CH11: A Radical City
Boomtown CH11 may be over, but CH12 was already teased in the finale on Sunday evening. Waiting another year though is going to be difficult!
This year, in the run up to the festival, we were thrown head first into the immersive maze well in advance of the event itself. Through various online entities such as Mr Bliss, OneCor and Ivory Towers Academy, the story was drip fed over a few months, giving us a sneak preview as to what to expect when we finally entered the gates to the city. Whilst it wasn’t essential to get stuck in to these activities beforehand, it certainly allowed for some special (and sometimes more in depth) experiences when the festival maze started on the Friday.
Mr Bliss was the first activity I was introduced to (via the Boomtown Story Facebook Group), and over several days, I found myself staring at images of clouds, searching for the hidden meaning. It wasn’t until a full week later, and after much prompting from the group that it FINALLY clicked what I was looking at! I duly entered the password onto the Mr Bliss website, and was rewarded with an exclusive treatment when I arrived at the festival. How splendid! Being thoroughly exhausted from all the hidden meanings and codes, I neglected to get involved in any of the other activities – accessing emails and sending in Poo samples to name a few. Mr Bliss had made me feel anything but Bliss, so I took this time to rest.
Wednesday 7th August rolled around, and it was time to head to the festival! Travelling down was a wholly uneventful affair, and on approach to the festival at 13:00 we found the roads to be largely clear, with no queues at all. Sailing right into the Boomtown Springs car park (after weaving through some stray traffic cones) in a matter of minutes, the heavens opened just as we began unloading the car. We furiously threw everything on to the trolley and wheeled it to the Box Office – a mere two minute walk from our car. As we had been invited by Boomtown Fair, we had to pick up our Crew Wristbands, as well as Boomtown Springs in order to gain access to the site. Due to a few technical issues, we had a slight wait before we could get in to the festival, but this was resolved and off we headed, past security and into the site!
As we entered Boomtown Springs, we were welcomed by a rather energetic group of people dressed in white – the staff of Springs. They welcomed us into the Reception area, and gave us a glass of bubbles and fizz (in an eco-friendly and compostable cup, of course). We sat down and relaxed for a few minutes whilst getting to know our fellow campers, and watched as new arrivals checked in. The mood was jubilant, and the drinks were flowing, and this was the perfect way to start the festival experience. After a much deserved rest, we headed to find the best place to pitch – advised by the staff – and set off for the far right hand corner of the site, on the hilltop facing the Mansion.
Setting up camp was a challenge, as the heavens opened once more, making it a difficult task to erect the tent. We furiously slammed the pegs into the ground and took shelter inside whilst the worst of the deluge passed. Like the other showers earlier in the day, it only lasted for a few minutes, so we were soon on our second trip back to the car to pick up the last provisions for the weekend that we didn’t manage to bring on trip 1. Thankfully, exiting and re-entering the site was nice and easy, with it’s own security lane. The queues were still minimal at this point, which was great to see, despite security being extra thorough this year. Back at our pitch, we finished off preparations for our camp and had a little relaxing time after all the hard work. This gave us chance to check out the Press Briefing and Map to see where we should check out over the weekend. With so much on offer, we really had a challenge in working out what to do, when!
The facilities in Boomtown Springs were great. and highly appreciated. A Marquee in the left hand corner of the site, to the left of the Mansion, housed the flushing porcelain toilets and individual shower cubicles, as well as “proper” sinks. There were a large amount of each, and it was a completely unisex affair, which worked incredibly well. Whilst there were queues for the showers each morning, these moved quickly and efficiently as people didn’t take all that long when using them. It was a great feeling to actually have proper facilities when camping, especially as we entered the party weekend. Next to the toilets/showers was a Pamper Parlour, with various offerings available to residents, including Hair Straighteners, Dryers etc, as well as some more premium offerings including Massages and Make Up!
Exploring The Site
Wednesday evening saw us heading on an exploration of the site, completely blind. As we have never been to Boomtown Fair before, everything was completely new to us. The location of the different venues was unknown, so this really was a chance to stumble upon those exciting little surprises that we didn’t know existed! Opting to ignore the map, we followed our nose (or rather, the noises) and stumbled through the wooded area adjacent to Springs, that runs directly behind Paradise Heights. It was full of people just enjoying the early evening, relaxing in a variety of different unique and quirky wooded seating, and even some hammocks suspended under the canopy of the trees above. It made for a wonderfully relaxed and chilled environment with a nice atmosphere.
The Psy Forest welcomed us with it’s rhythmic pumping and flashing lights, luring us deeper into the trees. Opening up into a large clearing, we found the first party of the weekend on a very large pyramid-type stage, nestled within the trees. Overhead were several colourful decorative canvases (almost stained-glass in appearance) stretched tightly between the branches, on which the lights caught and created a wonderful twinkling effect. Running directly behind Paired with the music, this was one of those venues that I found myself mesmerized with – and it was only 19:00 on the arrival day!
Heading through and out of the forest, we found a long stretch of track, heavily trodden, lined with a range of tasty eateries catering to the masses. With plenty of choice in this area alone, there was no reason to go hungry over the course of the festival. The choices were wide and ranging, and had me gagging for food even at this early time!
Whistlers Green was an absolutely stunning area of the festival site, set high above the rest. With a phenomenal view of Downtown, I could have happily spent hours here, watching the festival go by. With hammocks hanging between the trees, and open fires, this really was one of those areas you could slip away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the event and take some much deserved R&R in a beautiful area. Everyone seemed that little bit more relaxed up here, and at one with the world. There was an incredible mix of hands-on activities, including Ring making, jewellery classes, Poet groups, Councils, a Spa and more. My favourite aspect had to be the fact everything and everyone seemed so incredibly welcoming. There were no barriers here, making it my favourite part of the festival site.
There were a plethora of other areas across the site, far too many to discuss in this one review, so those will follow in a second review with on-the-ground footage shortly.
Across the weekend, we were treated to a whole host of music, including Ms. Lauryn Hill, Chase & Status, UB40 and many, many more. I found that I explored the site a lot more, and stumbled upon musical acts as and when I was intrigued by the sounds, so it’s difficult to put an actual “review” together regarding specific artists. However, everything I stopped to watch, I absolutely loved.
Chase & Status put on an absolute SHOW, with an AMAZING theatrical aspect to it. Taking place on the HUGELY impressive Relic stage, towering high above the crowd, the lighting package that ran alongside the set was phenomenal. Boomtown really know how to put on a show, and they do this via their massive and intricate set constructions. Relic was the perfect location for C&S, and really managed to wow the crowd with the impressive nature of the area. Looming high above the crowd, we were forced to look up at the display, creating a huge feeling of minuteness in this great show.
UB40 wowed us all, with their crowd pleaser tracks, including Red Red Wine. After all these years, they still know how to impress!
When it comes to theatre, Boomtown have absolutely NAILED it. Unlike any other festival out there in 2019, Boomtown create this immersive and explicit storyline that weaves through each and every area across the site. With characters specific to each micro venue, punters traverse through the ever flowing, ever changing storyline in an attempt to work out exactly what’s going on. On the way, we were given secret missions, found hidden clues, and earned our status amongst the community. Using our new-found wealth to bribe our way to the answers, we found that money really did talk, and, quite literally, opened more doors. The more we earned (read: blagged), the more we were rewarded with. Paradise Heights was the best for this, with an “Us” and “Them” feel when it came to the rich and poor. IF you had the wealth, you were sorted. If you didn’t, well, walk on, bitches, as there’s nothing to see here…
There is PLENTY more for me to cover, but this initial article covers the start of the event, and the overall feel. I have plenty of walkaround footage to come, and a lot of live-event content already posted to my Twitter timeline. I’ll be pushing a second part to this review very soon with a whole host of content, allowing you to see exactly what the festival is like on the ground. Review Pt2 to come.