2017 marked a year of change for Bestival, one of the UK festival scene’s giants. After 13 years on the Isle of Wight, Rob da Bank’s yearly party moved to it’s new mainland home in Lulworth, Dorset. It’s no easy feat to relocate such an established festival, and it was certainly the main subject on everyones lips in the lead up to the event. I’m happy to report that they most definitely pulled it off despite rollercoaster weather conditions, and some of the artist performances became firm favourites of my summer! The simplicity of the chosen theme; COLOUR, encouraged people to experiment with their fancy dress and the whole site exploded with sparkles (not just from the World’s Largest Confetti Cannon!)
I will start by saying a huge thank you to Bestival for having me along for the weekend! I had an incredible, if slightly damp weekend, and was especially excited as it was my first press invite as ‘Where’s My Tent?’.
New Site / Arriving at Lulworth
Thom and I made our way down to Dorset on the train from London, then got the shuttle bus to the site. Arrival was so smooth! We only queued for 15 minutes or so to get our wristbands and go through security, and we had our tents pitched up in the Emerald City camp ground by 3pm. My first thoughts were how the new site made it much quicker to get around; everything was closer together and less linear than Robin Hill (Bestival’s previous island home). The campsites weren’t all that flat however, so you needed to pick where you pitched wisely!
We had preordered a crate of cider each from the Click and Collect service. As Thom and I were arriving by train rather than by car, the idea of not having to carry our alcohol from London was very appealing, and I was really impressed with their prices! A crate of 10 ciders was only £3 or £4 more expensive than the supermarkets, and I was happy to pay that to ease arrival. The only problems with this were that we had to queue for around an hour to collect the crates, and that we were told they would be cold on collection and they weren’t. To be fair we got there only an hour after they had opened on the Thursday, so prime time, and as we didn’t queue at all to enter site whilst carrying everything, I didn’t really mind waiting a while to collect. It was still so worth it, especially when travelling by public transport!
The new arena was very well laid out, with everything really easy to access. It was great being able to nip back to the tents between acts. The Temple and Bollywood were at the top of a rise, with a gentle slope down past HMS Bestival towards the Castle Stage. This only caused a bit of a problem when the rain came, but the volunteer teams were absolutely brilliant at getting wood chip and straw down in the mornings to help stop us sliding. All the Bestival classics made an appearance, with the Worlds Largest Disco Ball, the Inflatable Church, Caravanserai, The Box stage, and they even had an Ambient Forest! I was worried the new site would feel too different, but, and I mean this in the best of ways; it felt like the same old Bestival, just so much easier to get to (over land and not sea!), and the arena re-jigged a little, as always with some awesome surprises.
Thursday started after we’d got our tents up, when Thom and I went to watch Yonaka at the Invaders of the Future stage. I’d been wanting to see them for a few months and they did not disappoint; their punchy anthems performed perfectly live with Theresa’s incredible voice filling the tent and beyond. Shortly after we saw Annie Mac open the Temple Stage, we danced away whilst she broadcast live on Radio 1.
Also on Thursday we went to The Box for Oh My God! It’s The Church. I’d been desperate to see these guys since a friend mentioned them at the start of the year, and they were prevalent on the festival circuit this year, but for one reason or another, I always missed them. I was determined to catch them at Bestival, so we arrived nice and early and got front row centre barrier. Coined “The all singing, all dancing party church service”, we found ourselves praising Sexy Jesus and singing along to covers of Proud Mary and Praise You. One pastor, three choral nuns and an organ boy bring a raunchy church service we didn’t want to end! These guys came all the way from Alabama, and have played numerous times at Secret Garden Party so I knew the show would be incredible and they delivered. Amen.
One of the stand out acts for me was Jamie T at The Box on Thursday night, even though we couldn’t get inside the tent it was so busy, he put on a stellar performance and had the whole tent singing along to Sheila, Sticks & Stones, and If You Got The Money. The atmosphere was one of the best of the weekend.
Friday played host to a number of brilliant acts including Dub Pistols, Ray Blk and New York Brass Band. In the late afternoon were another of my favourites, The Cuban Brothers. Hilarious comedy greatness on the Castle Stage with catchy tunes, innuendo, and break dance moves that made the whole crowd go “Ooooooo!”. We spent our evening at HMS Bestival for Hard Cock Life, described as London’s premiere homo hip hop party. The stage is a huge boat with the DJ booth as the captain’s deck, and the whole top of the boat was adorned with people waving blow up dicks. We spent a good few hours here stomping in the mud to some belting hip hop classics all expertly mixed. Into the early hours we saw Slamboree Soundsystem smash Club Dada. I absolutely love Kathika Rabbit’s incredible speed vocals over Mike’s filthy bass beats. We jumped and skanked till the sun came up.
On Saturday we woke up pretty late, as is standard when you get back to your tent at 5.30am! We started the day seeing the Flamingods at The Box. Fun fact! My ex-housemate used to manage these guys and they stayed round our East London flat after gigs many times! Really lovely guys and fantastic psychedelic music from Bahrain, they put on a brilliant show and had everybody swaying. Next, Laura Mvula was excellent as one might have guessed, her modern funk & soul rang clear across the Castle Stage in the mid afternoon.
Rag N Bone Man made the sun come out for an hour of his gorgeous raspy voice. I especially enjoyed when he dedicated his track Ego to Donald Trump. Straight after we ran to Fatman Scoop followed by Jaguar Skills who both absolutely smashed HMS Bestival, and it was one of my highlights screaming the words to Be Faithful with my friends (“you got a hundred dollar bill put ya hands up!”).
When choosing our Saturday headliner, my friends went to go and see Twin Atlantic‘s full set at the Box, whereas I just had to catch at least a little of A Tribe Called Quest. I split from them half way through Twin Atlantic’s set, which admittedly was just the Scottish rock energy boost that I needed, and half-ran back up towards the Castle Stage for my hip hop fix. I arrived just in time for Black Smasmodic. The air was electric and the crowd were going wild. Somebody next to me confirmed that I’d just missed them announce that this would be their last ever show. I was happy I’d decided to go solo and could witness this legendary moment. When the fireworks went off, ATCQ broke into We The People and the whole crowd screamed the words back, it was incredible.
I managed to regroup with the others for another night at HMS Bestival, this time for Sink The Pink – where gender is not on the agenda. Another London party group, this time specialising in fantastic drag and the best party tunes. I think the mud was 50% glitter after STP were done with their 3 hours of madness! Finally we saw a little of Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon – essentially Charlotte and a ten piece band covering everything from Killing in the Name Of to Starman to Bump n Grind in incredible outfits with fabulous dancers. So much silliness, but for me that’s the best part of Bestival!
We were lucky enough to be invited to the Jägerhaus as VIP guests for the weekend. The Jägerhaus is an immersive festival hub showcasing some incredible artists and serving up some exciting Jägermeister cocktails. Giving off that house party vibe (HausParty?), there were three rooms and a large garden to explore on the ground floor, and up top was The Loft, reserved for the VIP guests. The Loft had fantastic views of the Jägerhaus stage, a foosball table and an incredible custom hexagonal pool table. It was a great place to relax.
The cocktails were delicious! My favourite was the Root56 which was Jäger and ginger beer. The Purple Stag was yummy too; a fruity number pairing Jäger with Chambord, berry tea and fresh blackberries.
Bestival was the last of four 2017 festivals for the Jägerhaus and I can’t wait for what it will bring next year. Delicious cocktails and some huge acts for sure! We were lucky enough to see Joe Goddard (of Hot Chip) headline the Haus, it was a really special performance, and watching it from the Loft above was magical.
I was a little naughty at Bestival… as it was the last festival of the season for me I mostly stuck with my favourites rather than trying many new places. One new place I did try though was Bunnyman’s Bunnychow; a South African fast food staple consisting of your choice of delicious chilli served in a crusty bread bowl with garlic bread and sour cream. I had the beef version, and I have to say it was incredible festival food! I love it spicy and they had different heat levels to cover all tastes. Super filling and really great value at £7! My two vegan friends (Luisa-Christie and JodieJo) loved it too as they had a vegan option (minus sour cream) that both said was super tasty.
We did explore The Feast Collective tent on Saturday, I had some great dumplings from Dorshi. I’m always partial to dim sum and these gyoza served with pickles did not disappoint. Of course I had to take a second visit to Le Rac Shack after my slightly tipsy discovery at Boomtown Fair for more cheese-covered, gravy-drowned fries. It was wonderful to find so much delicious under one roof, especially that kept me; the meat eater, and my one veggie, two vegan friends happy. It meant we could all eat together. We all indulged in one last Happy Maki vegan sushi wrap of the 2017 summer season!
Dust and Dance Glitter
I’m a big fan of Dust and Dance the glitter brand, and as you may have read in this post, they collaborated with Bestival to create a special range of super colourful glitters to fit the theme, and had a stall at the festival to ensure everyone’s sparkly needs were fulfilled! I took the opportunity to meet the wonderful Claire for the first time and meet the lady behind the sparkles! She gave me a lovely glitter eye mask using two of my favourite DnD mixes – Mermaid Mix and Neptune and we had a good natter and lots of selfies!
We had a wicked time, despite having to leave on Sunday morning to be back in London for a wedding. I was gutted I would miss Too Many T’s and the Pet Shop Boys! Still, our 3 days were just amazing. With super smooth transport and entry, shorter walks from the cars/to the arena, and huge impressive stages; no one can deny the new location isn’t an improvement. Although I will say being on the coast meant dealing with some strong winds! The smiling face of Happy Kanye on a rainbow made us forget all about the weather however.
As is usual with Bestival there were lots of brands there, but I like that they are always festival-relevant. The Sailer Jerry’s bar, Samsung cube and of course the Jägerhaus were all brilliant, and getting freebies here and there were very welcome. Friday at Bestival was one of my favourite festival days of 2017; sunshine, great music, and so much laughter my face hurt for a week! One huge highlight of Friday were Batala Portsmouth drumming in front of the Giant Disco Ball… I think my friends and I spent a good 45 minutes dancing there with lots of others amazed at their awesome beats all conducted on the spot. Here’s a video to give you an idea!
I have a few regrets; namely not finding time to explore in Caravanserai (the circus stage area), or getting a cocktail in a pineapple at Bollywood, or diving deep into the Ambient Forest. But that is the great thing about Bestival; being on their 14th year they know what works and what doesn’t, and these areas will be back next year for me to explore, bigger, better and of course with a few surprises. They’ve perfected the formula, just put it in new packaging (aka a new site). I can’t wait to be back next year!
Thank you Bestival!
And finally, a word from
Rob Da Bank himself!
I emailed Bestival’s main man to ask for a quote for WMT, and the lovely guy got back to me almost straight away! Thanks Rob!