VF's Justin Madgwick and David Houlihan caught up with Bestival supremo Rob da Bank in a rare spare moment at Camp Bestival.
Taking time out from DJing, meeting his performers, assisting production, talking to members of the public and generally mucking in at his own festival, we chatted about musical revolution, silent discos and how Camp Bestival is expected to progress – all conducted with Nelly The Elephant playing in the background!
Virtual Festivals: Rob, an amazing festival so far, how’s it going for you?
RdB: “I’m shattered, but yeah, it’s going really well.”
VF: As you know from blogging for us it’s our 10th anniversary of covering festivals this year, as a festival punter, multiple festival promoter, superstar DJ, Radio 1 presenter, author – how do you juggle all this and what changes have you seen over the last decade?
RdB: “I think it’s all just got better. I don’t want to sound like a hippy, but as a DJ, I’ve been going out and seeing how amazing club land is and obviously I’ve been involved in festivals for the past six years and that has just been the biggest kind of explosion in the UK market. Specialist radio’s getting better, particularly Radio 1, there’s more good music than ever full stop. You know music in general, especially what 16 and 17 year-old kids are doing with music, you know the whole digital revolution and online groups like Virtual Festivals, you’ve got everything, we’re absolutely spoilt.”
VF: Which is a good thing.
RdB: “Yeah totally, it’s amazing. When Ben and I used to do a music magazine, you know, print journalism, once a month you’d get your fix of dance music and now it’s every ten minutes you’re getting an update, it’s a massive revolution.”
VF: And for you, running Camp Bestival and Bestival as well as your other roles, have you struggled juggling time commitments to both?
RdB: “Not really, apart from Radio 1 these are the most important things that we do, they’re by far the biggest things and by far the most precious so I’ve cut back on my DJ’ing in the last year or two, I’m doing bigger and better gigs but fewer of them. Yes, the balance is difficult, we’ve got two kids and this weekend for example most people are here with a kid or two and we’re also running the show so it is really challenging, but it’s our own choice, so I’m not complaining, that’s what we wanted to do and it’s been an incredible weekend. Touch wood nothing goes array between now and the end of the show, but it’s probably one of our best ever festivals.”
VF: The vibe and atmosphere you’ve created is fantastic, we’ve got our kids here too and we’re all loving it – kids and adults.
RdB: “We thought that maybe the people who came last year wouldn’t come back, but so many people have come up to me, teenagers and people without kids, who’ve said this is still their favourite festival as the kids create this vibe but it’s not over-run with kids; sure there’s a lot of kids, but it’s not over-run with them!”
VF: The structure of the site seems to work well, having the more adult orientated Magic Meadow with it’s dance tents in the evening for example, what major changes have you made from last year?
RdB: “We’ve invested in absolutely shed-loads more space, although it’s only gone up a little bit in terms of capacity, we needed so much more camping and car-parking space as everyone brings two cars per family and enormous tents which is all good, but we didn’t know that last year so have adapted to that. I’ve put a bit more late night stuff like you say, a bit more dancey stuff as people were saying last year that winding down at 1am was a bit too early. The silent disco has been amazing this year, I did that last night, but at the same time I don’t want the festival to appeal to ravers, I don’t want people to come here and get off their knackers, I want it to be a really clean, good family festival so it’s getting the balance of keeping it fun and young and trendy.”
VF: And plans for moving it forward? Camp Bestival is firmly in the festival calendar in just two years, have you any plans to improve and widen?
RdB: “Yeah we’ve got a few ideas, we don’t want it to get a lot bigger; but we need to look at ways of making it work because it’s so expensive to put on these shows with the production, so we’ve got an idea for more boutique camping and boutique facilities as we were totally over subscribed this year for the boutique area – there’s 1,000 boutique campers out of 10,000 and we could have done 3 or 4,000. A lot of people want to bring their own tents and a lot of people want to be pampered, so I think that’s the angle we’re going to go down.”
VF: Well, we’ll be here again, and we’ll see you at Bestival.
RdB: “Good, cheers guys and Happy Birthday by the way!”