Beach Break Live, one of the biggest student parties of the summer, last Monday opened its doors to thousands of students at Lympne Safari Park in Kent. Despite the festival being dealt a tremendous blow when it was denied requisite licensing for St Agnes, Cornwall, work continued at an unprecedented pace at its new (albeit temporary) home in the South East. And still, just twenty-four hours prior to gates opening major works were still being completed by both paid staff and hard-working volunteers.
Complete with three huge (and very cold) pools, beach volley ball, and a rather beautiful mound of fresh white sand, most students seemed pretty chuffed with how it all turned out. Rosanna from Guildford was amongst those we found in the never-ending sea of student tents: "It's been great so far to be honest. We got down here about opening time and we didn't have to queue. We just set up camp and opened the cider." Her group's success was all down to taking the less green option and arriving in good time by car before the bus onslaught. And by the amount of confiscated alcohol we caught sight of at the entrance gates, it seemed most revellers had set themselves up for one hell of a party from the off.
But not everyone we spoke to on the first night was happy; most thought two-hour long queues to enter the site were unacceptable, with some facing even longer waits. Jenny and her mates travelled from Bristol Uni: "The queues have been terrible; we've got friends who've been here for three hours ... I've been here for two hours." Problems apparently arose from a security search checkpoint bottleneck; "there were only about five people doing the searching". We checked out the claim, and although there did seem to be a respectable number of staff on the gates, progress was still very slow. But despite the long waits, students weren't missing out on the action – arena gates didn't open until around midday on Tuesday.
Surprisingly, in its third year Beach Break's maintained good ol' family values and steered clear of becoming a corporate machine: co-founder Celia Norowzian had enlisted the help of her close family to help get the event off the ground this year. A mysterious lady going by the name of 'Celia's Mum' was spotted close to the entrance gate selling programmes; "there's a lot to do ... from day one we've all been very involved ... running around doing whatever needed to be done." And she was impressed by the general mood of students after their long waits: "The punters have been really easy, happy, and enjoying the sunshine even though they've had a long queue".
But selling programmes at £5 a pop, we thought, was a bit rich. And as stage times weren't published online beforehand like at most other festivals, serious music-lovers were left without much choice - cough up, or face missing their favourite bands. That said, good nosh was very reasonably priced, and of the various morsels we sampled over the three days we were really quite impressed by the quality on offer. Dr Jeuss' prime porker hot dogs were served up in a sizeable enough portion to cure anyone's stubborn hangover from the night before.
In some ways, despite the loss of the beautiful Cornwall coastline, revellers were dealt a real treat with the move: this year's festival site was conveniently located across the road from the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, with free entry for ticket-holders. There was something a little surreal (but quite exciting) about leaving the festival site, crossing the road and entering the sumptuous grounds of a country mansion, surrounded by filthy gorillas and hippos grazing on the sunkissed grass - and that was just the students. In all honesty, it really did feel like a home from home. Let's just hope the poor little blighters weren't scared out of their skin by one of Dizzee Rascal's main stage rants!
Other big-named acts included Ladyhawke, The Zutons, Mystery Jets and Friendly Fires, which littered excited conversations site-wide during the three-day bash. But if you were looking for good, clean, unadulterated music then smaller tents offered refuge from the sun and stars throughout the festival: Club Tropicana (where, disappointingly, the drinks weren't free) was billed by students connected with the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford; it hosted much of the ACM's best talent, as well as other up-and-coming artists in the form of Everything Everything, Frank Hamilton, 360 and The Ruskins.
Other highlights included the Boat Stage, which was originally a platform devoted to new talent in the Cornish area. The Boat's manager, Ryan Jones (off of indie-rockers The Hitchcock Rules), succeeded in cramming the stage with an awesome line-up of lesser-known bands - new KIDS signing Silent Film Project definitely being the highlight.
Quite a few hardcore party-goers were disappointed by the quality of the Dance Tent this year - especially in the evening. Kyle from Chester Uni loved the line-up but was a bit miffed by the repetitive dubstep and volume of sets: "Scratch Perverts and DJ Yoda were immense, but it was way too quiet - even right up by the speakers." The travelling Chai Wallah tent offered a brilliant mix of acts throughout the day, as well as some quirky hot beverages and herbal shots. Emily Katsuno, Emporium Manager at Chai Wallah, was surprised at how many students "were really into the herbal stuff" and were "up for trying new things" in keeping with a healthy lifestyle. It was the icing on the cake as far as late-night venues went at Beach Break.
Tropical weather, a superb make-shift beach, and a truly stellar line-up made Beach Break 2009 a tasty date in the student calendar. It was a miracle the bash went ahead at all considering the amount of time organisers had to move a 10,000 capacity festival nearly four hundred miles across the country in under two weeks. On the downside, we couldn't help but feel it failed in recreating last year's close-knit atmosphere in Polzeath. Did the sudden change in location force a sizeable chunk of ticket-holders to pull out at the last minute? It's hard to tell. But what we are hoping for (and deep down are sure of) is that Beach Break 2010 will be a true return to form at an unbeatable ticket price.
Check out all the pictures from the event in our Beach Break Live 2009 gallery. Leave your comments below.