Review: Bestival


For the last festival of the summer, the forecast was rain. All weekend. So when three friends and I piled into a Ford Fiesta, to head south to Bestival on the Isle of Wight, we were well-armed with wellies, wetwipes and waterproofs.


But while the Great British Summer did not completely fail to disappoint, and by Sunday the inevitable mudbath had ensued, the sun actually shone for most of what was a wonderful weekend.


The Isle of Wight is a bit of a trek, so a smooth journey left us feeling quite smug. We’d figured out that rolling our bags in a caterpillar motion, rather than heaving the booze-laden rucksacks on and off our backs, was an efficient way to edge up the hour-long queue into the site. Light pollution meant pitching our tents in whatever space we could find was surprisingly easy. We even made it into the arena in time to watch Santigold tear up the Big Top.


The music was a pretty eclectic collection of dance, old-school hip-hop, indie, ska and pop.  Something for everyone, but enough to get the usual case of missing-out syndrome that plagues every big festival. While I managed to miss, amongst others, PJ Harvey, Frank Turner and Diplo, the crowd were up for all of the awesome acts I did see.


As headliners go Pendulum were probably quite good though I had too much gin to remember. The Cure had me sprinting from the portaloos queue to leap around to ‘Just Like Heaven’ with a complete stranger. The fact that Robert Smith now resembles an overgrown child who has spent too much time with his mother’s make up, and then walked the wrong way through a wind machine, had me worried about how some of my all-time favourite songs would turn out. The two and a half hour set did drag into self-indulgence in the middle, but enough classics were belted out to make it truly memorable. 


On Sunday night, Bjork was resplendent and bizarre with a giant orange afro topped by an enormous blue fin. She was backed by a female choir, and a head-spinning array of graphics that led my friend to comment that we were having geology and biology lessons. While the ethereal music got repetitive at times, the crowd were still hyped enough to leap around to ‘Independence Day’ at the end.


Other musical highlights included mainstage dubstep from Magnetic Man, a healthy dose of old school rap from Public Enemy, Robyn owning the stage in a catsuit and enormous platforms, and Village People getting tens of thousands of people doing the YMCA.


Bestival is much more than music though – it’s the only festival I know that so wholeheartedly embraces fancy dress. Everyone turned into ‘Rockstars, Divas and Popstars’ on Saturday. I did a passable version of 80s Madonna with the help of fishnets, black lace gloves and cardboard crucifix jewellery, but there were very impressive efforts – troupes of blonde teenage girls dressed as Kiss, numerous incarnations of David Bowie, and a tiny toddler turned into Freddie Mercury.


I loved the roller disco, though it may not have been the most sensible idea – my friend was on crutches for the whole weekend. 80s aerobics legend Mr. Motivator popped up on three different stages on Sunday exhorting all the able-bodied amongst us to get motivated. The Robin Hill Country Park left much of its rambling wooded gardens and adventure playgrounds open to get lost in. There was even a W.I. Tea Tent with a glorious panoramic view over the site.


Waiting for the bus to the ferry in driving rain at 7am on Monday morning, having abandoned my semi-collapsed tent after a wild, windy night, almost had me declare, “I’m too old for this!” But fortunately Bestival was enough fun to convince me that I’ll be putting up with tickets pushing £200, overflowing portaloos, the beginnings of trench foot, and not washing for 4 days for a few years yet.


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