IT’S been said that ‘festivals are on their way out’. That may or may not be true, but some of this summer’s top events are thriving. Reporter Andrew Trendell talks to DJ and festival curator Rob Da Bank about how his own creation, Bestival, is going from strength to strength.
The Cure, Bjork, Mogwai, Pendulum, PJ Harvey, Brian Wilson, Public Enemy and even the Village People. With incredible names like that on a bill, pulling off a great festival should be easy? You’d think so, at least.
Earlier this year, festival godfather and Glastonbury boss Michael Eavis called the death knell on British festivals. “Partly, it’s economics,” he said, “but there is a feeling that that people have seen it all before.”
In recent years, Britain’s live music scene has flourished, but this year, even many of the most hotly anticipated festivals on the circuit have struggled to sell out. So, how do you buck the trend in such a saturated market? Bestival curator Rob Da Bank says that you just give people ‘something they haven’t seen before’.
“There are two very simple things effecting festivals - massive economical hardship and job losses for so many, plus the high level of competition out there,” says Rob. “We will sell both shows out a bit later than last year but luckily we’ll get through another year.”
He continues: “I suppose it’s the crowd who make the atmosphere at Bestival so unique. We set up a beautiful, eccentric and very welcoming site - but ultimately the amazing crowd who come down make the magic.”
Indeed, Bestival has praised for its inventive ambience and creative spirit. Set on the Isle of Wight, Rob Da Bank says no stone has been left unturned.
“We’ve always been about the detail,” he admits. “We have tents hand-made in India, we make and paint all of the signs ourselves, we use old style canvas tents rather than PVC where we can and we use miles and miles of bunting, fairy lights and artwork to make the site a prettier one.”
“This years new additions include a roller disco and an amazing Swamp Shack built from scratch complete with rusting car and spooky lake – it’s going to be pretty special.”
Not only that, but to add a little extra flavour to the proceedings, Bestival has a special themed fancy dress day every year.
“The idea of fancy dress just makes everyone relax and lose themselves. This year’s theme is pop stars, rock stars and divas, which should be really fun.”
With the recession taking its toll on the pockets of music lovers, every festival is being forced to up their game. So how does Bestival rank against the competition?
“I couldn’t possibly say,” laughs Rob. “I just focus on making our show as special and exclusive as possible. There are some great line ups out there but I think we hold our own for our capacity.”
So with a unique atmosphere and character already in place, what came into play when considering this year’s stellar line up of artists?
“I’ve been after The Cure for seven years so I was delighted when they finally gave in,” he admits. “They’re going to be playing two and a half hours on the Saturday night so cant wait for that. Then Friday is all about Pendulum, Magnetic Man, Chromeo, Public Enemy and Odd Future – but you can’t forget the legendary Brian Wilson whilst Sunday will be a world festival exclusive from Bjork. Bingo!”
He continued: “You’re getting two of the best back catalogues of any artists I can think of with The Cure and Bjork - so many hits and classic tracks, and with Bjork a lot of theatre.”
And that’s the amazing thing about Bestival – with most festivals you can more or less predict the core of the line up about a year in advance, whereas Bestival fans are often proved wrong in their predictions and are always kept guessing. It could be said that that there’s a ‘Bestival-type’ band with certain qualifications.
“Ha ha, yes that’s quite true,” chuckles Rob. “To be quite frank, this year I didn’t know who it was going to be! I hate planning too far ahead but with the amount of competition around I’m going to have to start being more on it I think.”
Are there many more surprises to be announced?
“Always!” beams Rob. “Watch this space.”
Bestival takes place from 8th-11th September at Robin Hill Country Park on the Isle of Wight.
For tickets and more info visit www.bestival.net
To book travel to the event visit www.redfunnel.co.uk