Bestival 2014 – A Reflection

Art & Culture

As summer begins to draw to a close, Bestival is one of the final events before the British public officially accept the impending gloom of autumn. Situated in the heart of the Isle of Wight, Bestival is fully aware of the role it fills for many at the beginning of September, and it has become a staple event in the calendar for seeing off the festival season. 

Boasting consistently impressive production values, Bestival hosts some truly extraordinary stages and tents, and features an array of activities. Whether it’s hanging ornaments in the woods or hanging the world's biggest disco ball in front of the main stage, it's impossible to see everything, which undoubtedly leaves you coming back for more.

Unlike many other festivals, Bestival is already in full swing by Thursday night. The music on offer transformed what is often a day filled with errands and anticipation, into a sense that the event had really begun. The Red Bull, Temple Island and Big Top stages provided the variety of Beck, Klangkarussell and a desert island disco- this year’s theme- all on the first night.

A bleary-eyed Friday morning brings the chance to have a look around the rest of the arena, and arguably the most spectacular stage, The Port. An old battleship titled ‘HMS Bestival’ lies in wait with DJs, dancers and gymnasts all aboard. The Port may seem even more dramatic due to the contrast in surroundings. A superbly lit and decorated forest lies to the right, while preceding the port you can find the Bollywood tent. Here, a low ceiling is decorated by colourful hangings, creating a chilled and intimate setting. Each of the seven major tents has their own value, significance and attraction. It is programmed and crafted to perfection out and ensures there is something for all, whatever time of day.

Walking around both campsite and arena there was one word on everybody’s lips; Outkast. With a main stage supporting lineup of Sam Smith and Disclosure, both Goldie Rocks and Toddla T kept the crowd lively with sets in between, and come 10pm the excitement was palpable. Andre 3000 is a true showman, building up every song to the crowd. “Y’all seen Caroline?” or “Anyone know a Jackson, a Miss Jackson?” were lines and songs that sent the crowd into raptures. Later that night, Skream closed it down in the Bollywood tent, spinning a mixture of house, disco and techno to an erupting crowd.

Saturday is the big fancy dress day at Bestival, and at Bestival if you’re not dressed to the theme you’ll be feeling pretty out of place. For desert island disco, attire ranged from Hawaiian shirts to a family of Castaways, where everyone from Dad to youngest was kitted out in beards and their own Wilson. The line up continued to amaze. Dan le sac vs Scroobious Pip played their last ever gig, and smashed it, DJ EZ played his usual chip-chop garage classics to a packed Red Bull stage, before everyone relaxed to the amazingly talented London Grammar, with Hannah Reid being on point with every note. Basement Jaxx later delved into their instantly recognisable late 90s discography.

Sunday bought Chic to the stage in what will have been many people’s highlight of the weekend. The giant disco ball, confirmed as a recordbreaker on the night, was hoisted into the air and spun around while Nile Rogers got the disco started. Nile revealed the tragic news guitarist and close friend Terry Brauer had passed away moments before Chic took to the stage. The crowd responded with chants of ‘Terry’ and a moving performance ensued in front of spectacular fireworks.

As with most festivals these days you overhear the usual “crowd was better last year” comments; an expected side effect of the continuous growth of a festival. But the late summer gem on the Isle of Wight keeps a truly magical atmosphere and vibe throughout.
So thanks Bestival. You’ve once again proved your place in the festival calendar, not just in the UK, but worldwide. A perfect way to send off the summer. 

Words: Tom Alington