Festival Preview: Boomtown Fair
Today on blog, guest writer Liz gives us the low down on Boomtown Festival 2019, how they have managed to remain an independent festival and how they are tackling the environmental impact of the festival. >>
Every August the Matterly Estate in Hampshire, near the historic city of Winchester, is transformed from the idyllic rolling hills of the English countryside (it is part of the South Downs National Park) into a dystopian megacity for over 60,000 festival goers. These ‘citizens’ can get lost (both figuratively and literally) for 5 days in the sprawling pop up world of Boomtown, a unique and fiercely independent festival set to enjoy its 11th Chapter in August 2019.
From humble beginnings with a mere 1,000 attendees, Boomtown has worked tirelessly to become bigger and better, and with each reincarnation it’s city has grown. The festival is divided into various districts each with its own distinctive architecture, characters and atmosphere. Uptown, you can travel from the wild west with cowboys drunkenly serenading you to the glitz and glamour of the social elite sipping cocktails at the sky bar in Paradise Heights in just a 10 minute walk. Downtown, which really comes alive after dark, plays host to a plethora of venues in its various districts, the stand out for me being Barrio Loco a Latin-American inspired party town which screams colour.
The creativity and detail which goes into creating this immersive world is impressive to say the least. Every venue has its own back story, every door leads to a hidden gem (drag queen Karaoke in a caravan has been my favourite find so far) and on every corner you can find characters keen to interact and make you part of the story.
The narrative for Chapter 11 is billed as a Radical City following the downfall of the corporate machine BANGHAI industries, thanks to AMI a self-aware AI. Over the years Boomtown has seen military coups, revolutionaries, corrupt mayors and corporate fat cats all vying for power. No other festival centres around a story in this way and this year who knows what path the tale will take. Ever evolving, the newest districts are the Relic which thus far is being kept under wraps and Area 404 which promises an industrial wasteland to explore.
Musically Boomtown is as diverse as its districts, but it certainly leans more towards the alternative genres rather than commercial dance or mainstream pop. Despite being an independent they still manage to pull in the big names with Lauren Hill, Prophets of Rage and The Streets topping the bill this year. Salt N Pepper will go down a storm as a nostalgia fest and UB40 are guaranteed to get the crowds singing. Last year the introduction of Diss-Order Valley saw a focus on the heavier side of punk and metal which continues this year with Napalm Death and Pennywise topping the bill.
Another feature which is set to return in 2019 is Boomtown Springs, the VIP theatrical camping experience which comes complete with a swimming pool, champagne bar and full crew of actors in a variety of guises from ‘rahs’ to ‘stately home owners’ all on hand to make even the camping an unforgettable experience. A variety of self-pitch and glamping options are available so if you’re looking for something extra special (and you want to enjoy the perks of a car park next to your campsite, flushing toilets and a glass fizz on arrival) then look no further.
Glamping could perhaps be the future for not only Boomtown but all festivals as they struggle to deal with the amount of camping equipment which is left behind each year and ultimately ends up in landfill. Boomtown 2018 ended the festival with a plea to its citizens to take their tents home, however, the scenes on the Monday were all too familiar – abandoned tents, chairs and all manner of rubbish. Boomtown have not taken this lightly and have introduced a solid green mission this year with a multi– pronged approach to improving their environmental credentials and encouraging us all to do our bit to reduce waste.
The long-established eco bond scheme whereby campers can exchange a bag of recycling for £10 has proved successful but still struggles to make a dent in the huge amounts of waste created by such an enormous festival. A new initiative they have introduced this year is Boomtown’s first ever Eco campsite, a space where campers pledge to take everything home with them and in return have a central campsite location, workshops and campsite helpers who will ensure it is the cleanest campsite of them all. Another initiative aimed at reducing carbon emissions is the free Wednesday upgrade if you travel by coach or bike – a bonus day at the festival for free! Yet another 2019 initiative has been to partner up with TreeSisters and plant a tree for each ticket sold, a beautiful idea to offset carbon and create a Boomtown forest. Finally, they have pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic by 2021, you can find more details about their green campaigns and partners in the Green Mission section on their website.
The exponential growth of the festival has been impressive but what has been even more impressive is their desire to remain independent and without sponsorship. This has allowed them to in turn to support local businesses, independents and allowed them to be selective about who they work with. One of the best examples of this is the Farmer’s market which can be found in Whistler’s Green on the hilltop. Here you can sample local delights (the majority from Hampshire) including local honey, pastries and my personal favourite the mighty scotch egg! Boomtown is simply full of surprises! In terms of shopping there’s a huge range of stalls to tempt you featuring hand-made trinkets, second-hand clothes and unique accessories.
Whether you want to relax in the sun (fingers crossed), discover secret venues from casinos to ping pong halls or rave until the early hours Boomtown has it all and it delivers it in such a fun and creative way that is cannot be rivalled. Boomtown tickets are still available for 2019 but you need to be quick!