This post was originally written as a guest post for Louise of Formidable Joy. Louise is going to her first Boomtown Fair this year and she asked me if I’d share my top 5 tips for a Boomtown first timer. You can view that post here. Louise kindly said I was more than welcome to post the same tips on my blog, so I’m sharing them here too.
If you’ve never been to Boomtown Fair before, it is fantastic. I can’t recommend it enough. An incredible immersive festival just outside Winchester in southern England, I honestly think it should be on the bucket list of any festival lover. Read my full blog review of Boomtown Fair 2017 here – I volunteered as a supervisor and it was amazing! Even though Boomtown 2018 has sold out, you can apply for resale tickets, or better yet, volunteer like I did!
So without further ado, here are the 5 things I wish someone had told me before my first Boomtown:
1 – Don’t go too hard on the first day
This rule applies for pretty much any festival. I know the excitement of finally getting though the gates and starting your weekend of adventure. However, this feeling is amplified when arriving at Boomtown, partly because of how amazed you’ll be seeing the incredible areas to explore and the detail of the staging, but also because the general vibe at Boomtown can be summarised as “party party party!!” It’s tempting to crack right on and get very drunk on day one.
But I can tell you some insider knowledge… because of the festival’s proximity to Winchester, they have some stricter sound rules on the first and last nights. All music will cease at the stroke of midnight on both Thursday and Sunday night. Sure, people try to carry on the party in relative silence, but it’s just not worth it. Have a few drinks, stay up til midnight exploring, but use this opportunity to get a few extra hours sleep once the music stops. Because on Friday and Saturday the site keeps partying through til breakfast time. Plus Friday is the best day to do a lot of my next tip…
2 – Explore the Storyline
Boomtown Fair is unique, in that they put as much into the build of the festival, (including the artwork, the immersive actors, and the storyline) as they do to the line up. Honestly some of my best festival moments have been exploring the different districts at Boomtown. They genuinely build a temporary city. You can go to the Bank in Paradise Heights (previously called Mayfair, more on this on tip #5), the Postal Office in Oldtown, maybe visit the Boomtown Bobbies Police Station in the Town Centre, or head to a saloon in Copper County (previously Wild West). Meet pirates, cowboys, aliens, robots… Speak to them all!
I would definitely say make the most of the Friday daytime, before the music properly kicks off and before you have too much of a hangover, and go explore the storyline; this year called “The Machine Cannot Be Stopped”. There will be immersive actors all over site, talk to them, find out snippets of information, they may instruct you to visit another area of site or to find a particular person. Think of it as a mystery mission! Start by opening random doors, especially in Oldtown and Metropolis. Really get involved! I found myself once in a small Japanese themed room doing shots of Sake and singing karaoke. You will find some real memorable madness!
3 – Check out Whistler’s Green
Whistler’s Green is Boomtown’s answer to Glastonbury’s Green Fields. It’s here you’ll find brilliant folk music, healing & craft areas, fantastic food, and a stunning view over the whole of Downtown. The area had an overhaul in 2017 and the Windmill stage and whole surroundings are now much bigger and better. It’s slightly out of the way of the main site, it can feel like a bit of a mission, but I would suggest you make plans to come up here for breakfast on Saturday or Sunday if there isn’t anyone particular playing you would visit for. It’s an amazing place to chill out, get a massage, learn how to whittle a instrument out of wood, and eat some incredible vegan (or not) food whilst looking out over the view of Downtown. It’s definitely worth a visit.
4 – Go to the Job Centre & get a job
In the Town Centre, you will find the Job Centre. Now, I don’t really want to give too much away here, it’s something to explore yourself, but I wanted to assure you when you see the long queue for it, that it’s worth waiting for! I will say that yes, you will have an interview and yes, you may be given a job, and yes you might get paid for it! There are many things that can happen in here, and there’s usually some great DJs doing secret sets.
5 – Boomtown Dollars
Throughout the festival you can find ways to earn Boomtown dollars. Duel with a pirate in Oldtown, beg on your knees for money from the bourgeoisie in Paradise Heights, win the dance off in Barrio Loco… or simply visit the Bank to make a withdrawal. The Bank works as a trade. You offer something to the teller, they’ll give you some dollars. I “withdrew” $1000 by exchanging my pink feather boa one year.
Rumours fly round the site about what you can do with these dollars, but I’ll let you in with some veteran knowledge. Firstly, if you try to follow the storyline, it’s likely you’ll need Boomtown $$ to complete certain tasks. Secondly, and potentially more importantly, it IS possible to exchange these local currency notes for drinks at the bars. However, you will need to act in character and be confident! Also I’m quite sure it would only work at one of the main bars in one of the themed areas. I’ve only ever succeeded once and that was at the Ballroom bar in Mayfair (now Paradise Heights), and it was because I put on a character. I challenge you to give it a try! It’s a great fun thing to do with your friends and the reward is essentially “free” drinks!
Essentially Boomtown is a really immersive place. That is not everyone’s cup of tea and I totally understand that! It’s incredible just to walk around and watch what’s happening from afar if you’d prefer. All I would say is that, if it’s purely because you’re shy or worried about being embarrassed, you’ll soon realise that the festival is full of the best, friendliest people, and everyone gets involved, so go for it and create some ridiculous festival memories! (or persuade a friend of yours to take the spotlight instead!)