Festival of Fun has a reputation for being the place to go once you have earned your street cred as a ‘proper’ swinger, built your social network and want to immerse yourself in a full weekend of hedonistic frolics.
Surrounding the regular swing club of the Vanilla Alternative in Bedfordshire are acres of nearly clipped fields, river and deciduous trees casting a gentle dappled shade, which convert once a year to the Festival of Fun camping grounds. Having heard the legendary reputation of this event, I packed up my little sleeping bag and headed off with libertine friends to lose our Festival of Fun virginity together.
Easy to reach by car but not served closely by train, we all assembled for the last leg of the journey and rolled into the venue to check-in with the venue hotel before driving through a sea of tents and camper vans to be allocated a lovely little spot near the action.
One thing can be said for pitching a tent: it is start to finish innuendo. Having got our Frankie Howard on for half an hour or so and relaxing the British way (with a nice gin & tonic) we donned our bikinis and headed into the foam party, where familiar faces abounded.
I was initially baffled as to what clothes to bring, but it really is rather open. Day wear was anything from naked to shorts, to festival wear with a lot more showing than you’d normally see at a festival. Evening wear was equally diverse, with cocktail dresses and stilettos tottering on the grass, BDSM wear and I saw a couple in matching gold jumpsuits.
There were 4 showers (2 outdoor and all hot), 3 wooden, wood fired hot tubs outdoors, run by a spectacularly sweet and good looking couple, and 2 flushing toilets, which never seemed to get a queue of more than 3 people.
The camping vibe was safe, friendly and spacious, with a large grass walkway down the middle, to the main action. Having been to vanilla festivals before, I have to say the camping aspect is a massive improvement here. People would stop by and say hello, share their food, have a chat, and nobody was stumbling over your head in the night or stealing your windbreak for firewood.
There were games in the afternoon and a DJ dance party that went on till 3am. The Vanilla Alternative club building itself opened at 8pm, and is worthy of it’s own review.
If there ever were a building designed from scratch to be a swingers club, this is it. With large heated indoor pool, play space galore, a kink room, bar, dance floor with pole and all laid out on one level, it felt clean, spacious and accessible. The luxury of a bungalow-build isn’t something you’ll often see in central London, where the price per square metre of land is something more than a kidney and the soul of your firstborn, but anyone with mobility issues would find it an absolute breath of fresh air not to be stretched over 3-4 floors of stairs.
There weren’t any private play rooms, but with a hotel around the corner and a sea of tents in the field, those suffering a bout of stage-fright would certainly still have options.
Some of the Festival of Fun veterans, however, said they far preferred the vibe last year: that the line up of events flowed better, the music was better and that there were far more people there on a day pass. This year’s price hike was generally considered to blame for the reduced numbers.
What to bring to your first festival of fun:
Food and drink for in your tent. Alcohol is allowed. Bring lots of water.
A sleeping bag
Some blankets, cushions or other soft items to get your tent rocking
Money. The kiosk does a great eggs benedict and the bar does some lovely cocktails.
Toiletries (Shampoo, conditioner, soap, makeup wipes, high SPF foundation/tinted sunscreen, waterproof cream eyeshadow and blush, toothbrush & toothpaste. Don’t go too crazy, it’s camping after all)
Waterproof bag to keep your phone and money in
Shoes & sandals
Fishscale glitter (biodegradable)
Lots of knickers
Festival type nightwear
Swimwear (if you feel shy at first)
Something modest to wear home
Insect repellant (Wasn’t too bad for bugs)
Condoms, though the Terence Higgins Trust was giving some out free when you do their free, on the spot STI testing service (this was the easiest place to get a test done I’ve ever found. You won’t get the results back until after the festival, though
A handsome silver fox I know, a Festival of Fun veteran, said he liked the friendly relaxed vibe, and the fact it wasn’t full of ‘channel 4 swingers’ (tourists), as well as the fact it doesn’t attract the media infiltration and attention, as well as risk of unwanted exposure like the larger festival, Swingfields.
The vibe with the campers was certainly relaxed and friendly, though those arriving on the day pass seemed less approachable and seemed to stay in couples or groups they came with. A darling outgoing friend of mine, one half of everyone’s favourite hotwifing couple, said it was the first time she’d ever tried to chat to women on the scene and found some of them to be absolute bitches. Jealousy is a terrible thing, and looking as stunning as she did in her see-through off the shoulder dress, curves in all the right places, I’ve no doubt that was the issue. Nonetheless, a good time seemed to be had by all and it was wonderful to meet so many happy, comfortable, friendly swingers from all over the country.