You’ve got to hand it to Rob Da Bank. Ten years ago the UK festival market was in a very different state. Secret Garden Party was just launching, and Glastonbury was the frontier by which every festival set it’s benchmark. Of course, at the time, none of them could touch it, instead picking from it’s best bits and putting them at the heart of their own festivals. While Boomtown and Secret Garden Party chose the crazy experimental side, bringing to light the late night areas of Glastonbury over an entire festival site, Rob Da Bank made sure he wasn’t just trying to re-create his favourite festival in a field on the other side of England.
Bestival was always a concept project – something that Rob could use to further develop ideas he’d had from visiting Worthy Farm, putting a priority on design and programming and forgetting some of the less-accessible fields at Glastonbury. 10 years on, and it’s fair to say that original concept is still holding strong. With Bestival attracting a new audience of younger fans looking for something a little savvier than Reading, it’s at a decade-old that Bestival faces the pressure of becoming a commercial success. Whether this new audience will be too much for a festival that’s always prided itself on the “coming together” of it’s audiences, we’ll have to see – but with Bestival now at almost 80,000 capacity, there’s no other festival launched in the last ten years that can even come close to it’s dominance.
Having been for three years in a row, Bestival has left me with some truly spellbinding experiences, and usually it’s been the smaller bands on the bill that have really surprised. Last year I was watching Stevie Wonder blow up the main stage on the Sunday night – but it was in the ambient forest watching a selection of small little known DJ’s that I had the best memories. The year before, it was Sunday Best signing Sound Of Rum smashing up a cardboard record shop that made my weekend, and a sterling set by Tall Ships that shone above everything else musically.
Part of the wonder of Bestival is it’s ability to bring a selection of different audiences together. This year, with the heavier dance bookings and new electronic arenas, Bestival faces the test of hardened ravers living alongside first-time festival goers. I can’t say that I’m not worried about Bestival experiencing a clash of personality – but I hope that aside from everyday festival politics, people will feel the spirit and passion that Rob Da Bank and co have put into this project, and respect it for what it is.
After all – it’s through real love and energy that Bestival has managed to attract this year’s incredible exclusives. Even Glastonbury could barely touch Bestival’s line-up. With The Roots, Franz Ferdinand, The Flaming Lips, Bombay Bicycle Club, Belle & Sebastian, Snoop Dogg, Elton John and a ridiculous amount of young new talent – Angel Haze, Disclosure, Peace, Merchandise, Parquet Courts, Lulu James - all on offer over the weekend, no musical territory is untouched – as hip-hop, old school, indie and dance all share their own piece of the spotlight.
We’re ready for you Bestival – it’s time to show us what you’ve got.
Photograph by Merlin Jobst