As we bombed down the M3 (in our car-share,) bound for another year of merriment and mischief –making, expectations were high for this year’s eco festival; Boomtown Fair. But with Boomtown 2011 firmly rooted as one of my best festival experiences to date, I was quietly apprehensive as to whether the fun of the 2012 Fair would be able to rival the revelry of the previous year.

Fortunately, as we lugged our camping gear from the car park onto site and passed the myriads of stalls and attractions, I quickly realised that such trepidations were unnecessary (much like the wellingtons I had packed as the weather was beautiful).

This year, the festival organisers had been granted permission to expand the town into the surrounding areas of the Matterly Bowl in Winchester, and it was clear that they had dedicated a great deal of time to ensuring that Boomtown was not only bigger, but that there was no shortage of entertainment and amusement.

Among some of the new additions to Boomtown for 2012 were the Hidden Woods, a serene and tranquil location where you could sit on the sand amongst the trees, whilst sipping your beverage and listening to bands like Kings Hi-Fi playing on the stage.  With its fairytale-esque decorations, such as giant butterflies and lanterns in the treetops, and a chilled out atmosphere, this area quickly became one of our favourite hang out spots over the weekend.

Another attraction that certainly encompassed entertainment and amusement was the highly acclaimed Arcadia Stage.  If any of you have been to Glastonbury, then you will be familiar with the formidable fusion of mind-blowing pyrotechnics, smoke, fire and laser blasting, aerial trapeze shows and integrated DJs such as Dirtyphonics, The Rat Pack, and Shy FX.  Bearing resemblance to a giant mechanical spider, and probably the reasoning behind the outer space theme of Boomtown 2012, the Arcadia Stage was a spectacular highlight of this year’s festivities and needs to be seen, heard and felt (the fire blasting gave off a delicious warmth at night), to be fully appreciated.

With Boomtown 2012 ticking all the right boxes, the only qualm I had this year was that, although Boomtown had grown slightly, there appeared to be twice as many people as the previous year.  This meant that in between the acts at the various stages and when things shut down earlier on the Sunday night, there were masses of people roaming the grounds looking for their next musical fix, which tarnished the intimate feel of last year. Still, this is a relatively small negative amongst the wealth of positives that were to be derived from this festival bonanza.

In terms of eco-credentials, with Boomtown’s expansion and higher capacity, special attention needed to be paid to the environmental aspects of this festival.  As such, in addition to the existing eco initiatives like the on-site recycling, car-share schemes, and the fleet of Boombuses, this year the organisers introduced a new eco-friendly scheme to the partying masses – The Boomtown Eco Bond.   Added to the sale of every ticket was a £5 deposit, and on arrival, festival goers were given a ‘Boomtown Eco Bag’ which they were required to fill with recyclable waste.  Once this was handed back into the onsite recycling centre, the £5 deposit was returned.

This was a great incentive, and over the course of the four days you could see people hurriedly filling their eco bags in a bid to secure their £5 bond.  Given that the queue for the ATM machine had an average waiting time of 90 minutes, the Boomtown Eco Bond proved to be a faster way of procuring some much needed cash whilst reducing the impact on the surrounding environment.

Undoubtedly, one of the things Boomtown is renowned for is its musical line up, and despite a few no shows, such as Beenie Man, Boomtown 2012 did not disappoint.  Highlights included the Dub Pistols, who attracted a huge crowd on the main stage with their high energy performance, The Skatalites, whose renditions of classic reggae and ska songs were a perfect remedy for that Sunday morning hangover, and of course the appearance of secret headline guest Jimmy Cliff who was the icing on the cake.

Speaking of cake, along with an array of new locations and attractions, it was evident that effort had gone into ensuring there was an equally impressive line up of food choices.  Whether you fancied a burrito, a Sunday roast, or even an ostrich burger (yep, ostrich), there was something for everyone’s tastes.

Overall, with its idyllic location, brilliant music, welcoming crowd and oodles of areas to explore, Boomtown 2012 proved to be an entrancing treat.  If you’re yet to sample the fun of this eco festival, make plans to.

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