The Bestival diaries

As the festival season draws to a close, Amit Sharma spills the beans on one of the most popular, Bestival, which took place on the Isle of Wight on 9 - 11 September.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 16 Sep 2011
  • min read
As the festival season draws to a close Amit Sharma spills the beans on one of the most popular, Bestival, which took place on the Isle of Wight on 9 - 11 September.

Since its inception back in 2004,  Bestival has earned itself the reputation of being one of the most diverse festivals of the Great British Summer. It pretty much ticks every box on the musical map which makes it the kind of festival that appeals to just about anyone. It’s very much Glastonbury in spirit, but with a capacity of 55,000 it offers a slice of intimacy not too different from the award-winning Secret Garden Parties. As a venue, Robin Hill on the Isle Of Wight could be just about as aesthetically pleasing as a UK festival can get, surrounded by forests and breathtaking landscapes.

PRS for Music member Beardyman is no stranger to Bestival and is given a very warm welcome by the masses as he takes the stage early on Friday afternoon. His unique talent lies in beatboxing and essentially producing the sounds of an entire band by himself – armed with just a microphone and a few pedals. Now 50 minutes of watching one man on stage would usually get very boring very quickly, but Beardyman’s ability to mix beatboxing with his satirical sense of humour makes for a gripping set on the Main Stage.

Just a bit later, the legendary Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys brings along some sunshine to the Bestival crowds and belts out some of the most classic music from the 60s along with his more recent solo work. I Get Around, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, God Only Knows, Good Vibrations, Surfin USA… it’s amazing how these songs have stood the test of time and still sound so strong almost 50 years on. Following Brian Wilson are hip-hop legends Public Enemy, who are easily one of the most anticipitated acts on this year’s line up. Frontmen Chuck D and Flavour Flav charge the stage and open their 22 song set with Contract On The World. The amount of energy oozing out of this band is endless, not one single member is still for a second and the set is jam packed with hits including Bring The Noise, Don’t Believe The Hype and a cover of AC/DC’s Back In Black.

Later on the Main Stage, dubstep supergroup Magnetic Man prove exactly why their eponymous debut record topped the UK Dance Chart. The album was released under a year ago and it’s great to see a British act doing so well, having been chosen as main support tonight by curator Rob Da Bank of BBC Radio 1 fame. As headliners, Pendulum are always going to be a good booking, with an immaculate track record of consistently brilliant live shows. Their fusion of drum-n-bass and rock means they can play just about any festival and still be relevant, whether it be the more pop end of the market (V Festival) or the metal end (Download Festival).

With over 14 stages, it would be impossible to catch everything Bestival has to offer, though it is amazing how many different types of experiences people can have in one place. Head to the Healing Fields for body treatments, massages and makeovers or Tomorrow’s World for crazy golf and intimate sets on the Bandstand. There are places where you can get your face painted, get a tattoo or even go shopping – with an All Saints clothes store and Benefit make-up stall on site. The festival layout is very similar to Glastonbury in that it is set up in villages, which makes for excellent adventures exploring Robin Hill. The fun doesn’t stop after the main stage acts either – the Big Top tent has artists like Skrillex, DJ Shadow or Fatboy Slim going on late til the early hours – and if anyone has any energy left after that, they can visit the Afterburner stage which never seems to stop.

Taking to the Main Stage on Saturday afternoon are reggae legends Toots And The Maytals who provide the perfect soundtrack for a sunny afternoon on the Isle Of Wight as everyone recuperates from last night’s activities. It’s not often The Village People are in town, and from the opening seconds of Macho Man they have the thousands amassed eating out of the palms of their hands. It’s very light hearted and perhaps even a bit goofy, but The Village People bring a great sense of fun to today’s line-up. When it comes to home grown talent, PRS for Music member Paloma Faith is definitely one of the highlights today. Known for her quirky dress sense, energetic performances and sultry voice – Paloma does well in captivating the audience with an elegant flair. Highlights include Stone Cold Sober and New York off her critically acclaimed debut record Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful. Headlining the Main Stage tonight are 80’s goth rockers The Cure, who perform a two-and-a-half hour set packed with their greatest hits. It's clear that The Cure were a big draw for the Bestival crowd, and though the set takes a while to pick up momentum, the last hour of classics like Boys Don't Cry and A Forest go down a storm.

Headlining the main stage on Sunday is Björk- whose performance at Bestival is a UK exclusive this year. She has an award-winning Icelandic female choir with her as well as some of the strangest instrumental this island has ever seen. As expected, every second of her set is utterly gripping and her stunning visuals tie in with the theme of ‘Nature’ which is explored on her latest album Biophilia. There aren’t many artists out there admired for such absolute integrity and there could be no better way to end the weekend.  See you again next year.