Bestival 2007 - an island of delights
Rob Da Bank and team serve up a whole heap of satisfaction at Bestival this year.
12 September 2007
Big grins and happy faces define the weekend as 30,000 party-goers mass at Robin Hill, done up in their finest fancy dress finery for a music-crazed orgy of entertainment and love of life under the Isle of Wight sunshine.
The site is festooned with flags, with music blaring out everywhere. There's plenty of space, plenty of shade, and a host of atmospheres, from the happily intimate village fete halfway up the hill to the more mass market zones around the main stage and the incredibly chilled-out Restival area on the way to the main camping fields.
This site is an explosion of colour and energy. There's more going down than anyone could hope to fit into three short days and the effect is entirely liberating. People talk to strangers, dance to every form of music and drink copious amounts of booze (though many seem a little annoyed at the lack of ale at the main bars).
Bar queues move faster than last year; there is more food available; crime rates seem significantly lower, and strategic stage positioning removes some of the main traffic bottlenecks that frustrated movement around the site previously.
Attendance is certainly higher this year, but the addition of 13,000 tickets to the 17,000 sold last year doesn't seem to generate too many problems, except at the main stage. No matter how large a festival, the marquees are always rammed, so there's little point criticising that.
30,000 people will never fit into the main auditorium, no matter who's headlining. Getting into the main arena requires passing through a narrow conduit which inevitably creates a queue to access the main stage. If you couldn't make a headline act there is still a plethora of other entertainment across the site. In any case, an event like Bestival isn't about the main act, but all the acts.
In general, the site appears large enough to hold everyone who went, but we'd hate to see attendance climb any higher - we don't think the fantastic Bestival atmosphere could sustain many more people.
While last year's show attracted some local nasties, who caused some trouble, the security this year seems much more in control, so people generally enjoyed a chilled-out time without the hassle-merchants.
Security across the site are polite, friendly and supportive, though there were some complaints: chiefly that they were over-enthusiastic in closing down even acoustic music tents in the middle of the night. And the eviction from the site of one bloke wandering naked from the sauna back to his tent definitely annoyed his mates - he was a worker at one of the larger non-stage areas. In any case, the Bestival crowd aren't prudish about silly things like that. It's adults, not children, who get hung-up over nudity.
But Bestival is about much more than the bands, comedians, artists, walkabout entertainers, huge variety of food stores and dozens of DJs. It's the people who make the show.
Sure, this is said about every event, but this is the biggest-ever fancy dress party, and people here threw off their inhibitions even as they pulled on their best party shirt or fantasy pirate outfit. Saturday's fancy dress procession fully underlines the power of people to push forward any party.
I found myself watching a parade of pirates, orcs, witches, wizards, the Spanish Inquisition (no one had expected them), emu-riders, a gang of guys dressed as playing cards, around 20 people dressed as Smurfs - even a group of people who had come as a table football team, who remained connected to each other for the whole day. And that's just a tiny slice of the wild costumes that came for the weekend.
While watching the procession I turned to look at the crowd, only to realise that everyone around me was also dressed-up in a huge colourful carnival of clobber. There was one them, no us, just we. This really made the event.
Sunday night saw many folk still in their finery, but looking just a little the worse for wear, lobster tentacles were drooping slightly and those massed fairy wings had lost a little zing - but the smiles on everybody's faces were real, not fancy dress. Everyone feels strangely connected.
And that's the point, you see - there is no real division between the actors here and those gathered to see them. When everyone is dressed-up, everyone becomes an actor on the Bestival stage.
This makes for an incredibly powerful and uplifting scene. People's pretentions disappear, their neuroses get dampened-down, everyone seems friendly and approachable - you only have to stand in one place for a few moments to meet a new friend.
Creating such a turned-on atmosphere is intrinsic to Bestival.
It means artists are also entertained, and means they get to play to a switched-on crowd. That amplifies many artist's performances, generating even more enthusiasm. Energy doesn't stop building.
That's the essence of the event, its secret sauce is the ultimate democratization of the festival itself. The better it gets, the better it gets, hour after hour and day after day. It really is a blast.
People at Bestival are involved, inspired and energised. This event is a magnificent interpretation of some of the Glastonbury spirit that's seeding all the UK's new crop of small to medium festivals.
An absolute triumph.
(Stay posted for the music review from Bestival)