10 Reasons why Boom Town Fair is the Most Bonkers Festival I’ve experienced to date.

Leila and Emma in Alien attire to match the Boom Town 2012 'Out of Space' Theme

Emma & Leila in Alien attire to match the Boom Town 2012 ‘Out of Space’ Theme

As many of you will know, if you have looked at my actual Bucket List, I have quite a thing for festivals. Not all festivals are the same. I’d never heard of Boom Town before I entered a competition to win tickets to it so that I could see a band I love called New Groove Formation back in June this summer. It is now a firm favourite despite not ticking all the boxes of what I previously would have looked for in a festival. It was grimy, a little bit shabby around the edges, and more dirty than other festivals I had been to, yet I LOVED it-here’s why:

1) New Groove Formation – They have to go right at the top here for us, because without them, I might never have heard about this mad party, and also because they had the entire tent dancing and jumping on that first night! They are absolutely amazing live, as their energy and chemistry as a band is massive!

Iain from New Groove Formation came to say hello as we were settling into our Pod Pad

Iain from New Groove Formation came to say hello as we were settling into our Pod Pad

2) Special Effects – This was just the most incredible festival I have ever been to for special effects. Aside from Arcadia, which I will mention below, I saw:

  • mushroom bombs randomly going off on the hill top in the distance – these went off randomly, and looked like atomic bombs! The BOOM was so loud that the ground shook and the crowd screamed
  • a giant swirling cyclone of fire, created by pointing several film fans towards each other and then injecting it with pyrotechnic fuel and lighting it
  • fire dancers
  • an animatronic dragon in the crowd breathing fire
  • The lighting effects in the Baseline Circus that projected mad visuals onto square hanging cubes with lasers
  • and of course Arcadia – This was the most insane thing I have ever experienced. It is a stage that was actually a massive rig that looked like a three legged metal spider. It had aerial artists that were swung around on it by animatronic ‘cranes’ and pyrotechnic effects like fire balls shooting out of it. I really felt like I had been transported to another world when I looked at it, as though I had been taken somewhere into a futuristic hedonistic party by a time machine. This is not exclusive to Boom Town, I understand that Arcadia does tour the country, but at this venue-WOW!
Arcadia Stage By night with thousands of festival goers partying underneath

Arcadia Stage By night with thousands of festival goers partying underneath

Animatronic Dragon

Animatronic, Fire-breathing Dragon

3) It’s not commercial – AT ALL. This is the only festival I have been to before that had absolutely no issue with people taking their own alcoholic drinks into the music arenas. I have never been to a festival where there was such a sense of ‘community’ previously. The organisers are apparently very much about the festival experience being amazing, rather than it being about turning a profit, and to be quite honest I am not convinced that they do ‘make’ any profit from it… I have my suspicions they are just people who love an amazing party and do this for the love and pride of the end result

4) It’s a self contained town – The Festival arena is set up to look like a dystopian town with a Bank that had a bank vault you could go into filled with mattresses to chill out on, a theatre, a leisure centre, bars that were made to look like part of town buildings, a town hall with bizarre, trippy, moving projected special effects, weird town props like traffic lights, stalls, and tiny little intimate venues where smaller bands played ‘indoors’. You really need to see it to understand the minute attention to detail that goes into the set design of this place! Not only that, but I kept getting lost and discovering new ‘streets’, new tents, or rooms to listen to music in. There was even a mobile: jail house, wedding chapel ‘marrying’ people and a Funeral Parlour where people could arrange to have their Funerals at the festival – I kid you not! …Leila and I attended a ‘wedding’ and after the happy couple were told to kiss-all spectators were herded into the chapel to dance until the place bounced on it’s axels! The funeral parlour were offering to bury people in a coffin for a short time, before ‘exhuming’ them again. Had it not been so ridiculously hot-I may even have booked it out of sheer morbid curiosity!

Boom Town Main Street

Boom Town Main Street

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Boom Town Wedding Chapel in action

Boom Town Wedding Chapel in action

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Boom Town Bank.  This 'vault' was a chill out room

Boom Town Bank. This ‘vault’ was a chill out room

A great band called The Sykes we discovered in a tiny vent called 'The People's Front Room'

A great band called The Sykes we discovered in a tiny venu called ‘The People’s Front Room’

5) The Performers – I don’t just mean the musicians, but also the Fire Dancers, the Acrobats, the wrestlers, the stilt walkers and the crew that make Boom Town feel so completely different to anything I had ever experienced before.

Boom Town Stilt Walkers

Emma & Leila with Boom Town Stilt Walkers

Fire Dancers!

Fire Dancers!

Boom Town Wrestlers with outrageous costumes

Boom Town Wrestlers with outrageous costumes

6) The Hidden Woods – Who the heck would dream of putting a Caribbean beach bar, complete with deliciously cool-under-the-feet sand, and a Reggae stage in woods bedecked with giant butterflies? I don’t know, but it was INSPIRED… This was one of my favourite places to come when it was too hot to bear everywhere else. The place felt enchanted, and transported me back to visions of The Magic Faraway Tree stories I read as a child.

Entrance to The Hidden Woods

Entrance to The Hidden Woods

The Hidden Woods, taken by Mark Falmouth Photography

The Hidden Woods, taken by Mark Falmouth Photography

Mark Falmouth Hidden Woods

The Hidden Woods, taken by Mark Falmouth Photography

7) Boom Town Residents & Fancy Dress – The sheer effort that Boom Town Residents (festival goers) had gone to with their fancy dress costumes was mind boggling, and at a level I have never witnessed before; I wouldn’t begin to know how or where to obtain the costumes that a lot of these folk had! We knew in advance that the Fancy Dress theme was ‘Outer Space’ and had trawled fancy dress shops to find the best costumes we could-I think we did pretty well with our synchronised alien costumes, but some of these party people could have convinced me that they were from another planet!

Fancy Dress Costume of one of the Festival Goers!

Fancy Dress Costume of one set of Festival Goers!

Boom Town Alien Costumes

Boom Town Alien Costumes

Boom Town Alien Costumes

Boom Town Alien Costumes

Boom Town Alien Costumes

Boom Town Alien Costumes

Boom Town Alien Costumes

Boom Town Alien Costumes

Boom Town Alien Costumes

Boom Town Alien Costumes

Boom Town Alien Costumes

Boom Town Alien Costumes

8) Boom Town Residents could set up camp almost anywhere – At other festivals I have been to, you have to walk ‘miles’ to get to the action. Not at Boom Town. You could set up camp pretty much right next to the perimeter of the town, or next to Arcadia if you so-wished! It was bizarre to me to see massive music tents and stages with tents pitched up a few feet away in some cases!

You can see how close these tents are to the Arcadia Stage

You can see how close these tents are to the Arcadia Stage

This shows you just how close people were able to camp to the Town Centre

This shows you just how close people were able to camp to the Town Centre

9) The Police Rave Unit – This was hilarious… A Police van with all of the usual markings, complete with fake police officers who were booming out rave music from speakers.

Police Rave Unit

Police Rave Unit

10) Security – This felt like a very positive place, and the security were not heavy-handed bouncer types with attitudes to match their neck sizes. The staff treated residents like grown ups who didn’t need to be treated like cattle. I didn’t observe any trouble at all, and there seemed to be a sense of mutual trust and respect for others. The only thing that did spoil the trust factor was the tent looting that was going on. One of the girls we befriended had everything but the clothes she had on her back stolen. Not cool.

From the Official Boom Twon Facebook Album!

From the Official Boom Town Facebook Album!

I hope you enjoyed this… I thought it might be easier to ‘show’ you than to try and explain…

Thoughts on Boom Town:

This is definitely not a festival I would take my children to… It does have a dedicated family area away from the madness of the main arena area, but in my opinion-this is just not one I would want my children going to.  That said, there are not many festivals I would take my children to-so perhaps I am not the best one to judge. 

That said, I would certainly like to go back to Boom Town again, though not in 2013 unfortunately, as I have already blown my festival budget on Glastonbury. I have already got tickets to go to the Boom Town Equinox party in March though! Woohoo!

Here are a few other random pictures from the festival… Please leave me a comment if you enjoyed this post:

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If you need any more convincing about how great this place is, check out this interview by Boomtown co-director Lak Mitchell:

So Lak, how is this year different to previous Boomtown extravaganzas? 
“We have learned from three years of messing it up! From mistakes like how many people are permitted to enter the venues, spacing inside the venues, over-crowding, queues on the main gates, basic infrasructure… we’re now concentrating on putting on the best show possible.”

How is Boomtown different to other festivals?
“It’s a party put on by party people,  there is ‘no man at the top’, it’s non profit in a way.” 

How big is Boomtown Festival?
“Well it’s 26,000 people, but the live-in vehicle spaces are limited and there is a massive crew which need a lot of live-in vehicle space. It takes five weeks to build up the festival.”

How many stages are there?
“There are 35 stages with every type of music available, except really there’s no popular or commercial music, it’s all about underground music, jump up and ska bands and hundreds of unsigned acts. In terms of headlining acts, we are keeping this a secret. The Festival always sell out anyway so it’s a nice surprise. Big headliners include Caravan Palace, Asian Dub Foundation, the Skatalies, Reel Big Fish… But there’s no emo or indie music! There’s also a real community feel, there are many workshops – woodwork, metal – and Boomtown welcome familes. We’re also supporters of eco friendly living and recycling.”

Other Posts You Might Like:

Latitude Festival… I popped Leila’s Festival Cherry!

10 Reasons why Latitude Festival is Top of My Festival Bucket List for 2012

1st Camping Music Festival (with family)

Emma ‘Wing-Walking on a Boeing Stearman’

Emma Learns Aerobatic Flying in a Stunt Plane

1st (and LAST) visit to ‘V Festival’

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34 Comments on “10 Reasons why Boom Town Fair is the Most Bonkers Festival I’ve experienced to date.”

  1. Leila
    December 30, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    Hey ,

    What a great post! Boomtown is exactly as you describe. Can’t wait for the equinox party and would absolutely go back.

    • Dayglo
      January 3, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      Hi Emma,

      Just read this from the link you put on FaceyB. First Boomtown this year and your post made me even more excited about it! Love the look of your website too, will have a proper read through at some point 🙂

      • January 3, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

        Hi Dayglo, Thanks for the comment. You’re going to have THE BEST TIME at Boom Town!

        Was the link you saw on my Bucket List FB page, or on the Boom Town Fair page? Glad you liked the post! I’m hoping to go to Shambalah Festival this year too… It looks to be as creative as Boom Town in some ways, and also very unique… If I get to go-I’ll review it and let you know, so watch this space!

      • Dayglo
        January 7, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

        Hi Emma,

        It was on the Boomtown page. Was just having a look to see if they had announced any of the acts yet!
        Shambala is great fun, the line up is usually pretty good and there are loads of things to do. Are you taking your daughter? There are tons of things for kids to do and my friend’s kids who go really love it.

      • January 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

        No, a good friend and I are planning to make it a grown up affair. There is a nice little local festival close to where I grew up… The other one I’m tempted to take them to is Camp Bestival which is solely geared towards families.

      • September 22, 2013 at 12:18 am #

        So… How did you enjoy Boomtown?

  2. Cynthia
    January 3, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    Hi Emma ,

    I have come across your blog as I was looking for reviews for Boom town. You never quite know what to expect from a festival by just looking at their website. The acts playing are always a factor in selecting a “good one to try”, but the general atmosphere is always the most important thing for me and all festival goers I am sure.

    Also noticed your post on Latitude – ( seems like a very fun one too) and V festival I might give it a miss…

    What you are doing is really inspiring. By this I mean the blog as a whole. I am really enjoying reading this and might steal a few ideas…

    So what are your plans on the festival fronts for this year?

    All the best for 2013 and well done on this blog.

    • January 3, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      Thanks Cynthia,

      I would definitely give V a miss personally… It’s not a real festival! I really liked the beauty at Latitude, though it did still feel quite commercial by comparison to Boom Town, and definitely not bonkers like Boom Town… They say that Latitude is like the Waitrose of Festivals-that’s probably a fair assessment… Though I’m not sure how I’d describe Boom Town in that context-since there’s no supermarket comparison I can draw!

  3. Vicky Potten
    January 3, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    Yes Emma it is the maddest party around. I have been to boomtown since it started as recydrate the west in Wales. I even worked one year. It’s my favourite festival and each year I think it can’t beat the year before but it always does! I have to say having you as our pod pad neighbours made it that extra bit special thank you for looking after us lol X

    • January 3, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

      I had no idea it started as Recydrate! I thought it had started in Bristol too… It was lovely meeting you all there! I probably won’t be there this year-so you’ll have to remember to freeze some bottles of water and capri suns in advance for the mornings, and take your Beroccas with you! Have you ever been to Shambalah?

  4. January 16, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    That looks like an entertaining event. I’m impressed by how sophisticated the special effects were. Crazy fun!

    • January 16, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      It was crazy fun! Thanks for your comment! …Have you ever thought of adding theatre, musicals, concerts, ballets, opera, festivals and other cultural events to your own list TBM?

      • January 16, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

        We do our best to experience things in our normal life and when we travel. I haven’t made a list, but my goal is to add new experiences whenever the opportunity arrives. I haven’t been to an opera yet. I need to work on that one.

  5. Tim
    April 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Hi Emma ,

    I was doing some research on Boomtown, as their line up this year is amazing. We have a 6 year old, would you take a child there, or not?

    (I believe you are a parent reading your other posts).

    Cracking blog BTW

    • April 11, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

      Hi Tim

      The line up for 2013 does look great. I am going again with my brother, his wife and a friend. Personally I prefer going to festivals like this child free, as I have more fun, and I stick to the local festivals with my children… I didn’t look closely at the children’s area last year, but they do have a dedicated area for families/children which I intend to check out and review in more detail this year (despite the fact I will be going child free again). It should be noted that the down town area is advised as over 16s.

      I am sure that you would have a ton of fun with your children, and I have heard from the organisers that they are planning a lot of exciting changes and improvements for the KIDZTOWN area. The Boom Town FB page recently said:

      “Now situated within the Oldtown District, hosting tones of new games and crazy interactive madness, moving robots, break-dancing grannies and silly sideshows, this year’s KiDzToWn will be more mega than ever before! You’ll need to see it to believe it!”

      Check out the Kidztown page if you want more info:

      https://www.facebook.com/KidztownBoomtown?fref=ts

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Emma

  6. Pharside
    April 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    This festi looks and sounds great, gona have to check it out. Tickets look reasonable too. Thanks for the awesome blog 🙂

    • April 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

      you’ll want to get in there quick and book-the festival is selling out fast and does so every year. We’re going again too.

  7. Pharside
    April 18, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Right secured me some tickets! Im surprised I havent heard of this festi before, glad I found this blog

  8. Sunshine on a rainy day
    May 8, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    This looks bloody amazing-and it’s not a silly price for a festival either! Looks bang up my street-BOOM!

    • May 20, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      Better Hurry! I just had an email from them saying they had less than 20% of tickets left last week!

    • July 8, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

      I hope you got your tickets-They just sold out for the 2013 festival!

  9. Zara
    June 4, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Hi Emma, thanks for the good reviews. I’ll be a first timer this year and was a little nervous but you’ve put my mind at rest : ) Zara

  10. August 9, 2014 at 11:25 pm #

    Erm well it certainly is the most bizarre and varied festival I have been to for a long time. But I’m afraid the party for party people angle has been replaced by corpoative gredd. The workersa at this year 2014 are all completely fucked over and those at the top make a shit load of cash. Poor cunts. You should see what they feed the stage builders and artists, who worktill they bleed putting it up and running all for the “pleasure” of not haveing any time to even enjoy it.

    Even the fuck bands dont get paid (most of them), GGrrrr.

    Bring back Stonehenage, Dogs Fires. Free bands. Cuntys they have bcome. you watch Bommtown will go Boowm. soon

  11. April 18, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    Love your festival reviews, Emma, write some more!

    • October 2, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

      Okay I will! I’ve been very lazy lately and do have lots to catch up on!

  12. August 10, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    Heading to Boomtown this weekend, this post has made me super excited and calmed my nerves about not being able to fit in!
    The atmosphere really does seem as though everyone is like minded and purely there to have a good time. The only other festival I’ve been to is Latitude (totally agree on the Waitrose comment btw) so Boomtown will be a new venture for me 🙂

  13. July 20, 2016 at 12:24 am #

    Loved your review, I was at a festival over a week ago in Cork, Ireland called Townlands Carnival, the people running that festival have been inspired by Boomtown Fair, but Townlands is not really a city, more modelled on a small Irish town, but still the same ideas and sound heads running the event. You supposedly though could not bring your carry out into the main arena although they never frisked anyway and everyone flagrantly broke the rules bringing there drink in. Anyway here is my review of that, I use am working inside the festivals myself so it from a perspective with helping run the festival or make its flow smooth. This is the first one I’ve being a paying punter since 2010. 🙂 https://niallmcquaid.wordpress.com/2016/07/13/townlands-carnival-2016-festival-review/

  14. July 20, 2016 at 12:29 am #

    Loved your review, I was at a festival over a week ago in Cork, Ireland called Townlands Carnival, the people running that festival have been inspired by Boomtown Fair, but Townlands is not really a city, more modelled on a small Irish town, but still the same ideas and sound heads running the event. You supposedly though could not bring your carry out into the main arena although they never frisked anyway and everyone flagrantly broke the rules bringing there drink in. Anyway here is my review of that, I’m used to working at the festivals myself so I write from a perspective about the running of the festival or make its flow smooth as well as music reviews. This is the first one I’ve being a paying punter since 2010. 🙂 https://niallmcquaid.wordpress.com/2016/07/13/townlands-carnival-2016-festival-review/

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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