Camp Quirky: Interview With Co-Founder Lindsay and Festival Director Nikki

Preparations for Camp Quirky 2023 are in full swing. In anticipation of tickets being released in November, we have sat down with Nikki Cameron, Camp Quirky Festival Director and Lindsay Berresford, co-founder of Quirky Campers to get an inside scoop on everything Camp Quirky, including an exciting surprise!

Hello! We’re so excited to delve into all things Camp Quirky 2023 but let’s start at the beginning. How did Camp Quirky start and why did it start? 

L: We initially started it as an opportunity for our listed rental owners to come together, get to know each other, see each other’s vans and share tips. But then we soon realised there was a real hunger in our community for a gathering that would bring together like minded people, that would also centre around handmade vans. People also wanted to learn the skills to convert their own vans and learn from the adventures other people had been on. So it really is a chance for that whole community that spends a lot of time supporting each other and being in touch with each other online to come together in a field and share skills, share stories and get inspired. 

That’s so lovely. And how many Camp Quirky’s have there been so far?

L: So we’ve had 5 events that were called Camp Quirky, however, the first two were quite different as they were owner gatherings and there were a limited number of spaces for members of the public to come and have a look round. And there’s been 3 that I would describe as festivals with a full programme of music, workshops, food and drink and plenty of entertainment. 

How would you describe Camp Quirky to someone who hasn’t been before?

L: I remember somebody once said that it was like the internet had come to life in a field because all the people you might have been chatting to online for years are suddenly all together and that sense of comradery, community and everybody learning from each other is suddenly there but it’s happening in real life. The thing that immediately strikes you as you enter is the fact that this field is full of vehicles of all shapes and sizes; you certainly notice the diversity and also the creativity buzzing from the field.

N: The programme is absolutely rammed full of amazing workshops, a lot of people are there for the workshops. There’s lots of people who haven’t even started building their own van yet through to people who are experts. I love the dogs on site. I’m very used to working in a festival situation but to see lovely little smiling dog faces everywhere is just so nice. There’s lots of smiling happy people, there’s just a real good feeling of love and happiness in the year. 

L: And one of the things that we particularly noticed is lots of people come on their own and may feel quite nervous about coming on their own. Anybody who arrives on their own spends a maximum of an hour alone before they’ve found a new group of best friends.

N: Yeah and sitting around the campfire, chatting in the bar, inside the main tent with the music – everyone’s friends by the end of the weekend.

That sounds like so much fun! Speaking of socialising, how did you find bouncing back from a 2 year break due to the pandemic?

L: It was a mix bag. Mostly we were just really excited to be able to do another event and we were more aware of how precious something like that is, so it was a real privilege actually to be part of people coming back together after that time. There were certainly challenges, we had a lot of changes in the team and crew members so we had to sort of remember how to do some of the stuff we’d done before.

N: I came on to work for Quirky Campers in November 2021, so it’s all brand new to me. I learnt all about the campervans, the community and how to best put on a festival for them. And so it’s been great learning about the ins and outs of vanlife. 

And what makes Camp Quirky sustainable?

N: We’re fully solar powered so no generators at all. This year we used 3 solar panel providers. Also we use compost toilets which is a really important part of our sustainability plan. We ask all of our traders don’t use any single-use plastic. With regards to the recycling and rubbish management, we use a Bristol based company who pride themselves on being a 100% recyclable company.

Are there any challenges that come with being a 100% solar powered festival?

N: It is a challenging thing to achieve. It’s quite remarkable how everyone pulls together and manages to make it work. From the very beginning planning stage, before we book any traders, we make sure they’re aware there will be no power for them. In regards to the food traders, we have a very strict ticklist on what they can bring and the amount of power they can use. So yeah it’s down to the planning, it’s a lot of hard work but it’s worth it. 

L: We’re incredibly proud that we have managed to make it work and it hasn’t failed us yet; we still have lights, showers and music and it’s really cool actually to show how much can be done on solar power because it is ultimately the future.

How welcoming is Camp Quirky to non-vanlifers?

L: We actually have a lot of people that have got in contact with us before asking ‘can I come in a tent?’ or ‘can I come in a caravan?’ and we have to make it really clear and really explicit that this is an event for everybody. We’re I’d say almost obsessed with inclusion. We want everybody who comes along to feel they’re part of it. There’s no cliques or separation and we want people who are at that stage of experimenting with vanlife; to hear the bad and the ugly and be able to learn so many skills over one weekend. 

In 2022, you introduced DVUK to Camp Quirky. Tell us a bit more about your diversity mission for Camp Quirky in particular?

L: So one of the things that having Camp Quirky allowed us to do is was to see our community face to face, in real life, in a field and we were really blown away by the diversity in terms of age in terms of background, the kind of jobs that people did, in terms of gender and sexuality, all of those things but one of the things that was really lacking was that there were so few people of colour at the festival. And I knew that we had to do something about it. So Camp Quirky is part of a kind of broad strategy to help be a more inclusive space so people of colour feel like this is somewhere they can come along and be included. We’ve launched Diversify Vanlife in the UK as an Instagram platform but also we bring it to life in a tent. Everybody who identifies as being part of this diverse community can always come, feel welcome and meet like minded people. We’ve got a full program of talks representing a whole spectrum of different topics.

Do you still consider yourself to be in the growing phase of a festival?

N: So we are still in an experimental stage of the festival. We held a very successful Camp Quirky 2022 with a 3000 people capacity. We’re looking into whether we keep it the same size but we do more of them or whether we grow them, so we have more people at each event. We’re always looking at feedback to gain an insight into what the community is looking for but yeah we’re still developing that plan.

L: We know that so many more people want to get access to this event and we want to make sure that we are open to as many people as possible without in any way diluting the community feel of the event.

As Camp Quirky grows, how do you plan on maintaining your homegrown element?

N: feedback is a really important thing for us so when we ask for feedback from our guests after an event we actually act on what they are asking for. The community is the heart of our strategy, so any decisions we make with regards to the festival, we ask ourselves ‘does this serve the community?’ and ‘is this what the vanlife community is looking for?’

L: Yeah and the event was fundamentally grown at the request, desires and needs of our community, It wasn’t just us having a great idea and seeing if we could sell it to people and get them to come along. We really see ourselves as servants of the community and so we really hope by keeping that focus, we never lose that homegrown feel.

With campervan festivals on the rise, how do you see the increased competition affecting Camp Quirky?

L: I think it is a signal of the fact that there is such a hunger for this kind of event and as I said we’ve been very aware of that. Camp Quirky has always been a sell out festival so we haven’t been able to accommodate all the people who wanted to come to the event, so it is no way a surprise that more festivals are popping up. 

What is it that makes Camp Quirky so unique? 

L: I think we are always going to be a unique event because as I said the whole festival was created in response to what people were asking for, so it does have that real community feel to it and I guess because we have these incredible networks in beautiful campervan owners and professional campervan converters, I think we are always going to have a particularly spectacular set of vans at any festival that we run, but I think it is great that there is more events and I think there is room for all of us.

N: We visit them, they visit us and we all work together to make sure that the vanlife community gets served. 

What was your favourite thing about Camp Quirky 2022?

N: My favourite part of Camp Quirky was the music line up actually.

L: Because we’ve got such a diverse audience, we have to respond to that with an incredibly diverse music line up because this isn’t a bunch of people coming along who all love folk or who all love techno or whatever it might be. So we want to make sure that everybody’s musical needs are met.

N: The line up was just perfect, it flowed, it had energy, we even had Ceilidh dancing. It was brilliant! 

L: We’re not necessarily trying to find the biggest names, we are just trying to find the very best, most spectacular musicians, bands and sets. There are a couple of other moments that were real highlights for me. I remember the first thing on Saturday morning, the sun was shining across the field and there were maybe 150 people doing yoga across the field and you could have heard a pin drop, the silence was incredible. The kids were entertained all weekend, so just seeing the parents enjoying a cocktail, listening to a great talk while the kids were happily playing was just an absolute highlight.

Who would be your dream artist to join the Camp Quirky line-up? 

L: Can we have beyonce? Yeah? Alright let’s book beyonce, sorted.

What can festival goers expect at Camp Quirky 2023?

N: In response to feedback, next year we are going to release some early arrival tickets so you’ll be able to arrive from Thursday, set up camp with your friends, settle in and enjoy yourself, so you’ll be ready and raring to go for the program to start on Friday.

L: I’m quite excited because over the last few months we have been doing more and more research on electric campervans and I am becoming more and more convinced that this is the future, so we are definitely going to be having talks and workshops around that topic for anyone who is interested in being carbon free in their travels. 

Lastly, is there anything new and exciting that you could tell us about?

N: Are we gonna say?

L: Shall we tell them?

N: Yeah let’s do it…

…So later on in the year next year there will be another event. We are also working hard on where that will be and what that looks like but sign up to our mailing list to keep posted!




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