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All the fun of the Boomtown Fair

Music festival and mini-city, Boomtown Fair returned for its 11th outing - A Radical City - this month. We plastered on the eco glitter and dove in for a spot of pure hedonism.

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Photo: Jody Hartley

I love a festival me. I’ve done them all – Glasto, Bestival, Isle of Wight, Victorious and many more. And, while I may not be as keen on roughing it camping nowadays (I like my showers hot and my bed not made of the floor, thank you very much) I still love the vibe and the randomness that attending a music festival entails.

So the chance to check out Boomtown Fair, a festival/mini-city of epic proportions located just outside of Winchester, was totally up my street. I picked up my trusty wellies and set off for “A Radical City”.

The festival has been in existence for 11 years, starting off initially in Gloucestershire, relocating to Bucks for one year before settling at the Matterley Estate where it remains to this day.

The festival has A LOT of stages – 25 to be precise, with an additional 80 “street venues” dotted across its various districts. Don’t fear though as although there’s bound to be a few clashes, a lot of the stages don’t kick off till the sun goes down so you can certainly get your fill of everything on offer.

Boomtown Town CentreThe one thing that really struck me about the festival site is just how much effort and work has gone into the setting. The stages are more than just stages, they’re pieces of architectural art, with each area having its own specific vibe, music and look.

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Photo: Jody Hartley

The Lion’s Den mainly focuses on Reggae and Dancehall, with the headliners appearing here as it’s got the most space. It even has its very own waterfalls… yes, waterfalls.

Boomtown Lions DenThe original main stage is located in the Town Centre and each building has its own little personality, with faux advertising and you’ll find queues of people heading into random buildings for quirky little mini-events happening absolutely everywhere. There’s also Copper County (built like the lawless West.. Deadwood-style), DSTRKT 5, AREA 404 and many more.

There’s also KidzTown, which initially surprised me as the festival is has a deep association with dance music, but the area is tucked away on the hilltop and was absolutely rammed with hands-on crafting, entertainment (that the adults were enjoying as much as the littlies), circus schools and street performers.

Boomtown PsytranceThe crowd and the vibe are extremely diverse. There were plenty of hot young things dressed head to toe in neon spandex and 90s clobber (that I wasn’t entirely sure was on-trend or an ironic statement. Honestly, I saw about 7 Spice Girls t-shirts) in direct comparison to the habitual festival-goer with no-less 17 Glasto’s under their poncho and an arm of wristbands up to the elbow.

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Photo: Jody Hartley

The melting pot of sub-cultures meant the whole place had a really happy atmosphere, people watching out for each other and a real sense of open-mindedness.

Boomtown poutineFood-wise (and to me, that’s a VERY important part of a festival) you are really spoilt for choice. Vegan, veggie, noodles, pizza and more. And while I wouldn’t say it was in the realms of pop-up fine dining you see at a number of festivals, the quality and range were excellent and I was able to source some rather top-notch Poutine with maple candy bacon to fuel myself up.

The music was also excellent and gave me the opportunity to see bands I’ve never heard of (the World Music selection is particularly high par) and acts that I thought I would never see.

All in all, I was really impressed and found it was totally the opposite of what I expected. The theatre and little quirky details (of which there were thousands) really elevated this from other music festivals I’ve been to. If you like your events quirky and packed with bizarre and memorable moments, you’re going to love it.

THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Muso heads and those looking for a Glasto vibe without the hassle of getting a ticket. There’s acts here you won’t see anywhere else and the eccentricity is pretty pure and non-commercial. Also, if you fancy reliving your raver days then the Psytrance area will take you righhttttt back.

Not for: Those hunting for a high-end luxe festival experience. It’s big, it’s muddy and there’s an awful lot of burger stands. There is glamping and an upgraded camping area (which even has its own swimming pool), but this is as “festival-y” as you can get and an open-mind is a necessity. Also, the site is very hilly, I clocked up about 76 flights of stairs on my Apple Watch in one day *PHEW!*

Damage: On the higher end of festival tickets. A weekend ticket with 4-day entry is £244 with a booking fee and eco-bond on top. Car parking is an additional £26 on top. Considering how many acts and experiences you get for your money though, if you want to do a “big” festival it’s well worth the dollar.

Have you been to Boomtown? What was your favourite district? Let me know in the comments below!

The next Boomtown Fair is planned for August 2020, Matterley Estate, Alresford rd, Nr Winchester. Hampshire. SO21 1HW.

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