My biggest competition win so far was tickets to the Sundown Festival with VIP entry and accommodation in a luxury bell tent provided by Zoo Bells including powder room, clean toilets and even hot steamy clean showers to take the edge off the usual gripes of a camping experience. I have always wanted to go glamping instead of going the usual camping route, it’s not the wildlife that scares me but being one heck of a clean freak the thought of having shared or no washing facilities was not something I wanted to endure.
After a 5 hour trip to Sundown (thanks to traffic and taking a wrong turn taking us an hour off the route) we finally arrived at Sundown. We didn’t arrive until late afternoon having kiddies to sort out first but hey we got there in one piece despite almost being written off my an AO.com driver who insisted on taking up the two Chevron distance by cutting in front of us TWICE then giving us the finger when we looked in disgust at his erratic behaviour. We made our way to the carpark following the directions and were greeted with a £20 weekend parking fee, which as we had won the competition wasn’t too bad for 4 days.
After parking up and finding the entrance we joined the rest of the people queuing and waited our turn. We had to go through security first and Andy (my fiancé) had to go back to the car as we found out that the alcohol we had bought, despite being campers could only be brought in on the first trip so he went and swapped the clothes we didn’t need for the night for our Brandy, Malibu and coke. The security guard went through our bags and patted Andy down and we then had to make our way to the ticket window. We showed the winning letter and were all banded up. The wristbands we were given included:
- VIP for Saturday
- VIP for Sunday
- A pink guest band (which to this day we don’t know what it was for)
- Sundown festival entry band
- Band to say we were campers
While getting served a young boy came running up to us with a ‘purple arm’ because his band had been put on too tightly so Andy and I tried to help him remove it. With it being cloth we were unsuccessful but asked the ticket lady to do so. She cut it off and then behind her a man informed the boys mother that it would be £5 to replace it even though it had been put on too tightly by a member of their staff. Thought was unfair considering how expensive the original was and the fact they had only been served a few minutes prior but there’s a jobsworth wherever you go even at a festival.
We were then directed through the main gates up to another set of security guards who wanted to check us again (I think they just liked touching us and rifling through my underwear to be honest), but hey at least it was there for our protection and that of the artists that would be playing over the following 3 days.
After walking what seemed like a lifetime we passed through many people pitching tents in the main camping area where a sea of different tents covered the field. We could hear a lot of popping which sounded similar to people opening cans of beer, but found out later it was to be something a bit more sinister.
We made our way to the glamping site and were greeted by the friendliest people you could ever meet. We were given two more wrist bands, one to show we were glamping guests and the other to allow us access to the zooloo’s (posh loos) and the powder room. Now the difference between the ZooLoo’s and the regular toilets were that first you had your own flushing toilet that was cleaned regularly and running water and soap to cleanse afterwards. The powder room is where you can take a nice hot private shower, curl, straighten and dry your hair and even charge your phone free of charge while you apply your make up.
The Glamping site contained numerous bell tents of different calibres. You had the option of a real bed or air bed which was what we were given as part of our prize. The tent was carpeted and lovely and warm inside. We even had a bedside table so didn’t have to leave anything on the floor. The tents were manned 24 hours a day by security and staff in the ZooBells tent were there from early morning till past midnight to help you with anything you needed and I was thankfully able to leave my phone there when not in use to charge it too without having to stay and guard it with my life.
The blow up bed had a bed sheet, duvets and pillows and we could even choose whether we wanted singles or a double. The tent contained singles but as the ZooBells staff were not informed of our preference before we arrived we let them know we wanted it changed and within just a few minutes they had it sorted out for us, they even gave us extra blankets. We even had a goody bag which contained:
- Bench Sunglasses
- Chewing gum
- A condom
- A bench rain poncho
- A bench bag with pull tie cords
- Bench Sundown T shirt medium size
We decided we would take a walk back to the car as I had left my medication in there and after getting through the campsite Andy announced that he couldn’t find the car keys but offered to run back to our tent to retrieve them. After 10 minutes he phoned me to tell me they were not there so it was panic stations all around. Had someone stolen them? Had he dropped them? Was the car even still there? Thankfully my worst fears were put to rest an hour later when we found that he had left them at the main gate while the numerous wrist bands were being applied to our arms.
We then proceeded to the car to get my medication and was met by the biggest douche bags on earth who even though knew it had taken a while to find our car keys informed us that if we left the camp we could not return because he wasn’t allowed to let people enter after 8pm. I explained about my life saving medication and even said he was welcome to escort me to our car if need be to get it with me, but he mumbled something and then said ‘well if you want to go then it’s on you if you can’t get back in’. Way to greet the paying customers hey? We were thankfully allowed back in and the ‘douchebag’ had crawled off somewhere else so were met by friendly staff instead who looked quickly through the couple of bags we had brought back from the car in the camper re-entry gate area and allowed us back in. Picture of ‘MR Douchebag can be found in picture below
After all that drama we decided we would grab a bite to eat from one of the over-priced stalls and bed down in the hope of a better day Saturday.
Early morning we decided to go and grab a few things from the local shops including a towel which we had forgotten, some fairly priced coffee and a few snacks. It started to rain so we went back to the tent to grab spare clothes, get showered and chill out for a bit until the rain gave up. It showed no signs of slowing so we braved it armed with bright yellow Bench festival macs we headed over to the festival.
The atmosphere in the festival itself was great and I planned on drinking a lot so drank my Aftamath natural hangover cure before we left the tent. We treated ourselves to some sweets off a stall 2 tiny cakes and a sliver of coconut ice which came to £6 in total!! Hey it’s a festival we expected things to be overpriced anyway. We joined the rest of the attendees and managed to squeeze in right to the front in time to see Miss Dynamite on stage. Each act was given a half hour slot and there was a break of about 10 minutes in-between which gave you chance to get a drink, go to the toilet etc. You were not allowed to bring your own drink even as a camper onto the festival site so we paid an extortionate £20 a round for each round between the two of us. With drink comes the need to use the toilet and nicely signposted nearby was a ‘throne from home’ VIP toilet area which being a VIP I thought we had access to included with the wristband. Fit to burst I showed the people at the tables my wrist band and they said it doesn’t get you in, they did however have a special offer of £20 to use them for the whole festival or £5 per use. By this point I was dying to go and paid the £5. There were porta-loos available but some people were waiting over an hour to use them and from what I was told they were not sanitary.
It cost £20 to park my car all weekend and the same price to park your butt on a real toilet for a few minutes each time or £5 to use it one off. The toilets were lovely and clean and fresh to be fair but £5?? That was the most expensive toilet trip I ever had (bar the time I dropped my iPhone down the toilet but that’s another story).
I went back to the stage area to join Andy and we wanted to see what these VIP wristbands got us. The VIP area was less than a few metres from the stage so we had a good look around. It wasn’t as crowded as the main areas and had places you could buy more food at higher prices than even the festival. A bar that was well stocked but understaffed and a big screen so you could watch the main stage privately with deck chairs in front of it. It could be seen from all areas of the VIP area which is great if you want to get away from the crowds but didn’t want to miss the show. We had to get our drinks together from this area as were told they were not allowed to serve 2 different drinks to one person. No one tells you this until you wait for 30 minutes to get the attention of the bar staff but thankfully whenever Andy or I decided to grab a drink leaving the other to watch a show there were people around who were happy to play plus one so that we didn’t have to lose our space. Thank god for nice people. They can serve someone who can put their drink on the floor and re-order but can’t serve two drinks so that a space can be saved by the others to see the act.
After watching a couple more acts we had managed to soak through all three coats that we had brought for the journey so we retreated back to our tent before chase and status came on but we could still hear them from the tent and were glad to be back and sheltered from the rain. The acts were great and despite the rain all gave a great performance and we were thankful that we had won the competition.
Back at the tent soaking wet we carried on drinking inside but I did ensure to drink my Aftamath hangover cure before I went to bed. Andy felt pretty mouldy when he eventually awoke about 11, but I had already been up from 7 and gone and got breakfast, got showered, dressed, done make up, hung clothes up on the tent to dry and charged my phone to full capacity (go me)
We met some lovely people at the festival including the staff from ZooBells who really made our stay pleasurable. There were the few security members who had god complexes and would be better suited as prison wardens. There were also some lovely members of security staff including those that helped me to locate my car keys.
If you are ever thinking of having a different wedding where you want to provide outdoor accommodation for your guests, a corporate event where you want to venture outside of the usual hotel accommodation but still want comforts of home I would highly recommend ZooBells and Zoo loos. If you are looking to camp at a festival then after seeing the queues for toilets, lack of washing facilities unless a VIP or ZooLoo’s wristband holder I would say to book in advance. If you’re drinking you don’t want to have to pay £5 a trip to a real toilet. If you are going to Sundown next year remember to:
- Take non-perishable snacks (the food bars area expensive) and there is a Sainsburys nearby where you can purchase meat, buns etc to have your own barbeque in the cooking areas.
- Please don’t try to cook within your tent (yes someone actually did this and set the canister on fire)
- Take all alcohol you have brought from home in on your first trip from the car or it will not be allowed in and the bars cost an arm and a leg
- Pay the extra for a real bed as the blow up mattresses despite the best efforts of the staff will collapse in fluctuating weather conditions and you will wake up on the floor
- Keep your valuables on you so invest in either a bumbag or non-zip rucksack
- Bear in mind that if you have not paid for the ZooLoos and powder rooms or ZooBells accommodation you will need to use the phone charging stations which are expensive and charge extremely slowly.
- Bring lots of waterproof clothing, just in case