Honest Van Life Adventures and Reviews

Category: van life festivals (page 1 of 1)

overlanders van festival 2023 Review

It’s with a certain sense of irony that the last van life event of 2023 was at the same location as my first van life event at the Stratford Upon Avon racecourse back in 2023.

Organisation and Parking.

Couldn’t have been easier. Rock up to the front gate with the friendly staff, scan the QR code, follow the track around and park up. I was lucky that once again Heather had kept a spare space for me and there’s no better moment of rocking up seeing your mates, grabbing a chair, settling down with a drink, or even better being offered a brew when you arrive. It’s those moments when you haven’t seen your van life mates for months that make that 4 hour drive disappear into the either.

Spaces were nicely marked out, plenty of space around us all and the ground nice and level for the most. I did spot some vans with the ramps and all that yet overall the ground seemed nice and level.

There were plenty of vans in the main attraction area pumping out tunes, live music but never so much to permeate into the sleeping areas and best of all I had no idea what time the music stopped. The quietness ended naturally for the event it felt unlike other events where the hammer went down at 10am (looking at you Warner group).

The Cost.

For 3 days of camping, plus talks, live music, showers and facilities was around £80 for 3 days. A price given the cost of living you really cant complain at. There are campsite which will charge more just to park on a bit of grass in Pembrokeshire that charge a lot more for a lot less.

What was on offer was a nice mix, the usual trade stands where you can buy a van starting from 20k, fancy a roof box for 2k or how about a total cool over priced solar panel or fridge for £200? You were covered but what I personally liked was the jumble sales. A change to get bits and bobs that you might need and I ended up taking a chance on a battery for my van just costing me £20. Will it work im not entirely sure but I’ll take a punt to support people who turn up.

The downside was the location of the jumble, being in the concourse of the racecourse with only one crossing point going over the raceway to the jumble area. This would of been better placed over with the tanks on the far side of the walking about and mooching area rather than a protracted walk to get there.

Back to costs
Beer and cider £5
Fish and chips £12.50
Pint of Pimms £10
Curry Goat £12
Coffee £3.50
1/4 Burger £7.50

Over the three days there was a definite pattern of food traders being dead during the day and then picking up early evening onwards. The cost of living has put pay to “cant be bothered to cook, let’s eat out”. Now it’s more people choosing to have a treat night than anything else.

Even during the last of the summer weather on Friday where it was baking, there was never a queue for the bar even when the late night acoustic bands were in effect. No fault of the event more a combination of the cost of living and the artificially inflated prices of holding an event at a racecourse.

The Traders Feedback

Like I’ve mentioned there was a nice little mix of those selling vans, expensive trailers and new heating equipment through to those handy bit’s and bobs for a few quid. People were mooching around yet to me it seemed more like something to do rather than spend money. That being said quirky bar b cues were oft seen being carted around the site and who could blame anyone with summer seemingly having an agreement with autumn to finish a few weeks early and let it take up the slack.

I always try and speak to traders how they have done. It’s more common for the majority to say we have covered costs, made fuel money and it’s great to see their enthusiasm still there for these events. Do bear in mind this being a smaller event the same was said from traders at the bigger van life events.

There has been some feedback on the disappointment of traders lacking on a Sunday. A valid point but have some sympathy for them, a severe weather warning was in place for Sunday and I would say the majority were there till 3pm.

Overall.

Had Friday’s sunny balmy blitz continued onwards through the weekend I have no doubt this would have been heralded as a a punctuation for the end of the season. No doubt in my mind if the Indian summer had prevailed it would have been a completely different experience. That’s not to say it was bad at all.. More a case of what if.

Vanlife and Overlander Celebration 2023 Review

A new addition to the ever growing list of van life events for 2023 is the Vanlife and Overlander Celebration, held at Newbury Showground. I booked a last minute ticket, drove 4 hours and these are my thoughts.

Like a great deal of people going to the event I booked an early bird ticket to arrive on thursday and of course being my normal organised self, taking 4 hours to load up the van, I managed to arrive at 8pm and to be greeted by a closed gate. Thankfully Heather was already on site with the “cow people” and a few minutes later a chap called Donk rocked up and happily let me in. It was clear that although I was a bit late he was enthusiastic about the whole event, guiding me to my pitch for the weekend, ensuring all vans were equally levelled and spaced out.

Me being me there’s no chance of just sitting down and chilling out, like most of my cohorts for the weekend who were already well in the sprit of things so off for a walk I went. One thing the Vanlife and Overlander Celebration had in spades was enteraintment. There were 3 stages in effect, a live acoustic chilled area under a tent with the customary hipster Campervan, just outside of the shopping area was a live jam area (criminally under used due to the weather) and the main stage inside the barn.

The main stage was used from DJ mixes, live bands through to presentations and whilst inside the barn near the bar, the barn was so big that music echoed too much and the bar was just a little too far away. The best way to describe this would be listening to music in the style of train station announcement where the last few letters echo at the end of a sentence. Had this been a much larger festival where crowds would get dancing near the stage and a seating area behind for those wishing to sit down and listen to bands or presentations this would work but alas this time the spacing was just a little too big.

Food Offerings

No event is complete without a plethora of food stands but before all that lets get to one of the important parts of any van life festival.. the bar. All due credit to the bar here, there’s no charging for a plastic glass here. All pints of beer, lager and cider was just £5, that cheaper than a pint in a London pub or indeed local pubs around the coast line. When I asked the bar owner about the pricing he said

I’d rather have a little of a lot, than a lot of a little.

bar owner guy

and this is an important part of festivals. Yes we are in a cost of living crisis however I do believe that food should be priced in a “cant be bothered” zoning. As in when you’ve been out walking all day, looking at vans, maybe a little bit of lubrication and getting to the point of “cant be bothered to cook” is an option rather than going out for food once over the long weekend.

If you wanted sweets, coffee, donuts, vegan food, greasy spooner, pizzas, Mexican and Thai all was on offer.

Pricing was ok with a breakfast wrap being around ^6.50, a basic pizza being £12, Thai curry along the same. Next up the shopping village

The Shopping Area

It’s; great to see a mix from refurb and used converse and clothes right through to companies doing lithium conversions, underslung water tanks and all things in-between. A honourable mention to the local shop which as it implies has all those things that people might me forget when going away for the weekend.

There was more than enough to take a 10 minute gander around and as per the norm all vendors were friendly and more than happy to chat and have video and YouTubers take videos..

However

All the elements are in place to make it a cracking a weekend. Food, music, entertainment, van talks something was a little missing, but that’s not to say it was a bad event.

The weather didn’t help at all. Most nights myself and other were not only wrapped up in a coat but also having a blanket across themselves… IN JULY.

Overall myself and my van life cohorts had nothing bad to say about the event but but just lacked that something. That’s not to say it was bad at all, we all had a great time, culminating in many late night conversations… normally about how blooming cold it was.

The Politics and Supporting Smaller events

The unspoken words of the internet and van lifers are “Warner group”, “damo” and “van life festival uk”. Ive been to a. few events now where you are either team this or team that and it saddens me. It’s not about taking sides and if you are then you are forgetting the whole point of the van life movement. To be able to go to affordable events in a van to meet like minded people. It should never be about supporting or preferring one YouTuber over another.

If we arent careful as a community to give a fair shake of the stick to new events, then like every industry we will end up with a monopoly which invariably ends up with prices going up and then excluding those who arent rocking up into events with 70k plus yoghurt plans or vans.

Thats not to say im defending this or any event just giving an overall opinion, not every van life event will be in the sun etc.

Final thoughts

Despite the weather, despite it not being a sell out and missing that… something it’s a clear 7 out of 10. That may seem high given all the negatives but there’s a true element of this is the first year and giving the benefit of the doubt. Other events I’ve been too have said the same thing however with the parent company running similar events all over the uk, its more of a cliche excuse rather than a real feeling.