The Year Boomtown Fair Stole The Summer

Boomtown Fair 2018

Photo by Scott Salt
Boomtown Fair Review 2018
Boomtown Fair manages to re-capture the spirit of festivals. The attention to detail is second to none.
Line Up
Food and Drink
Entertainment Away From Music
Stage Design
Visual Delight
Food Options
Use of wooded areas
Music and acts can come across as repetitive
Some stages are too quiet
Fields Ahead

As usual, this summer has brought a familiar tale of horror stories from various UK music events; epic queues, bands cutting headline shows early,  overzealous security, money grabbing promoters and the lack of basic infrastructure. Fans spend their hard earned cash on the ever-increasing festival ticket prices and with Boomtown Fair now being one of the most expensive festivals in the UK and Europe. We expect uplifting, celebratory atmospheres, feel-good vibes and immersive events… Now Boomtown they do stuff differently – they do things better – we can safely say this is one of the greatest events you’ll ever come across.

Boomtown Springs

We were offered a camping upgrade with space in the Boomtown Springs area, billed as “utopia in suburbia”. So we decided to splash out on a pre-pitched option, we went for the 2 person furnished bell-tent. I must say Springs did not disappoint. On arriving we were greeted by the Springs characters, that resembled high-end holiday reps offering to carry our bags to the tent and a glass of prosecco. Taking full advantage of the flushing toilets, sinks and showers as well as the bar and eating places that were considerably less busy than those out in the”city”. The Springs staff were great even pre-festival, we were in contact with them a number of times about our bell-tent options. During the festival, we used the “reception area” a number of times that was good for information and just a decent area to sit, relax and chat with people and staff.

Stages and Areas

This is our second Boomtown and we were as blown away as the first time when setting our eyes on the immense stage design and production. When we said Boomtown do stuff differently we really mean it. Not one stage is the typical setup you see at the countless festivals up and down the country. The event is simply fields ahead of every other festival on the UK and maybe even world calendar. From the epic stage designs to “street” performances from actors around the site. You can truly immerse yourself in the festival, it’s atmosphere and the ongoing, ever-expanding story-line.

Our favourite discovery was Tribe of Frog, just one of many hidden forest stages, it was a visual delight. It’s one of the few festivals that really takes advantage of its location using the wooded areas and hills to its advantage. With so much going on and the stages so vast and impressive, it’s easy to forget this is a music festival! Late night fun at Boomtown is by far the best of any festival we have attended.

Each district has its own characters, lingo and atmosphere that adds to the overall storyline you find yourself immersed in over the four days of the event. Festival-goers become citizens of this creative landscape that reflects the current global society. We found ourselves talking about fishes with characters in Oldtown, locked away and dancing all night in “jail” at the police station around the Town Centre while bribing police characters with Boomtowns own currency, doing an Irish jig in a traditional pub in the early hours, hiring beds and getting massages at Paradise Heights. You can get as involved as you like with the characters and storyline, the actors and performers are well rehearsed with festival goers in sensing moods on involvement.

There were a number of new additions and stage/district upgrades this year, we felt the most successful and immersive was Paradise Heights that replaced the hugely popular Mayfair Avenue. With a tagline of ‘Feel better about yourself, become someone else’ the fictional playground for the rich and famous, Paradise Heights certainly delivered with a hotel design towering over the festival offering entertainment for all. We spent a lot of time at the flagship venue Hotel Paradiso, as well as being waited on lying on the hotel beds, in the casino and the enjoying the shows in the micro venues.

Another favourite of ours is Whislers Green, a charming area that feels like a self-contained festival in itself. At the centre of Whistlers Green is the Windmill Stage with its beautiful waterwheels and windmills spinning in the breeze. You can also find a garden paradise, tented stages, a central fire, cafes, chill-out areas, activities, workshops, crafts and education spaces. All of this seemed a million miles away from the colossal stage structures and chaos of the Boomtown city.

The newly formed Diss-order Alley welcomed in its inaugural year with the introduction of more metal and punk at Boomtown. Which suggests the metal community has been steadily growing over the past few years and with the demand evident in the new area and stages. The organisers seem to be gearing up to take a chunk out of other festival’s bread and butter target audiences. We interested to see where this ones goes.

Despite the new additions, still the undisputed champion of stages is Lions Den. From the stage design, to the visual effects, it’s location in the bowl to the raw, almost feral atmosphere created. The atmosphere reminds us of gigs and festivals of old and what a fantastic thing that is.

Food and Drink

The food and drink on offer at Boomtown Fair is amazing. From festival favourites such as burgers and chips, Yorkshire pudding meals, high cuisine including duck to more quirky options. Meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans can all rejoice on the choice on offer. You could get a decent meal for £6 to £8. The Town Centre bar felt as if there was a mini beer festival going on, lots of choice of beers ranging from light beers and lagers to dark heavyweights. A great atmosphere in the evening, it felt as if you were going to your local pub. Some of the best beer, ale and craft options could be found close to the Lions Den at the Frontier Bar. There were also plenty of ciders and spirits with mixers on offer throughout the site. The standard high festival prices could be found around all the bars on site upwards of £5 a pint and more for spirits.

Festival Close

The dramatic and climactic close to five days of immersive gameplay, musical discovery and flamboyant revelry saw the festival organisers put a message of consequences and sustainability out in their annual closing of the chapter spectacular:

‘The future of Boomtown is unwritten, we must consider environment, sustainability and consequences in order to survive…”

The statement from this years’ protagonist the Artificial Machine Intelligence (or AMI) was followed by some revealing statistics highlighting that over 20,000 tents were left behind in 2017.  This stark and honest statement left attendees with food for thought as well as little doubt over the intention for the festival in future years:

We really want everyone in attendance to fully understand the impact we collectively and individually have on this planet and to try to raise awareness and consciousness of this within the wider festival environment, this will form the foundations of what we want the Radical City chapter to explore…  – Boomtown organisers

Organisation and Infrastructure

The issues the festival faced last year with queues and organisation seemed a million miles away. The changes put in place this year to avoid the issues worked extremely well, with festival-goers navigating from the car parks, through the gates and security then to campsites was fluid and easy going. As stress-free for festival-goers as it could be for a large event. The toilets were plentiful and clean for the most part. We had the privilege of having a Springs wristband so the upgraded toilets and shower facilities were a great treat. I would recommend the upgrade to anyone attending the festival, saying that the regular toilets were a good standard as well. Checking out of our Bell-tent at Boomtown Springs and the refund of our deposit was completed with ease.

Boomtown Fair will return to Matterley Estate in Hampshire; Boomtown CH11: A Radical City – 7th – 11th August 2019.

You may be wondering why we haven’t mentioned any acts or musical highlights, it’s because we feel that would do injustice to Boomtown, it’s so much more than a music festival!