to drum and bass beats and major names like Madness, Boomtown seriously has it all. Hidden stages tucked away in psychedelically lit woodlands, massive rope hammocks to chill in, and giant canopy beds to lie on as you lazily watch the fairytale world go by set this festival apart from them all. There’s even a beach to lie on!
As someone with mobility limitations, accessibility is absolutely a top priority of mine when choosing festivals. Boomtown I’m happy to say is one of the festivals that has gone that extra mile to make the festival as accessible as it can for all.
The website is clearly written, with a link under “info” to Gama who organise and run The Meadow accessible camping, so you can shoot them an email with any queries. Communication with Gama was brilliant, and it’s easy to see why Boomtown has become more popular with those of us who need a little tlc. The access team have done wonders with a site that doesn’t easily lend itself to those with mobility impairments. It’s worth noting that information on the website advises would be festival revellers that the festival is held on a hill with uneven terrain, so please do bear that in mind. Gama staff do a fab job – but they are not miracle workers.
Boomtown is divided into “Districts” – there is and Uptown and a Downtown, and trust me, you’ll be eternally grateful for the buggy (which is also wheelchair accessible) that the team run to shuttle people around the site.
The festival is housed in Matterley Bowl, which as the name implies, is in a vast basin. One year I really wanted to get immersed in the atmosphere of the crowd at the Lions Den main stage. The vibe was great – only I was on my own and couldn’t physically walk back up the hill. Thankfully there are little viewing platforms at the top of the arena where you can get a fantastic view and avoid the crush, and still soak up the atmosphere, so I learned my lesson.
The Meadow run by Gama is located right in a quite area near the entrance gate, and conveniently next to Kidztown for those who have little ones to entertain. Friendly staff are happy to help with your camping gear, and electrical hookups are available for medical needs appliances. There’s a refrigeration option onsite for medication, and these lovely folk will even help you pitch your tent! Staff also sleep in The Meadow, so there is always someone available in case of emergencies. Punters will be given an additional wristband allowing access to the services offered like accessible showers and loos. (If you choose not to camp in The Meadow, the services are still available to you) In keeping with most festivals, complimentary carers tickets are offered should you meet the requirements.
Aside from the accessible camping and regular camping, Boomtown offers Boomtique camping, with all the bells and whistles fit for royalty. Boomtown’s luxury accommodations put regular glamping to shame with posh-washes, pampering stations and pop-up spas.
Physically, Boomtown can be hard going, and late into the evening a little disorientating with all the activity and crowds of people. Even with a map of the site it can be hard to find your way around – Whilst attempting to get back to the carpark I somehow serendipitously ended up at a rave in Sector 6, witnessing a fabulous display of pyrotechnics and wild mayhem whilst getting my ears pounded by grime. Next time I go for a stroll after dark I’ll take a friend along.
Boomtown is a theatrical extravaganza not to be missed. Year after year it gets better and better. This year boasts Ziggy Marley, The Specials, Frank Turner, and Toots and the Maytals to rattle off just a few.
If you can only fit in one festival this summer, and you love a vibrant atmosphere with some of the best beats in a pop-up town, Boomtown ‘s where it’s at.
Hope to see you in a field this summer!
Photos courtesy of DFP Photographic