Bestival – A Reflection

Art & Culture


Best of All.

I will start this by saying that the most frequent thought in my head whilst roaming Bestival this year was… ‘There is a reason why it’s called Bestival’. You can tell you’ve been to a good festival when not once do you find yourself moaning about the obligatory festival let downs; lack of warm showers, queueing for hours for the toilet and paying double the price for half the quality of food – because you’re having too much fun. Having said all that, the amenities at Bestival this year weren’t too shabby to say the least, with a huge variety of food on offer from every corner of the world, a vast improvement on the mucky toilets experienced 4 years ago and there were apparently some free showers if you found a man sitting in a silver bath tub. In any case, these are not the focal points.

The site was looking exceptional and the efforts gone into this year’s production were startlingly noticeable, with the Wildlife theme prevalent throughout. It is sometimes a wonder why the Bestival team would hold the festival on an Island which so often sees traumatic journey’s home from limited ferry ports, but the Robin Hill Country Park really is a beautiful location – the early morning mist and the clear skies that show a huge moon and planets Neptune & Mars make it a wonderfully mystical place to regress back to your wreckless festival self.

Not only that, but there couldn’t have been a more fitting environment for the theme of Wildlife, it was evident from the crowd that getting into the character of their chosen wildlife couldn’t have been easier and Saturday’s Wildlife party was nothing but good vibes. The enchanted forest certainly made for the most stimulating place to get into your chosen oddity and really go for it. Decorated beautifully with random animal-esc paraphernalia and pretty lights it was perfect for both day and night.

And of the music? Well there’s no doubting that the lineup had something for everyone, and with the sound so impressive in all the tents – Big Top, Roller Disco & the favourite, Bollywood – there was no reason not to enjoy it all. Production in the tents was also impressive, with Bollywood’s hangings being a personal favourite. It seemed that as night closed in, the main area that housed these tents became awfully busy and overcrowding in both tents, and outside of them was, at times, a little overwhelming leaving the thought that there were perhaps too many people there. However, I can imagine it’s no easy task to crowd control tens of thousands, and with no shortage of places to go, there was always an alternative at hand. And of course, if it all got too much the forest was always there with open arms!

Daytime eccentricities also offered themselves in the form of Mr Motivator – a festival necessity in my opinion, or special characters such as the Lost And Found people and Camp Men (men dressed as ladies – they love it don’t they!) who were always up for a laugh if you were lucky enough to pass them by.

My one qualm comes with the main stage, during the aptly placed 5am set of Bonobo there could be no complaints, nor for most of the acts (including Florence and the Machine) I heard as I walked past their sets, but unfortunately it seemed as though for the pinnacle artist – Stevie Wonder, they just couldn’t get it right. Unable to claim an understanding for the complexities of sound in open air spaces with such a large quantity of people, I don’t feel that I can lay total blame with the sound technicians, however there was certainly a small feeling of frustration amongst some listeners. Fortunately for us, Stevie Wonder is the happiest most joy inducing man on the planet and nobody was going to let anything ruin this once in a lifetime opportunity.

After singing along to all the classics such as Master Blaster and Superstition, the crowd was touched by the family love on stage as Stevie introduced his daughter for whom he’d written ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ and enjoyed Stevie’s own special renditions of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ and Will Smith’s ‘Wild, Wild West’. After crowd chants of ‘Stevie’ and plenty of talk of peace and love on earth, he ended with favourite ‘Happy Birthday’ and a heartfelt goodbye. Sound issues or none, the opportunity to see Stevie Wonder live certainly left good vibes throughout the site. A swift turn to the left, and it was time to marvel at the ‘I<3 Bestival’ sign glowing hearts & sparkling stars while fireworks blew off to the sounds of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. – a grand finale!

More festival highlights came in the form of Jaguar Skills, whose undeniable skills with the decks really are a mystery – he served the Bollywood tent well for it’s final set of 2012.

One thing that should not go un-mentioned, is the genuine care for the environment with monetary incentives to festival-goers to pick up litter and screenings of information about endangered wildlife between sets that make this apparent.

Overall, the weekend will go down in one of my history, and it left me feeling that this was one of the best festival’s I had ever been to, firstly because of the beautiful production they’d brought to a beautiful and unique site, but also the fact that it is not yet too big. I only hope that it can stay that way for next year, as I’ll surely be going!


Best Overall Bit: Stevie Wonder, Happy Birthday

Best DJ Set: Jaguar Skills

Best Fancy Dress: Men dressed as old women with reindeer antennae on ‘Old Deer’s’

Best Tent: Bolly Wood

Bestival 2013?: YES PLEASE!

Review by Y