Tankfest is awesome! No if. No but. No maybe.
This annual weekend jamboree in June brings together everything that the Tank Museum is and then makes it even better. And that’s saying a lot, because the Tank Museum is already a great attraction.
If the Tank Museum was a school, then Tankfest would be the last day of term, when you can get out all the toys and play to your heart’s content!
Tankfest is a festival of tanks and a feast of armoured and tracked vehicles of every kind. Which is what you’d expect of an event held at the home of the World’s greatest and most historic collection of fighting vehicles. But what makes Tankfest different to other days at the Tank Museum is that there’s masses of kit on the move.
“Tanks in Action” displays during the Museum’s main season are impressive, but Tankfest is a whole new ball-game!
On ordinary days, visitors come to the museum to see its permanent, housed displays and pop out to the Kuwait Arena from time to time to see a “Tanks in Action” display. On Tankfest weekend, all that turns on its head. The main arena becomes the focus for a full-day’s programme of tanks and displays, with the interior Museum displays taking on the supporting role.
Add to this the impressive and extensive outdoor displays put on by re-enactors in their “living camps” and there is more than enough to see and do to fill a long day. In truth, one day is not enough to do justice to both Tankfest and the Tank Museum itself. This can be solved by buying a weekend ticket to the festival or, perhaps better still, by gift aiding your entry fee, which gives you free entry to the Museum for the rest of the year -which in terms of value for money alone, makes this an attractive option.
Tankfest is special. In truth, it is probably more of a Dads-and-boys-fest than a Mums-and-girls-fest, but it is certainly a good value family-fest, that all can enjoy at some level. It is noisy. It can be dusty. But it is fun and it is educational.
The noise comes both from the tanks and from the pyrotechnics exploded during the mock battles. The latter could be thought insensitive in the context of the memorials to the fallen nearby, but care is taken to present the main arena activities as a tribute to those who have secured and preserved our modern-day freedoms. And if anything the ground-shaking sight of main-battle tanks old and new being exercised around the spacious arena and its obstacles will give most a new perspective on the bravery of those who are asked to fight in them or against them. Think Tiananmen Square, and ask yourself whether you could have stood in the path of something like the metal monsters you’ll see at Tankfest!
Wandering around Tankfest and the Museum, it is impossible not to learn something new from the displays, service personnel and the re-enactors, whether about the history of human conflicts since the First World War or the engineering and science that has gone into the development of armoured fighting vehicles since that time. But even, or perhaps especially, just sitting on the grass around the arena you will learn more than you would imagine from the commentaries on the main ring events.
All the commentaries are well-crafted to a mixed audience with children at its core, so that tank-buffs and complete novices will all gain something good from the experience. Top of the bill in this regard is the Tank Museum’s own historian, David Fletcher, whose relaxed and engaging narrative style delivers historical and technical snippets in the easily digested way that only the true expert can ever achieve.
On the practicalities of visiting, food and “facilities” of the main museum are all on hand, including the new and reasonably-priced cafeteria, where you can buy anything from tea and a biscuit, to a full, hot meal. In addition, for Tankfest, there are outside caterers, doing the usual hot food and ices from vans and marquees as outside caterers do. Alongside these are other trade stands offering army-surplus and fairground games. But in the truest sense, these are very much a side show.
The main event is definitely the main arena.
On the downside, this means the extent of your enjoyment may, to a degree, be weather-dependent. If it’s raining, you’ll get wet, but there is always the massive space of the museum to retreat to if it gets bad. On the other hand if it's hot and sunny you’ll tan nicely, but be prepared for several hours of sunlight exposure to see the arena attractions alone.
So, Tankfest, a truly spectacular day out or weekend. Good value for money if you gift-aid to get an annual pass. An educational and fun way to spend time with the kids. And tank-buff and boy heaven. But remember, just like Christmas and Birthdays, Tankfest comes but once a year and it takes a lot of planning!
Each year’s event follows some sort of theme. Checkout what’s happening this year or look forward to what may be up the Tank Museum’s sleeve for the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, the conflict that gave birth to the tank.
You’d expect that Bovington, the Birthplace of the Tank, to give an event like that some prominence -the rest of us will have to wait and see!
This annual weekend jamboree in June brings together everything that the Tank Museum is and then makes it even better...."