It’s a distinctive student summer problem: how are you going to max out your overdraft and spend the state’s remaining pennies to ensure you’re saddled with as much debt as possible upon graduation? Hemorrhaging money to fund a dull, overworked and underpaid middle-of-the-road work placement in London must be high up on the list. Elsewhere you could find yourself in Asia or save the world with one school-building project at a time in Africa. But perhaps the soundest investment would be to head to a field and frolic at a festival.
Every summer herds of festivalgoers flock to farmlands to splash their cash on extended weekends renowned for music, madness and all round fun in the rain sun. Music festivals have become a ubiquitous summer staple as hedonistic throngs binge on a diet of mouthwatering live acts and cold baked beans. But how does one choose from a festival menu replete with such delectable festival delights? Well, this writer is going to be bold and say that the most special is Bestival – a sprawling four-day musical extravaganza set at Robin Hill Country Park down in the Isle of Wight on 4-7th September.
The event, curated by Radio 1 DJ Rob da Bank and his partner in crime (and life) Josie, celebrates its eleventh birthday this year and boasts a typically star-studded line up of compelling headliners. Perhaps the greatest draw is OutKast as Andre 3000 and Big Boi reunite to perform one of only two UK shows on a 40-date worldwide tour. Hip-hop and rap acts notoriously struggle at festivals as nuanced drum claps and subtle melodies are often hollowed-out by open-air acoustics. But we hope the sound system does its job to ensure that Roses, rather than pints of suspect looking liquid, land at the feet of the Atlanta-based duo.
Elsewhere there’s no horsing around on Saturday as Foals take to the stage set to prove just why they have grown from jaunty indie ponies to powerhouse thoroughbreds (to the pun neighsayers: I’m sorry). Elsewhere, Beck and Busta Rhymes join Bonobo and Basment Jaxx on the list of blockbuster artists beginning with ‘B’ you would be silly to miss.
But look beyond the headline-grabbing headliners and you’ll understand why Bestival is marked out as one of the most revered festival experiences amongst artists, critics and festivalgoers alike.
Here are a few reasons why:
Eclectic Music that Makes You Wanna Dance
Inclusivity and diversity may sound like terms used in a jargon-ridden political party conference speech, but they also describe Bestival’s approach in ensuring the festival boasts one of the most absorbing, genre-spanning line ups every summer. We’re especially looking forward to seeing how John Wizards translate their intimate spellbinding genre-melting sound into a live performance. Tune-Yards, Darkside, Laura Mvula and Chic ft. Nile Rodgers also feature high up on our to-do list. After dark, the roll call of live DJ sets reads like an A-Z directory of the best artists and producers in the dance and electronic music scene: veteran big-hitters Sven Väth, Äme, John Talabot and the more nuanced 1-800-Dinosaur crew are our picks for the weekend; while crowds are also likely to answer grammar-defying hipster’s choice Can U Dance in the affirmative. Check the full line-up here.
There’s something endearingly epic about the journey to Bestival. For most, almost all mediums of transportation are used: train-ferry-walk-coach is the familiar formula. The Odysseus-like venture leads you deep into the idyllic sprawling hills of Robin Hill Country Park to make the whole thing seem like an entrance into an enchanted utopian world. The Port (think huge ship wreck marooned ashore) and the luscious Ambient Forest are popular hotspots. The location of the main stage – erected at the bottom of a gentle gradient to ensure maximum exposure for the acts – is another major plus. And on your way home make sure you pay a visit the brilliant near-by garlic farm for free tasters and much-needed sustenance.
It’s Not All About the Music
The Amphitheatre is my favourite part of Bestival. Located in the Ambient Forest, the stage plays host to comedy, short plays, sketch shows and genuinely interesting talks usually centered on left-field topics with a strong dose of government-bashing (well, it is an arts festival after all). But the highlight is bound to be the Satin Lizard Lounge sessions curated by spoken-word and hip-hop guru Scroobious Pip. Here, the UK’s sharpest spoken-word supremos showcase their talent, with Ted Hughes Poetry Award Winner Kate Tempest the pick of an eclectic bunch. You could do a lot worse than escape, unwind and recharge at the Amphitheatre for a few hours before embarking on another mission of musical mayhem.
Revellers pushed the boat out when it came to last years’ nautical theme as those on board HMS Bestival drowned in a sea of fisherman, mermaids and giant octopuses. Expect to see plenty of coconuts and palm trees at this years’ Desert Island Disco theme. But the eccentric eclecticism that has become a hallmark of Bestival is also woven into the fabric of its fancy dress game. Outrageous surreal outfits create an escapist alternative reality in which Bestival’s unique spirit flourishes. Here, Bestival’s penchant for creativity, originality and fun reaches its ultimate expression.
It is this marriage of original music and creative entertainment that ensures Bestival really is the best of all. So pack that tent, don your finest grass skirt and we’ll see you there.
Bestival takes place from 4-7th September in Robin Hill Country Park, Isle of Wight. You can buy tickets here.