Everyone has their own preconceptions when the word ‘fair’ is uttered. Nostalgic memories of sugary treats, adrenaline inducing rides and a sea of colours come to mind. Whatever picture the word ‘fair’ paints for you, be assured, Boomtown Fair is no ordinary childhood horror, nor an adult fantasy; it‘s a realisation for anyone brave enough to take the ride.
With no less than 25 stages in the midst of aesthetic pleasures, musical wonder and the odd Ferris wheel popped in for good measure, the festival is not one to be missed. I first went to it last year on a whim and was not disappointed. True to my word, I returned this year to be blown away for a second time. In its third year, Boomtown is a vibrant flower only just finding it’s colours.
The festival is situated in the south of England - in a secret location, the key to a good time…suspense. The tickets were purchased for only 97 quid and with the line up announced and boom buses commuting from most major cities in the UK, everyone had themselves an adventure. Never mind Peter with his never land, all participants are sure to come down with their return tickets however the destination is anyone’s guess until a week before the festival. Whether this is to keep the police out and the fun in or just to enchant the customers, whatever the reason, it works.
This year it was held in the rumbling Winchester countryside. With all the appalling riots taking place in our capital, just as the facebook group suggested: ‘one was glad to have a quiet pint in Winchester and let it all blow over’. With music stemming from reggae, folk, drum and bass, dub, ska, rock and techno you can cast your stick in the water and pull out any musical rubber ducky you like.
It all kicked off at midday on Thursday 11th august with 4 full days of wonderland to enjoy. Once you get through the standard ‘I hate my life why did I bring so much stuff to this festival’ moan in the que, you see in the distance ‘welcome to boomtown’ and the glory of boom touches every sense. The smell of naughty treats fill your insides, the sweet sound of base intoxicates your ears and the fusion of tents, flags, lights and sights captures your eyes. Nothing was left but to set up and party.
Although the line up didn’t start until Friday, enough people are well aware of the boomtown spirit to know that its more than a good idea to get down on Thursday. With the Bad Apple Bar selling her shots of spicy cider and pints for 3.10, she was walked all over in D.M’s, hunters, trainers, flip-flops, barefeet; anything goes. Boomers got ready for the beats to drop on Friday.
The Town Centre was the main port of call with a six stack sound system set up, in collaboration with Audio function and Arcadia, providing an exceptional level of surround sound that could be heard all the way from the campsite. Boasting the likes of the flamboyant gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, London based band The King Blues fusing folk and ska together and the comedic welsh rap group Goldie Lookin’ Chain.
The Lions Den is the attraction for the reggae root lovers. A place favored by many boomers, set up in a huge red and yellow tent it was hard to miss. With stacks of Funktion 1 surrounding the stage and complex lighting the den was unparalleled creating musical and visual bliss. You couldn’t of wanted anymore from the line up with a fusion of artists such as Iration Steppas, Congo Natty and Kenny Ken. Laid Blak held the Friday night slot, captivating the audience with their reggae flair and good humour leaving us wanting more. The nine piece British based dub band Gentleman’s Dub Club owned the den on Saturday night creating a burning atmosphere,. Reviving even the weariest of boomers and keeping everyone on fire until the early hours.
If you were looking for the filthiest of bass lines and some dirty DnB the Bassline Circus lived up to everyone’s expectations. A place where ‘rave is the law and you will obey’. With huge names on the bill including Foreign Beggars, Miss Dynamite, DJ Zinc and Ratpak whether you were boogying, bopping or skanking the music couldn’t help but take hold.
If those 3 main stages had not quenched your musical thirst enough Downtown Boomtown provided everyone with the opportunity to rave on. With the reckless urban feel it felt like you were entering a dark and seedy world of backstreet hideouts and scandalous lock ins. A place not for the faint hearted, it boasted a variety of venues such as the scandalous casino, the surreal body shop, the lively leisure centre and the ASBO circus there was no shortage of parties, poles and pints after the music had finished on the main stages.
Boomtown is open to all ages. The perfect place for a dirty skank, a baking boogie or a family frenzy for hippy kids; booms got it. Although we are all in our early twenties, on Thursday we meandered around the Kids Tent and it did not disappoint. With a friendly atmosphere, painted kaleidoscope horses, free face painting and fairground rides all the kids (and adults) were kept amused from idyllic outside revelry. When the kids get hungry and the adults get the munchies, an array of supplies are available on site with shiny happy faces ready to serve. From veggie vegan vans to pig roasts, fruit juice to shots, homemade pizza to burritos, tobacco to shishas boomtown has it.
Despite the festival doubling its numbers since last year and with its varying location, it still manages to keep its magical fair-like atmosphere alongside its raver roots. The festival is a playground for the young and old, a pleasure for the good and the bad and provides a wide spectrum of musical genres, leaving every boomer satisfied and eagerly awaiting the ride next year.
Written by Jessica Wright and Phoebe Arbuthnot