In a time where music festivals are challenging sunny holidays as the main vacation of the summer, one festival in Bournemouth has been offering a hybrid experience of two of our nation's most precious pastimes - sport and music. It's now been occupying our May bank holiday weekend for 10 years, and its meteoric rise shows that it is capturing the imagination of its sporty campers.
BOURNEMOUTH 7s, aptly dubbed 'The Sporting Glastonbury' by DJ Spoony, has grown to attract teams from 4 sports - rugby, netball, hockey and dodgeball - as well as 30,000 festival-goers, mainly from across the South West and South East regions, with plenty arriving from London and Wales. As many as 172 rugby teams now show up, with 96 netball teams, 96 dodgeball teams and 32 hockey teams. By the night, Bournemouth 7s becomes host to 12 music arenas filled with an increasingly impressive line-up of DJs, as well as garage and electronic acts.
Unlike other festivals, Bournemouth 7s opens its campsite gates from 12 noon on the Friday, with the marriage of live music and sport happening from Saturday morning. One of the really great features, is that the festival caters for music artists and sports teams from all levels - as well as tournaments for touring sports teams, the festival also hosts social competitions, allowing those who'd rather partake in the music and drinking aspect to get involved with the sports (this aspect is summed up by the fancy-dress dodgeball events!). The sitemap below actually makes you feel the buzz and excitement that must be present on the festival grounds during the event.
photo credit: Bournemouth 7s Twitter Page
It's crazy to see how much there actually is to get involved in - the main festival site seems packed with many different experiences. At most U.K. festivals, the arena is the place to and see the music, but at Bournemouth 7s you can do so much more. The festival hosts an incredible 12 ARENAS for live music, but also countless beer gardens and tents, as well as brand stalls that run competitions at the event. The festival's timing means that it is also able to show the FA Cup Final on an enormous television screen. For me, a number of the larger festivals could learn a thing or two from this plethora of targeted, unique activities which engage the festival-goers. If music festivals are meant to be a Utopian, escape-from-reality experience for the fans, then this festival is living out its purpose.
Wind back to 2008, the year of the inaugural festival, and it's easy to see how the festival has grown in prestige. Impressively, Bournemouth 7s 2008 attracted 8,000 visitors, with 96 rugby teams signing up to compete. For me, that is a phenomenal set of numbers. This number of early adopters illustrates the brilliance of the idea to merge sport and music into one. It's clear that the two demographics have a lot of overlap - festival campsites often providing the perfect environment for the wilder, mischievous side of rugby players, with the dance tent being a perfect party for the female sports enthusiast.
And so the festival, led by the same team of expert organisers all the way through, continued to grow into an event that attracted larger names in a number of areas. A multitude of professional rugby players regularly attend the festival - including Jonathan Joseph, Jamie Roberts and Lewis Moody - the latter of which, in 2017, ran the Challenge Lewis Competition to raise money for the Lewis Moody Foundation, which focuses on helping families affected by the devastation of brain tumours. Apparently, the challenge involves attempting to rugby tackle the former England captain to the ground. The successful tackle will earn the tackler an upgrade to the V.VIP Lounge and the VIP Arena - just one of the aforementioned competitions you can be a part of.
In 2009, the festival grew to host over 200 rugby teams, and also introduced the hugely successful Netball competitions, picking up a Bournemouth Tourism Award on the way. A snapshot in 2011 shows that the festival grew to attract 18,000 guests with over 300 sports teams, and live music happening in as many as 8 arenas. 2012 brought the first festival sell-out, with dodgeball making its debut in 2013 - a year in which the popular Cuban Brothers headlined the festival.
The festival seems to keep improving year on year, with new attractions being added to improve the experience. It also continues to set new records for the number of teams registering, and introduced a new Jager Yurt arena on its 10th birthday in 2017. All in all, Bournemouth 7s has struck the perfect combination which allows sports teams to showcase their talents, whilst bonding in the unbeatable, electric atmosphere of a music festival. It brings a fresh, competitive edge to music festivals, unlike anywhere else we see in the country. It's also a chance for close groups of friends who enjoy but don't regularly compete in sport, to come and have fun and still have lots of other things to enjoy too. It's a 360-degree paradise for the music and sports fan.
If you're part of a rugby, netball, hockey or dodgeball team, professional or just for fun, you should definitely go ahead and register for 2018, which is now open via the Bournemouth 7s website: https://bournemouth7s.com/ .
And if you needed any more convincing, check out their official highlight reel for 2017's festival:
You can also check out some of the fan videos online to get a fan's perspective on what it's like.