Review: Bestival – A Reflection

Art & Culture

Every year, just as summer starts to fade, there remains one bright beacon for many to squeeze in the last bit of summer partying. Bestival, now in it’s 11th year and seeing over 55,000 people descend on the Isle of Wight, took it’s “Summer of Love” theme to the UK’s sunniest island.

With what felt like all 55,000 people arriving on Thursday morning there was no hanging around – seeing massive stages and bigger talent right from the word go. Jamie xx blended a well-received mix of popular hits with his usual obscure and interesting gems, though it was the critically acclaimed ‘Gosh’ from his latest album that really brought down the roof of the lively and packed tent. 

This was followed by Underworld who came back in full force, having headlined the festival in 2008. A theatrical and clever performance sending the crowd on a journey that ended with Underworld playing their classic ‘Born Slippy’ to a frenzied crowd – 20 years on and that track can still do serious damage.

Taking a rare sensible turn meant resigning relatively early on the first night, walking back to the campsite with a satisfying feeling that Bestival had well and truly begun – it’s good to be back.

Sensible amount of sleep done – an early Friday start provides the opportunity to explore the full arena and it’s clear that they really have outdone themselves again, the level of production quality Bestival seemingly so effortlessly deliver year after year is unmatched. From the hidden jazz piano bar in the depths of the forest, to the decor within the tents, to the general layout and ease to find everything, Bestival is truly top of its game.
This year being the Summer of Love, a commune atop the hill was filled with people sitting, chatting, painting, grooving, pretending they were from the film Hair, or still awake from Thursday. All this, coupled with the diversity of the music programming made the daytimes worth trying to be awake for. 

The Port stage made another appearance this year, H.M.S Bestival – quite literally a massive boat –  hosted DJs on the stage and performances from dancers above saw a huge range of talent including Four Tet who unearthed some serious weapons to put together an eclectic (but none the less party starting) set. 

Weatherall also worked his magic over at the port before handing over the controls to Mr. Avery, drawing a lively and up-for-it crowd, both sets working well in their environment.

The Bollywood tent, now a regular fixture at Bestival, was blessed, as ever, with hanging ornaments and mesmerising decoration. The tent housed some top music too – seeing grime represented by Big Narstie and DJ Q and a particularly well crafted dubbed out set from DMZ and Deep Medi boss, Mala.

One of the highlights of The Big Top was Rae Morris, a newcomer that’s definitely one to watch. 

Duran Duran’s set was good fun, the crowd singing along to the 80s classics, but after a couple of songs we decided we were on a slightly different tip and headed off to the port for a bit of dancing on the sand (sorry).

Rumours are always being circulated on who the special guest is, though the organisers did a pretty good job at keeping this one under wraps, so out of curiosity we went to check it out. A good choice by all accounts as House of Pain burst on to the stage, getting the crowd jumping around, naturally.

Then came a true highlight of the festival, Chemical Brothers laying down a combination of their records that just never get old live, complemented by a ground-breaking light show and jaw dropping props (I’m talking giant laser firing robots mate) left the packed out main stage in awe of what they had just witnessed. It was a truly special moment that left us reeling for more, but equally shattered from a day of back-to-back and wall-to-wall amazing music.

A weary Sunday required a change of pace so headed to the amphitheatre, another one of the forest’s many gems. Watching the comedy sketch show trio BEASTS perform a combination of slapstick and quick wit was just what people needed to come back to life after what seemed to be a pretty brutal Saturday night for all.

Sunday’s music allowed for no let up though so after chucking some food down ourselves, we headed to the main stage to catch a talented performance from BBK, followed by the remaining Jacksons, topped off with a stomping performance from Missy Elliot, ending in the classic firework signalling the end of the festival. Back up on hippy mountain, the flower of fire was a burning centrepiece for festival goers to enjoy and reflect on what an amazing few days had just been had.

Hats off Bestival, the combination of diverse music programming, quality production and excellent crowd makes this end of summer festival one not to be missed. I can’t wait to go back.