The date: September 6th 2013. The time: 10.30am. After a seamless tube ride from the East End to Waterloo, we were now heading due south to Portsmouth, bound for one of the most innovative and best (as voted four times by the UK Festival Awards) festivals in the UK – Bestival.
Pending a short ferry journey and a quick shuttle transfer, we would soon be joining the 60,000 strong throng of fun-seekers at what has been heralded the grand finale to the festival season.
An unashamed Bestival virgin, I had no clue as to what adventures lay ahead, but with my mind and body primed, I was open to whatever Bestivities befell me. Thankfully, despite the odd bouts of rain – not uncommon at British summer festivals – Bestival was anything but a washout.
With 350 acts performing over four days, there was always going to be something to satisfy everyone’s musical palette. Of the live acts playing over the weekend, The Roots stood out as a memorable performance. The band was tight, the performance fresh and energetic, and with the addition of a euphonium player doing the shuffle, the Philedephian hip-hop band yielded an exciting set.
Other acts over the weekend included the likes of British DJ Fatboy Slim, American rap artist, Snoop Dogg, and Glaswegian indie rock band, Franz Ferdinand, who tore up the stage with a cracking set featuring new tracks such as ‘Right Action’, as well as early singles like ‘Take Me Out’. As an extra treat, the quartet, dressed in matching stripy sailor tops, also performed a mash-up of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ with ‘Can’t Stop Feeling.’
The theme for this year’s Bestival was set as ‘nautical’, and festival goers went all out with their costumes. Mermaids, sailors, pirates, crabs, David Seamans, the parade showcased the best of them, and it was not difficult to guess the theme.
For the more adventurous, the Ambient Forest, a beautiful winding wood perfect for drinking, hangovers, and just generally unwinding, allowed for some off the beaten track exploration. The Amphitheatre, which was set deep in the heart of the forest, was also a welcome find, home to acts and performances ranging from theatre, to sketch comedy, spoken word and talks.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival favourites, Four Screws Loose, offered some great entertainment in the Amphitheatre. The critically acclaimed comedy group formed in 2009 and have since thrilled audiences up and down the country. Their epic James Bond film made entirely from mashed-up song lyrics was packed with ludicrous characters performing spontaneous dance-breaks and proved to be an hilarious and titillating treat for our Saturday afternoon.
The Bestival team has won the Greener Festival Award five years in a row since 2007 and from my first visit, it was clear that a great deal of effort had gone into considering the environmental aspects of the festival.
Through their links with the Big Green Coach Company, the Bestival organisers were able to offer reasonably priced coach transfers to the site from most parts of the UK, along with a shuttle transfer for those who arrived at the Isle of Wight by other modes.
On the festival site itself, numerous schemes were in operation through the Keep Bestival Tidy initiative. In the campsites, waste & recycling pens were available on all of the main walk ways, and as an extra incentive each time you brought back a full black sack it earned you a free cup of tea.
The Cup and Can Return Scheme was also in operation throughout the festival. With each beer cup and can bought from the bar worth 10p, collecting a load and returning them to one of the return points could see you not only doing your bit for the environment but earning enough for that next drink.
Other environmental initiatives in operation took shape in the form of compost loos, a free pedal power mobile charging station and the use of organic trader traders and Fair Trade produce. On site there was also a packed Oxfam charity shop, and a restaurant called The Surplus Supper Club that provided meals made from unwanted food – challenging the British culture of waste.
The Tomorrow’s World Field, a “vision of a fun, sustainable and inspirational future”, offered a huge array thought provoking entertainment. Whether you wanted to listen to social, cultural, scientific and environmental talks in The Besti-versity Tent, boogy in the Biofuelled Bestival Bandstand or explore the Science Tent, you were never more than a metre away from something with that wow factor.
Overall, as British festivals go, the Bestival experience is one that begs to be seen to be believed. Can’t bag a Glastonbury ticket next year? Head to Bestival. In fact, even if you do get your mitts on a Glasto ticket, go to Bestival. With it’s melodious mash-up of musical acts, areas ripe for adventure and discovery, and it’s rambunctious atmosphere, it is definitely a great closing party for the festival season.
If you can’t wait and want to bag your place for 2014, early bird tickets are now on sale. Whilst I can’t promise they’ll be another giant inflatable sculpture of Lionel Richie’s Head, complete with a built in telephone that when answered plays “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?”, I can promise a weekend you’ll be reminiscing about for years to come.