Bestival - Isle of Wight - UK - 8-11 Sept. 2011

Festival review by Aline Giordano

Wilderness 2011Having only experienced smaller festivals like Wilderness or EOTR, the size of the site caught me by surprise as tents, marquees and big tops extended as far as my eyes could see, over the hills on both sides. Bestival hosts 50,000 people; the site is enormous and yet it has a lovely cozy feel to it.

By lunchtime there is music coming from every corner of the site, so much so that there is nowhere to find a quiet spot. DJ sets fill the speakers while technicians prepare for the next band. Sometimes if you are in the Big Top you can hear the music from the main stage and vice versa. There is noise everywhere you go, and the strange thing is that after a while you don’t even notice it. As I was enjoying a quiet cup of tea, Saturday evening, it suddenly dawned on me that I was sitting by what looked like a 500 watts loudspeaker which was resonating in my rib cage, and, in truth, it didn’t bother me.

By then nothing bothered me, not the muddy showers, not the poo stuck in the WC pan, not the fact that the bands I really wanted to see were playing either very late or clashing with each other. In fact I felt joyful and fortunate to be at Bestival. Positive vibes were definitely rubbing off on me and even on The Cure who delivered a cheerful two and a half hour set. They didn’t play A Strange Day, they didn’t play Charlotte Sometimes, they didn’t play The Drowning Man. Instead they played the more upbeat and poppy tunes, like Close to Me, Why Can’t I Be You?, and Friday I’m in Love, and as Robert Smith declared: ‘it’s the wrong day but we’re here and it fits’. Yes, everything fitted. It was a magical night.

There were plenty of other magical moments: Johnny Flynn played a flawless set to a crowd of dedicated fans who were singing along and thoroughly enjoying themselves. I even joined in the juvenile hormone driven implorations after the set and shouted, surrounded by some 50 girls: ‘Johnny!!!, Johnny!!!!, Johnny!!!!!, Johnny!!!!!…’, who came back to chat with his fans. Ben Howard delivered his heart-warming melodies on the band stage as the festival was coming to a close, even the sun was shining. As I said, everything fitted.

But music is not the only attraction at Bestival. Claiming to be an ‘all-ages show with all manner of people coming to enjoy the weekend’ it offers countless attractions: from live music, DJ sets, comedy and cabaret to freesports, and a science tent, curated by Dr Anthony Gallagher from Southampton Solent University, where you can step in the Tardis for a science quiz, interact with technology, and be entertained by pole dancer-robots made of 99% recycled bits.

Despite attracting a very large crowd Bestival has remained not only truly friendly but also considerate. Their green credentials seem genuine. Their alternative ‘bandstand’ is 100% solar powered and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and green energy providers were teaming up to raise awareness about what matters to them.

As clichéd as it sounds, you really feel the ‘love’ at Bestival. The crowd is joyful, happy, and the stewards if not always helpful (bless them they are only teenagers!), always HAPPY to help and give huge communicative smiles. I must confess there was only one reason I came to Bestival: To see The Cure… And now that I have experienced the truly invigorating and magical experience, I have plenty of reasons to go back next year.

For more details on Bestival, visit… Bestival's website

Photograph © Aline Giordano 2011