Celebrating Bestival's third year, with the Pet Shop Boys headlining, curator Rob Da Bank is confident September's season closer will be a blinder, despite the booking policies of some of the major festivals...
Radio 1 DJ and general good vibes jock, Rob Da Bank, set up Bestival in 2004, aided by the now legendary Cuban Brothers on hosting duties plus scores of underground acts from his label, Sunday Best, alongside a dazzling array of top-end names such as Fatboy Slim, Zero 7, The Bees and 2 Many DJs, many slashing their fees to help out an old mate pioneering a new and exciting small festival. Since then Bestival, set in a beautiful country park on the Isle Of Wight, has expanded in size and prestige; building its reputation on a twisted recipe of unpretentious fun, breaking records for the biggest fancy dress party, winning two UK Festival Awards, and providing proper party-heads with the best possible finish to summer imagineable. Despite it being a huge team effort like any festival, Rob is the man who bore the idea and the vision, and anyone who's witnessed his Bestival closing sets on the Sunday night will know exactly what this festival means to him. Wiping a nostalgic tear from our eye, we spoke to Rob to find out just what's in the melting pot for this year…
Virtual Festivals: You’ve managed to pull it out of the bag again for Bestival. How did you persuade the Pet Shop Boys?
Rob Da Bank:I just phoned them up really. Well, they came to one of my Ibiza parties last year and I know they enjoyed that. I like to think it’s because Bestival is a good festival and is building up a reputation which is more than just about bands and manages to tickle some of these megastars.
VF: Did they take much persuading?
RDB: It was actually quite easy. Behind the scenes I’ve been scurrying around trying to book my headliners but festival competition for acts this year is just huge. A lot of festivals are putting mad exclusivity clauses in to try and land these artists and keep them away from anywhere else. A number of massive headliners have slipped through my fingers and gone on to what I would regard as, well, shit festivals really. This year is a real tipping point and it's something I’d like to get off my chest, as I feel that many artists are being taken for a ride when they could be playing to 15,000 people at Bestival who are real fans. It’s down to the law of the cash most of the time. I’m really glad that we managed to get the Pet Shops though, so I'm happy.
VF: Bestival has gone really well and built up a phenomenal reputation over the last two years. Do you find it hard to keep it the way you want it?
RDB: We’re increasing the capacity this year to 15,000, and to be honest the site is beautiful so we’d prefer not to make it any bigger, but I never want to say that because that’s what other festivals have done and been chastised for it. We wouldn’t do it for financial reasons, but if more people wanted to come down then we’d have to look into it.
Bestival doesn’t yet make a profit, and probably won’t until its third year, but last year we made back some of the debt we’d incurred. Ultimately we need to sell out this year and I think we can plough that money back in to make next years event better but in the same spirit.
VF: So any surprises on the rest of the unannounced line-up?
RDB: I think when all three headliners are released it’s going to look fairly commercial, but then you look at the so-called second tier with the likes of Devendra Banhart, Jamie T, Cagedbaby, Kid Creole and The Coconuts, Amadou & Mariam, Nathan Fake, The Young Knives, The Sunshine Underground, Kanda Bongo Man, so if you read from the bottom up it’s quite an underground line-up but then you get to the headliners and it’ll be like whoooah!
VF: The Fall are booked to play, who were one of John Peel’s favourite bands. Is there any of the Peel magic within you?
RDB: I’ve always been a Fall fan and I didn’t notice anyone else booking them so I just steamed in, same with Kid Creole. They're not the first bands that spring to mind when booking a festival, but they are brilliant. Both bands have been amazing to work with and genuinely nice people. I’d like to think John would enjoy Bestival.
VF: You’re a prime time Radio 1 DJ, do you ever get told off for plugging your own festival on air?
RDB: To be honest I never mention it myself on air. I’m so pleased Radio 1 are media partners for the event, but to be honest I stay well out of that. I’m not even allowed to talk to them about it. I’ve got Bobby and Nihal, Zane Lowe, and Mary Anne Hobbs all coming down to play at the festival, so it’s just like having some mates down. The only thing I am gutted about is that Tim Westwood can’t make it as he’s in Africa at the time.
VF: What’s your view on sponsorship at Bestival as it doesn’t seem to be as in your face as most other festivals?
RDB: To be honest there is probably quite a lot of sponsorship at Bestival, more so than some of the really big festivals, and, just like Big Chill, we try to do it in a more creative way. Sponsors are catching on to the idea that festival goers don’t want sponsorship being rammed down their throats, so it makes it more enjoyable… but if there are any large mobile companies who want to get involved in Bestival then don’t be afraid to call! Ha ha.
VF: Is Bestival Changing this year?
RDB: We’ve got the Blue Room Ambient Electronica tent which is a 24 hour tent, which pretty much does what it says on the tin. We’ve also got a 'Come Dancing' tent! We haven’t got Wogan presenting, it'll hopefully a bit more leftfield than that.
VF: Come Dancing?
RDB: Yeah, basically people will be able to take dancing lessons in the day and then we’ve got a whole host of artists playing at night who’ll be encouraging people to try their moves out that they learned in the day. It’ll be a beautiful 1930’s wood and glass structure which should look brilliant.
VF: How does it feel to win not one but two UK Festival Awards last year, which were voted for by the public?
RDB: We were ecstatic to win the awards because all we’ve tried to do is make people aware of what we’re doing down on the Isle of Wight, which is having a big party and the awards help with that, and I’d like to think they do with booking bands a little bit too. This year we’re getting people from all over the UK coming down, whereas before it was mainly people from Birmingham and further south, so the awards help with awareness.
VF: Finally Rob, what’s your favourite Pet Shop Boys song?
RDB: I wasn’t ready for that. Ha ha. Errr, probably 'Being Boring'. Me and my wife went out and bought the greatest hits compilation as soon as we knew they were confirmed so we know their stuff really well because we’ve been driving round to it. Actually a lot of people came up to me afterwards and asked, 'you have put it in their contracts to play a greatest hits haven’t you?' We haven't but I imagine they will as it’s their 20th anniversary.
Bestival 2006 takes place in Robin Hill Country Park, Isle Of Wight, from 9-11 September. For more info including the lineup so far and tickets, click here.