Why is Bestival Still So Good?

This year’s Bestival was pretty fantastic. DJ Rob Da Bank’s brainchild has managed to maintain its unique, organic appeal without feeling like it’s ‘sold out’ or become infested with idiots. But how has it bucked the trend that so many festivals have fallen foul to? Here’s some of the X factors…

The crowd

Festivals often start out as happy smiley gatherings in big green spaces populated by people who know that Bikram yoga is not a DJ and expect their eggs to be laid by chickens with Bupa cover. Come five years, if the festival isn’t careful, this crowd could be replaced by a crowd of people which looks like the X Factor audition queue.

Bestival has somehow managed to avoid this infestation of sulk-faced teens in Hunter wellies and done a fine job of attracting people who are resilient in their quest for good times.

The varied age group is a contributing factor. This is important as you don’t want to feel like the annoying kid at a ‘big person’s’ party, nor do you want to immerse yourself amongst a bunch of people so young you’d be scared of pulling out a bag of sweets in fear of being arrested.

The fancy dress regiment no-doubt encourages people to play nicely together, after all, you’d look a bit of a wally trying to ball a fist into someone’s gob dressed as a penguin…

The fancy dress theme

Every year Bestival applies a fancy dress theme. This year’s wildlife idea had thousands merrily plodding around the grounds dressed as the kind of creatures usually seen being wooed by Sir David Attenborough. Some people actually came as Sir David himself. Genius.

A personal favourite was the guy dressed as a BBC Wildlife On One cameraman who, in an Oscar-worthy performance, skulked through the crowds capturing the action on his cardboard camera. Him and the guy that came as a massive mushroom. I’m still kicking myself for not asking him how many times people told him he was a fun-gi.

Foxy felines, glitter-bombed baboons and everything in the semantic field of ‘safari’ skipped around the festival without a care except maybe how to avoid dropping their tail in the portaloo pit. The best bit? Almost everyone got involved. One family of even dressed their kids up as baby dinosaurs. If that was you and you’re reading this – buy yourself a drink and send me the bill. Well played.

The line-up

The consistently stellar line-up caters for the ecliptic mix of people young and old providing music from the contemporary to classic, mellow to mental.

Stevie Wonder aside, the live acts line-up deserved some serious hat-tipping. The XX purred their way through an enchanting set-list, Emile Sande and Florence And The Machine captivated their crowds and Michael Kiwanuka and Little Dragon soothed the Sunday afternoon masses. Even the evergreen sounds of Sister Sledge, De La Soul, Adam Ant and Roots Manuva provided some nostalgia for the old-school revellers and schooled the new kids on the festival block.

This year’s music menu dished up a particularly thick slaver of superstar DJs proving Rob Da Bank’s musical tastes are still firm on the pulse. The magnetic Major Lazer pulled in a throng of bass-craved ravers, Four Tet spun an impressive set back-to-back with Caribou and the big names from the Brainfeeder record label catered for the electronic heads.

Energetic garage and grime sounds thumped out at the hands of the young northern DJ Toddla T who treated his audience to an impromptu live PA from garage diva Shola Ama. Following this was the melodic strums of Bonobo causing the RizLab tent queue to heave against the rails.

Legendary favourites Gilles Peterson warmed-up for Stevie Wonder and David Rodigan kept the beautifully designed Bollywood tent heaving with reggae and dancehall die-hards. If there weren’t at least a handful of acts on the bill that got you shaking a leg, you might need your ears tested.

It helped that this year’s Bestival enjoyed the promised Indian summer (rain, mud and leopard-print leotards does not a happy person make) and anyone who watched the closing show of Stevie Wonder followed by the fireworks and a ceremonious shower of confetti would have left the festival feeling like they’d witnessed history.

Next year’s Bestival has a lot to live up to, but this hard-working party likes a challenge. Let’s just wait and see how they will top this year’s memorable event.

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