Despite feeling relatively new, Bestival has been going for a decade. It was founded by Radio 1 DJ Rob Da Bank and his wife Josie as an alternative to the beer-sponsored, headband-wearing, corporate mass festivals: supporting charities, encouraging outrageous fancy dress, and offering more vegetarian options than your local health shop.
In recent years, though, the festival has become Summer’s final blowout; the last opportunity to ride the festival carousel before Winter steals our daylight and ability to leave bed without five layers of insulation. This is not a bad thing – we all want to bow-out with a big jamboree set on an island. But it did mean that I expected to be greeted by gum-deep sixth-formers on arrival.
At 55,000 people, Bestival is small enough to bump into your ex and a lot more manageable with K legs than Glastonbury. They had excellent bookings: Outkast, Nile Rodgers and Chic, and Basement Jaxx. The music runs virtually all night, meaning that the campsites don’t turn into a post apocalyptic dystopia the minute the acts stop playing, like at Reading and Leeds. But, most importantly, it’s at the end of the school holidays, meaning there are relatively few little goblin children hanging around and judging you with their eyes.
Instead, the festival caters toward two distinct audiences. The first: septum-pierced FKA Twigs’ fans, their boyfriends, and his bucket-hat wearing friends who haven’t heard a Stone Roses album but are definitely there to dab into orifices while watching Dislosure and Sam Smith. The second: serious music fans who enjoy Beck.
Here are a few things that I learnt while travelling around Bestival which, after the second day, mostly involved the dull-ache of moving a piece of Babybell around my arid mouth.
- For two boys that look like JD Sports cashiers, Disclosure almost stole the entire show.
- Paloma Faith has the world’s largest collection of shit hats.
- OutKast were okay, I guess.
- JME and Skepta played on a stage above a Nandos chicken stall. No, really. Shout out to Nandos' Head of Marketing.
- Hannah from London Grammar is the fittest white-girl ever to pull off a Tommy Hilfiger puffa jacket.
- Darkside sounds like a filthy electro version of True Detective's title music.
- I bought some soggy brown rice for £7 and immediately longed for Bonjela and phone signal.
However, although there are two distinct audiences, the festival provides for a wide range of people, spanning everyone from RAM Records DJs to soul legends like Candi Staton. The annual fancy dress theme lends the event cohesion, and ensures that, even if they’re not wearing bucket hats, everyone’s dressed like dickheads anyway.
I didn’t dress up, because face paint and resting bitch face don’t go well together, but for the sake of being open-minded I did go and watch Sophie Ellis-Bextor. It was intended like a masochistic test of how much I could stand, but I found myself surprised. Her covers of Modjo’s “Lady” and Moloko “Bring it Back” were actually a great millennium nostalgia trip, and it’s quite endearing how she calls her crowd “darlings” like a mum comparing a wedding DJ set. If I could enjoy Sophie Ellis-Bextor, I started to think I could enjoy anything.
And with that, I proceeded to drink a 3 litre box of wine and conquer my ultimate fear: Diplo. Dancing to music with klaxons on a carpet of grass is the ultimate summary of the festival experience in 2014 – and as everyone in Hawaiian shirts gun-fingered the air around me, I realised something. It was only at Bestival that I could worship at the hilt of a muscley, shirtless penis man playing EDM and have a good time. I could love Diplo.
Bestival is a great festival because - with its genre-spanning line-up - it encourages you to open your eyes to further possibilities. This is Glastonbury’s curse – you choose not to visit a #rare afro-beat tent because it’s about an hour walk from your campsite. You end up staying in the same place for hours because the size of the event is overwhelming. But at Bestival everything is comfortably close – you can ease into a set by Caribou, Childhood, or Basement Jaxx while dressed like a drug-addled deckhand and no one will bat an eyelid. The festival excels because you can do things that you wouldn't normally do, like watching Diplo rewind "Bubble Butt" or Annie Mac drop an anthem from atop a converted military ship - and you can enjoy them with a myriad of strange-looking people. Which, in essence, is what festivals are all about - rather than taking selfies in an exclusive area that you have to pay extra money to get into.
Follow Amelia on Twitter: @MillyAbraham
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