Bestival. A festival that is still relatively nascent with it only being in its 13th year nonetheless people have come to expect a lot of the festival and it is no secret that a lot of fans were left aghast by this years festival for one reason or another. The organisers claimed that it was a “different beast” this year as a result of a “wobbly” economy. Admittedly, it was my first time attending and as Muddy Waters succinctly put it “you can’t lose what you ain’t got“. Having spoken to regular Bestivalites it is clear that there was a gaping hole with regards to the breadth of experiences on offer compared to previous years which had ‘wacky tents’ and ‘bonkers new-age shacks’.
The contents of the festival were still wholesome. The Nando’s pop-up restaurant/make-shift stage was a surefire hit. After all, people don’t tend to complain about random men screaming in restaurants if they go by the name of DDoubleE, Krept or Konan. The forest also proved to be sublime, a multitude of lights helped to foster a vibrant yet ethereal atmosphere. Robin Hill being a hill (funny that) has played a monumental part in making Bestival what it is. There are obvious negatives, however these ills are forgiven once you’re able to soak in the magnitude of the occasion.
“Whose playing?” Tends to be the first question people ask about a festival. Previously with festivals such as Bestival the line up was not the be all and end all but that may change following this years feastival. Nonetheless Bestival provided spectators with decent acts. Post-punk royalty The Cure are known to be crowd pleasers, slap a bit of lippy on Mr Smith and you’re in for a show. Grime featured heavily with Eskimo dance having a key slot. This slot was rightly rearranged, initially it was to clash with grime Titan and this years Mercury prize winner Skepta, a ridiculous proposition. From an indiekids perspective there wasn’t much to jump up about on paper at least. Wolf Alice weren’t surrounded by their fellow indie darlings but then again this isn’t a festival known for bludgeoning indie acts. Bestival came into its own with regards to electronic acts, Shy fx, Diplo, Fat boy slim, Richie Hawtin and hospitality essentially having their own night. Not forgetting Bestival veterans Hot Chip as well as Dubstep founders Skream and Artwork altogether providing a truly eclectic electronic line up! Such names do not make up for other woes, the lack of a Stevie Wonder or Chic like artist certainly didn’t do Rob Da Bank (the founder) any favours. Having said that, cult acts like Kurupt FM played well into the organisers hands.
Admittedly I stayed away from the main stage and looked towards the future by basing my self at the aptly named invaders of the future stage. PC music all stars took over on the Saturday night and as expected their devoted flock of sheep followed. Hannah Diamond, the queen of PC music walked on stage midway through the set and dithered around before she finally sang. Her mechanical monotonous voice was ironically palpable. PC music were the unlikely saviours of the invaders stage. Hinds preceded them, they were the most enjoyable guitar band of the weekend. Their set was full of anecdotes, crowd engagement, stage invasions and other misdemeanours, what more could you ask for! The Wytches where one of the last acts on the stage and they played a blinder, it’s definitely worth keeping tabs on their new music .
Kurupt FM were the real stars of the festival they were on everyone’s lips which is why it baffles me that they were made to perform in the Bollywood tent, a tent that shamefully had nothing to do with Bollywood. Kurupt FM had clearly outgrown the stage, the fact that Craig David bought them out during his set (a fairly good one btw ) and attributed his success to them says a lot. The array of grime acts that the festival had played a huge role this year, the rawness of the genre added a new dynamic to the festival. During the Eskimo Dance set, Skepta was seen at the back of the crowd, leaving most of us questioning if it was really him, people at the back of the venue (myself included) turned away from the stage and just watched him in awe. Less than a week later, that humble man won a Mercury prize. Eskimo dance’s show was full of energy and mosh pits, some of which turned sour. Grime forefather Kano experimented a little but his set was fairly dire, he himself was on top form however his band just didn’t cut it.
Strolling across Robin Hill always resulted in the unveiling of peculiar surprises the ‘Bulmers Colourena’ was one of them. Stumbling across the colourena was the greatest coup of the weekend, I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did. The cause? Musical chairs. Yup musical chairs. Sh*tfaced Shakespeare (a Shakespearean play in which one of the actors is fairly inebriated – well Sh*tfaced) also went down a treat. This is despite biblical weather testing our patience, it rained cats and dogs – as well as NOS canisters apparently… Forty arrests were made and £175,000 worth of drugs were seized despite fairly rigorous searching. A disappointing amount of peoples weekends were marred due to the theft of possessions, the festival saw a 41% increase in thefts reported, two of my friends were unfortunately part of that statistic. Another downside was the fact that we weren’t given cloth wristbands however, they have since offered to post them out for free. Having said that, it was good to see Oxfam out in full force, all of the oxfam stewards were great to chat to – a lot of them only knew as much as we did but they consistently went out of their way to help. The Women’s institute food tent was also a Godsend – the best advice I could give you is to camp close to it!
The greatest thing about Bestival wasn’t the music. That’s a tad sensationalist but the most intriguing aspects of the festival certainly spawned from non-musical ventures. A lot of these ventures took place in the heart of the forest in a sporadically placed amphitheatre. Being the nerd that I am, I felt obliged to attend the lectures at the amphitheatre and thankfully being a bit of a sod paid off. I learnt about the spectacular work that the Ellen MacArthur foundation do. They hosted an array of interactive talks on a range of issues pertaining to jobs and consumerism. Key messages where put across via seemingly bizarre yet effective methods. A lot of balloons were unfortunately hurt in the process…
Despite being stripped back, Bestival was indeed majestic! And it’s definitely worth putting on your bucket list as is the Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF), an online festival run by the Ellen MacArthur foundation that explores how the economy is changing. Find out more by going to www.thinkdiff.co XxX