On the weekend of 26th-28th July, I returned to NPF Bassetts Pole for their famous annual paintball/airsoft festival, respectively Paintfest and Airfest for ‘3 days of paintball/airsoft heaven’.

Airfest is held annually at NPF Bassetts Pole which is located in the West Midlands and is one of the most well-known paintball sites in the UK. It is a huge festival where teams and players from around the world attend to sling some paint, compete in competition tournaments, enjoy a huge players party and get the chance to check out all the new kit from some of the biggest names in the industry. In 2017, NPF introduced airsoft to the festival and the airsoft presence within the festival has grown year on year! The event is, as always centred around a huge festival arena area that holds the trade stands, food vendors, the bar area and the player party arena with the Fireball Squadron and NPF paintball fields in the surrounding areas that are a short walk away. It truly has that festival feel but with a trade show edge!

This year there were more retailers onsite than ever before, including Enola Gaye - selling their world-famous pyrotechnics and soft goods, JD Airsoft - bringing a wide selection of airsoft guns, accessories and gear from their superstore in Cannock, Tactical Coffee Company - a veteran-owned magfedpb.co.uk, Warped Gear, Valken and many others where players could purchase new kit. There was also a good range of activities onsite - the British Reserve 225 FD SQN returned this year with a new challenge, this year teams had to transport the components of a catapult in pieces over a set of apparatus then construct the. Catapult and engage the targets that were barrels with signs such as ‘free wifi here!’ - clever. NPF also invited back their resident festival masseuse Anna, who was offering full-body massages for a reasonable price. SIXMIL and West Midlands Airsoft brought their mobile range down for the weekend with various RIFs so players could get some target practice in and try out some new weapons.

Onsite this year there was also a large selection of food vendors including K&N with their catering van selling all the festival favourites such as burgers, baps etc, the Lavazza Coffee rig for some great early morning Joe, Oregano kitchen returned with their bomb pizza, Jono’s Rustic Wraps made an appearance this year and last but not least, Greidys serving up wings and strips (if you follow me on on IG, you know I love me some wings!)

The ticket price this year rose to £95 and that included camping for the duration of Airfest - Friday to Sunday morning (although for an additional £10pppn you could stay the Thursday before and Sunday night). The facilities, as always were very good. The camping area for players is a huge field that is adjacent to the festival area where attendees can set up tents, caravans and motorhomes and have their cars parked next to their camp if they wish (something I really like because it means you can keep all your expensive kit safe in the car!) If you choose so, there is the option to purchase bands that enable you to use the shower block on site (entrance to the shower facilities is by band only, so don’t try sneaking in!) and they have plenty of portaloos dotted around the camping and main arena areas. In previous years they have had women’s only portaloos which was always super appreciated but this wasn’t the case at this year's event so it was a little disappointing. I would love to see this facility return in next years festival.

Although NPF runs airsoft skirmishes twice monthly, the airsoft games for airfest are run on the adjacent site, Fireball Squadron. For those of you that haven’t played at Fireball, the site is a dense, thick woodland that is so close in areas that you can have a member of the opposite team standing next to you in the brush and not notice! It is a maze of shrubbery with some large open spaces filled with wooden buildings, jeeps and other structures that has been running for over 20 years. 

Friday is when Airfest officially kicks off! The camping area and registration on Friday opens at 7am, along with the catering and trade show stands, and the rolling games/activities commence from 10am. I arrived at 11am on Friday morning, just in time for the festival bar to open at 12pm! The main game on Friday started at 2pm and was called ‘Downed Pilot’ - for this game, a senior test pilot in the Kosgrovian Air Force had been shot down near to the Baljski Border, the mission was to recover and either capture or recover, as he was holding intel. As I was unable to spend Friday night at NPF, I spent my Friday at the festival visiting the trade stands and catching up with old friends/making new ones. I left shortly before the Dusk game ‘Cold War’ started which ran from 7pm, the story behind the night game was the conclusion of the Kosgrovian War - the Kosgrovian’s had to defend their sites around the capital from the Bajakians, who in turn had to take these sites and capture the warheads to increase their firepower. The game ran until 9pm, ready for the Friday night movie that commenced at 10pm- which this year was John Wick! Players are invited to bring their snacks, beverages and camping seats into the arena area for the movie which is shown on an enormous screen. I was unable to stay Friday evening due to family commitments prior to planning Airfest, so I went home and returned in the morning.

I returned to the event at around 10.30am on Saturday (after dropping my niece off at her Mum’s) and made my way straight to NPF for the remainder of Airfest and I arrived to a lot of rain and mud! Despite the weather being wonderful sunshine the day before, the heavens opened during the night and continued throughout the morning (and through to the next day as well, but it wouldn’t be airfest without a little bit of rain). As I was late for the first game, I spent the morning catching up with followers and chatting to them which is always a good laugh and one of the most awesome parts of my job. At 1pm I kitted up and got on the field, the safety brief and game brief given by the Marshalls and site staff of Fireball Squadron was comprehensive and covered all the important points. After that, we set out on our first missions, on Saturday this year NPF/Fireball ran the big game ‘Diamond Wars’ which is a legacy game that sees USDE and HMC battle it out for control of the land, diamonds and the overall victory. Our first mission was to capture ground from HMC (I was on USDE) and hold it. I forgot for a while how close this site actually is when you get into the undergrowth! The firefights over one of the buildings was super intense even got to room to room clearing in the woodland which was awesome! After an intense fight, the game was called! After a short break in play, the afternoon session began and in this game we had to raid the embassy and the prison for ‘bodies’, retrieve them and store them at our respawn. Our team went really hard at this mission and managed to capture 8 out of the total hostages by raiding the embassy, we did face some really fierce pushback on the prison, HMC were worthy adversaries.

The player's party is the highlight of Saturday after the games end there is a short break before the infamous player's party. At 7.30pm on Saturday the NPF staff take to the stage in the arena and the bar opens. The player's party is a chance for airsofters and paintballers to mingle, drink unlimited free drinks (included in your ticket price) and watch some onstage entertainment. This year Mr/Miss Paintfest competition did not go ahead. Sunday this year was an interesting one, as usual, there was a few sore heads from the player's party and with the heavy rain that lasted from 7pm Saturday and all through the night, the games were unusually quiet. I chose to spend my Sunday exploring the trade stands. The game on Sunday, ‘Ground War’ generally starts at 12pm and ends at 4pm in which the briefing states the Blajakian militia must recover lost ground from the Kosgrovians. The winners of the weekend are announced at 4.30pm!

Overall, I had a great time at Airfest 2019, as I have done every year! If you’re an airsofter looking for an event to attend before the NAE to get you in the mood for the festival season, Airfest 2019 is definitely something you should consider! I love that the airsoft presence is growing year on year, and I’ve noticed now NPF have combined airsoft and paintball, the communities aren’t at polar opposites - there are more airsofters trying paintball and more paintballers trying airsoft! The event is great value for money, especially taking into consideration that all your drinks for the player's party are included AND you get 3 days worth of game days! The facilities are good - great trade stands so you can shop until you drop and great eateries so you needn’t worry about going hungry, but I would love to see a return of the women’ only portaloo - that would be hugely appreciated, especially the morning after the player's party! Lastly, I would like to say a huge thank you to Jed, Kerry and the NPF team for a great weekend, the hospitality I am shown year on year is very much appreciated, see you next year!

Article originally appeared in Airsoft Action

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