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Bestival 2011 Review: the festival goers’ No1 festival

Surreal, intoxicating, eccentric, theatrical, effortlessly trendy, a bit of a cult phenomenon and painfully cool, is Bestival the best festival of the season?

The festival season came to a spectacular close at the mighty Bestival, the event that turns Robin Hill on the Isle of Wight into Fantasy Island, with an outstanding, mind boggling and wallet emptying firework display that would give the Chinese a run for their money. Bestival was not going to end quietly and in typical Rob da Bank style it ended as it had started - with an almighty jaw dropping bang.

Rob and Josie da Bank's second festival of the season was perfectly crafted, engaging and surprising, even for the most seasoned festivalgoer. Bestival is the festival for the connoisseur, it has it all, in bucket loads. Bestival is simply the coolest event out there, yet it's not overtly "trendy" like some events that try too hard, it simply oozes the "it" factor and from the moment you set foot onto the site it's got you in its grip and you'd best leave all hope of sanity, normality and reality at the gates.

Many festivals scour the world for the coolest bands for their lineups, bands that will pull in the most punters, or impress the most ardent of music fans with their finger on the pulse of the charts. Some try so hard that you can almost taste their desperation to sell tickets. Bestival, and its sister festival, Camp Bestival, feel very different, musically. They make it feel like they have arranged a selection of acts from their own personal iPods that they suggest that you might like if you had a listen to them and hope, by the end of their festival, that you might well have opened up to something a bit different. Of course, this doesn't mean that massive acts are off the programme, on the contrary, this year saw festival exclusives from The Cure, PJ Harvey and Bjork, but amongst the acts were the Village People, Public Enemy, Toots and the Maytals and the legendary Brian Wilson. These all sit effortlessly amongst cutting edge dance acts, DJs, chart toppers and award winners without even raising an eyebrow.

But it's not just the music that makes the festival, hell no, there's enough going on to keep a caffeine and Sunny D fuelled ADHD sufferer engaged for the entire weekend: funfairs, the Wall of Death, poetry, comedy, the Wishing Tree, burlesque, a roller disco... it's a list that would tax the quickest of readers. The result of this wealth of activities is an atmosphere that is simply second to none and a crowd that any festival, even Glastonbury, would be proud to have on their site. Yes, we love Bestival, but it's not from any sense of sycophancy, and it's definitely not thanks to the hills or the mud or having to go to the Isle of Wight, it's because it stands out like a beacon amongst festivals and succeeds at all levels.

Here's how we got on this year, the year of Pop Stars, Rock Stars and Divas

Friday

Last year's event was sublime, we witnessed it morphing from a great event into the best festival of the summer, so it didn't seem plausible that Bestival could do a repeat performance this time round. We've seen a plethora of great events in 2011 and some truly jaw dropping festival performances so it didn't seem likely that Bestival could pull off yet another coup.

Despite a pretty full on festivalling year expectations were running high as we made our way across the Solent for the final festival bash of our 2011 season, exhausted before we had started and with the promise of the worst festival weather yet seen this year we tried to remain optimistic yet realistic. That was our first mistake; when attending Bestival you'd better be prepared to leave all thoughts of 'normality' at home, once you step off the ferry and through the gates of the festival site it's best to suspend disbelief, you're about to enter wonderland, it's futile to fight it and frankly best just to give yourself up to the whole experience.

An early wardrobe malfunction on day one saw me trundling off in search of a belt to hold up a skirt that I swear had fitted perfectly last time I wore it, yet strangely as I took the long walk into the site the aforementioned rogue skirt was rapidly sliding downward. Despite the weird, wonderful and wacky fancy dress on show I simply was not going to do day one of the festival in my knickers - the festival crowd certainly didn't deserve that sight, oh dear me no. Off I went, hoisting up every few steps what had previously been a trendy designer ensemble that had now turned firmly against me, cursing my wardrobe choice.

Bestival stats. There are 15 stages listed at Bestival: Main Stage, Big Top, Bollywood, Psychedelic Worm, Roller Disco, Red Bull Tent, Sailor Jerry's, Afterburner Turbo, Ambient Forest, Polka Tent, Swamp Shack, Comedy and Cabaret, Bandstand, Black Dahlia and RizlaB

I found just about everything on that site, everything, that is, except what I was after, and it was in this first long walk around the festival site that reality hit me - Bestival was utterly overwhelming in size, completely and utterly overwhelming. All I could think of (aside from what can I do if I can't find that elusive belt) was "Shit, there is absolutely no way I can review this event and do it justice" so I sat down on the grass and just watched everything unfolding all around me; the most freakish, surreal, intriguing and fascinating array of festival madness I've seen in many a long year. Derren phoned to ask how the quest to redress the wardrobe malfunction was going and offered to gaffer tape the offending item - would you trust a man with gaffer tape? This generous offer spurred me on into action pretty quick I can tell you and another uncomfortable trundle around saw me alight on The Emporium a fabulous shopping area that had all sorts of delightful temptations and rescue - I found my saviour in the form of an elasticated little number that lost no time in solving the potentially embarrassing problem, and with that I was off once again to catch up with the music on offer.

On the music front we caught Yuck's performance on the main stage, Beardyman and those Rockabilly rocksters Kitty, Daisy and Lewis (oh the challenge of trying to get a few pics in between those huge video cameras!) Barry Peters et al were busy bringing a huge dollop of distasteful offerings in a DJ set that had everybody agog and we took the opportunity to watch Fenech-Soler again as they continue to go from strength to strength over on the Big Top. Patrick Wolf brought some real quality to the proceedings with a solid set and an instant connection with his fans. Always keeping it real and seemingly a touch emotional Patrick Wolf is worth catching as his music gets better and better with each listen.

This was to turn into a day of tantrums and tears. My tantrums followed the aforementioned wardrobe malfunction and tears due to the highly charged, emotional and classic performance that unfolded before our very eyes and ears in the form of the legendary Brian Wilson. This was a set that will stay with us for years to come, it was simply perfect and even brought the sun out as they played an astonishing set chock a block with all the classics from "Pet Sounds" (we even got "Darlin" which is my personal favourite). The crowd were held spellbound and the love was tangible as the music completely overtook all who were there. Many have commented on the frailty of the great man himself, but to us is wasn't an issue - Brian Wilson has looked frail ever since he began touring again, it's just how he is - and he is Brian Wilson - the genius who has penned some of the greatest surf sounds you'll ever hear. See if these tracks ring any bells: "God Only Knows", "California Girls", "I Get Around", "Surfer Girl", "Help Me Rhonda", "Barbara Ann", "Surfin' USA", "Sloop John B", "Wouldn't it Be Nice" and "Good Vibrations". They were all played and performed to the delight of all who were there, the chance to see and hear his music live was magical - one of those rare privileges that don't come around any too often and can bring a lump to anyone's throat.

A swift change of pace and genre followed as another group of legends took to the stage, the one and only Public Enemy, one of the most influential and important groups in hip hop history. This reputation meant that the sight of Flavor Flav peddling his book in the pit to anyone and everyone throughout the afternoon was absolutely hilarious. Any other performer would have made it look and feel like unacceptable and flagrant commercialism (which, of course, it was) but with Flav it was all part of the game that he set about to win, with huge aplomb and determination and with a delightfully cheeky air. Chuck D and Flavor Flav have a certain presence and they sound as relevant, fresh and vibrant now as when they were in their heyday back in the 80s and with tracks like "Fight The Power" and "Don't Believe The Hype" they were yet another brilliant and major coup for Bestival. They leapt around the stage like men possessed and totally proud to be in their 50s, even stopping to chastise the members of the crowd who threw missiles on the stage. I've waited a long, long time to see the guys in action and wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else and wasn't disappointed. Oh, did I mention Flavor Flav has a book out - oh yes indeed - "If you wanna read about my struggles with drugs and how I lost my virginity at the age of six …" err, no, that's probably a bit too much information, even for an old fan like me.

Brian Wilson, followed by Public Enemy was a devastating combination for me. After that, I really didn't care what was on next, I could walk away happy and it wasn't even getting dark.

Graham Coxon did a great set in the Big Top, getting better with every listen it was nice to get the chance to catch him in action again this year but my antics on the Main Stage saw me have another malfunction as Chromeo became mono-Chromeo as I somehow managed to put the camera into black and white. Anyone who takes photos will empathise with a situation where you change a setting that you never touch and then can't figure out how to put it back. I won't forget that set in a hurry! Solid, stylish electro funk from Chromeo.

Magnetic Man, as always, were awesome, a set that made you feel alive and glad to be among the madness and mayhem that so typifies Bestival. It was the first outing for Skream and Benga who were set to play again throughout the weekend and a brilliant prelude for headliners Pendulum who delivered a quality set. Robert Thompson's energy is legendary and I needed a sit down just watching the gyrations around the stage. This was pure, high octane fun, it isn't going to set the world alight, it doesn't have a message, it's just about raw energy, loud bass and the joy of a solid, reliable act who had the crowd on side from the off. My soft spot for a touch of Dubstep continued with Skrillex, who is fast making a name for himself and he was sure cramming them into the Big Top.

Bollywood comes alive after dark when the DJs take to the stage, and tonight was no exception. It is a favourite place to dip in and out of (if you can get in!) a hugely popular area for Bestival. But we finished our night with a bit of the wonderful Frank Turner who was setting Sailor Jerry's alight. Always a guaranteed crowd pleaser wherever he appears, equally at home on the main stage or a tiny stage like this one, wherever there's Frank Turner there's a crowd of adoring fans, he simply captivates one and all wherever he goes. "I'm going to do requests," said Frank, swiftly followed by "I should have said requests for songs that I have written" in response to a suggestion from an intoxicated member of the crowd. Details are everything.

The promised hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderbolts and lightning had not materialised all day - we left Bestival very much alive, kicking and dry - cursing the fact that we didn't have the energy to party the night away in wonderland but totally overwhelmed by the eclectic mix of entertainment we'd been privy too - an astonishing first day from an astonishing festival.

Saturday: The Cure and PJ Harvey are coming

Mud at Bestival can be a problem; it's a special kind of mud, the sort that makes even the most sure-footed person step just a little bit more gingerly. Even those amazing stilt walkers were sweating a bit after the heavens opened long enough to ensure floor-based treachery. Fortunately, at no time during the weekend did arse meet floor, despite the best efforts of Mother Nature.

En route into the site we came across our first Roller Disco victim, a little bit too much enthusiasm at the disco saw her arrive for day two on crutches, but still sporting her Katy Perry outfit. In those conditions many people would probably have cut their loses, not the Bestival crowd, a trip to the medics, a set of crutches and she was off to enjoy day two, probably minus the roller disco, but then again I wouldn't have put it past her!

Saturday is the main day for fancy dress, and this year's theme of "Rock Stars, Pop Stars and Divas" encouraged thousands of people to don a funny wig and/or create a pun based outfit the like of which no country other than the UK could possibly get away with. There isn't a festival that does fancy dress as well as Bestival and Camp Bestival and this year was no exception. Although the inspiration was much more earthly than usual with people emulating other people in the public eye, the spectacle was no less impressive. We saw gangs of Slash, gaggles of Gaga, countless Katy Perrys (and a few Katy and Russells), Adam Ants, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Dolly Parton, girl bands, boy bands, karaoke machines and Jedwards. All in all it was a great showing. The only way to truly appreciate it is to peruse our crowd galleries and see for yourself.

Hill aside, it's a fun walk onto the site and gives you a chance to see some of the more off the wall stuff on offer. The Inflatable Church always has a crowd of merry revellers having far too much fun (wonder how long some of those 'marriages' last eh?) The Wishing Tree area was always crammed proving popular and providing quite an eclectic mix of total madness. The Psychedelic Worm, a new tent, brought another diverse and really quite cool raft of acts; this area of the site was always busy and bustling with life, but never as much as when we went to see a bit of Ed Sheeran who was on before the Cure. He seems to vacuum up absolutely masses of fans wherever he goes now, and tonight was no exception, cramming the tent to way beyond bursting point, with people getting pulled out of the melee in varying states of consciousness. It's been a great year for Ed, and another successful set saw the popularity of ginger people go up again.

Mr Motivator had the crowd up and moving (hangovers and all) – Spandex is always quite a sight for those sore eyes and always quite stunning how people manage to move following the night before, but somehow move they do! It pissed down with rain for Toots and the Maytals. There's no other way to describe it as succinctly. The set began with his daughter Leba doing her stuff before Toots himself put in an appearance, a late start and a lot of rain doesn't dampen their spirits though, a genuine feel good factor was generated as the band lost no time in getting a great rapport going with the crowd.

While the Main Stage was more band based today, the Big Top launched itself into Dance mode. There are a number of Bestival "house bands" and one of them, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobious Pip, brought their brand of spoken word, rap and electronic beats to the Big Top. Always able to connect with their crowd the duo were on top form and Scroobious was down with the crowd within minutes and later seen giving out CDs.

Skream & Benga set the tent alight; these dubstep pioneers are truly high octane, all encompassing and completely unmissable (even in their funky wellies). Followed by Nero the Big Top was so the only place to be which was really difficult because the conflicts were by now coming thick and fast with so many acts on offer.  I had to resort to catching bits of this and bits of that purely because there was so much I didn't want to miss out on, naturally when you're at a festival that's awash with quality acts you're going to miss more than you can possibly get to see. It didn't stop with Nero, the relentless run continued with Toddla T and Serocee, Annie Mac, Ms Dynamite, Fake Blood, A Trak …

Katy B brought her usual charm to the main stage, say what you like about her but she always draws the crowds and retains a huge popularity, not music to set the world alight but a good, fun poptastic crowd-pleasing set.

Never in a million years did I ever think I would get to see Village People, much less join in with "YMCA" but, hells bells, what a fun act this turned out to be. Totally camping it up, tongue in cheek style, the Village People got the whole crowd on side from the off and there was nothing that could be done other than let yourself go and sing along (a recurring theme at Bestival!) I couldn't get "In the Navy" out of my head for days.

Paloma Faith was next up on the main stage, bringing a large portion of new material, looking particularly fabulous in a wicked scarlet dress and sporting a silver face with scarlet jewels, Paloma set about showing us all how it's done. She is a proper entertainer who manages to match her talent for music with her talent for style - splendid.

Dance for your lives, hands in the air - it's time for the Granddaddy in the shape of Grandmaster Flash who wasted no time on pre-amble, instead we're up and running and the crowd (once again) goes wild (or should that be wilder?) Unfortunately Crystal Castles banned photographers again. Honestly, if you don't want people recording your dodgy antics don't do it girl! We got the usual incomprehensible and expected set with no surprises; just plenty of what Crystal Castles are known and loved for.

There was no way I could miss the opportunity to watch two times Mercury Prize winner PJ Harvey. I've never truly appreciated her work in the way that others do so was determined to watch the set. I was surprised by what I saw, to be honest; a shy, self-effacing woman hiding away at the back of the stage, looking magnificent yet despite all the accolades appearing not to understand just how much she is loved. I have a weakness for people who come across as underplaying how talented they are so just on that basis alone I was hooked. This was totally ethereal, captivating and magical, bringing a huge dollop of other worldliness as Polly presented a perfectly executed set with plenty on offer from "Let England Shake" she had no problem in holding the crowd's attention throughout a brilliantly executed set that sent shivers down the spine. I think I have finally got it.

The Cure set list

Plainsong
Open
Fascination Street
A Night Like This
The End of the World
Lovesong
Just Like Heaven
The Only One
The Walk
Push
Friday I'm In Love
In Between Days
Play For Today
A Forest
Primary
Shake Dog Shake
The Hungry Ghost
One Hundred Years
End
Disintegration
Lullaby
The Lovecats
The Caterpillar
Close to Me
Hot Hot Hot!!!
Let's Go to Bed
Why Can't I Be You?
Boys Don't Cry
Jumping Someone Else's Train
Grinding Halt
Saturday Night
Killing An Arab

Headliners The Cure - what on earth can I say that hasn't already been said about this set? To say it was sublime is one huge understatement. This was a second huge coup on the trot for Bestival as the band launched into their only European show of the year.  Such was the draw that we came across people who had travelled from Italy purely to see Robert Smith and co. in action. We were treated to just over two and a half hours of classic tracks from their entire back catalogue including many that they rarely play live, such as "The Caterpillar" and "Love Cats". It was just so damned evocative and beautiful. Robert Smith looked and sounded splendid - well just like you'd expect him to look and sound really. Having seen Prince at Hop Farm this year I thought that no other festival could top that performance but I was so very wrong. It may be a close call as to which act trumped the other but with Bestival it wasn't just about one festival coup - it was about many consecutive, breathtaking, exclusive performances that will stay with you forever. The Cure brought something so special in a festival crammed with special moments, for over two and a half hours we were transported in time and place, in fact time stood still and we simply didn't want it to end. It was only the length of the performance that split opinion, as some people struggled to keep their interest for the whole set with acts like Diplo were on, but you can't please everyone. The Cure's set will be talked about for years to come, on this performance we can only hope and pray that The Cure will take to the road - c'mon guys - you know you want to!

We've seen Primal Scream a few times this year and they've been on tip top form but you have to feel sorry for them this time round - how often do you have to follow an unfollowable set? Bobby Gillespie et al probably didn't even notice so they did a mighty fine job of it.

We wandered around the site for a while before calling it a night to leave the rest of Bestival partying into the wee hours as we leave with words like 'wow', 'awesome' and 'I just don't believe what I've seen' echoing in our ears - judging by what we heard on the way out plenty of others had been totally overawed by Robert Smith and Co too…

Sunday: Is the Isle of Wight ready for Bjork?

Now exhaustion had really set in, and while the weather was drier today there was still the problem with the slippery mud and a heck of a wind getting up so it was a wee bit chilly on site. Fortunately The Wishing Tree crowd was working out with Mr Motivator who is guaranteed to shake off those early chills. Who would have thought you could get hundreds of festivalgoers following Mr Motivator's workout? The crowd threw themselves into it with great aplomb – and it was quite a sight. Our big regret of the whole weekend was managing to miss the English National Ballet's beautiful performance on the Main Stage. Of all the things I didn't want to miss this was it, I heard it was amazing - please don't put it on so early next time Bestival, for all of us who can't burn the early end of the candle!

I wasn't prepared for The Midnight Beast, I didn't know they were a comedy act, but guessed they were popular by the hoards of screaming youngsters waiting for them. They were energetic and fun and provided plenty of Sunday morning mayhem. New York City indie-pop band The Drums, over on the Main Stage, didn't seem in the best frame of mind. They played a good, tight set that included tracks from their self titled debut album such as "I Need Fun In My Life" and "Down By the Water" but they still didn't play their most famous "Let's Go Surfin'" and front man Jonathan Pierce seemed to exit in a bit of a huff. Don't you just love rock and roll?

Labrinth played to a smaller yet very appreciative crowd over on the Big Top and was followed by current darlings Noah and the Whale, great solid festival performances. James Blake, however, is a bit of an acquired taste, and one that I have yet to become accustomed to. He's very popular and has hoovered up a few awards this year so was a powerful draw over at The Big Top.

If Sunday had a theme it was strong female performances, the first of which was from Kelis. Strutting onto stage like a fierce Amazonian circus ringmaster she grabbed the crowd from her first note and didn't release them until the end of "Milkshake". And we loved it, she looked and sounded amazing.

Big Audio Dynamite followed, bringing tracks such as "Medicine Show", "BAD", "Rob Peter Pay Paul", and "E=MC2" to a new audience. Those who had not been aware of Big Audio Dynamite before certainly did after their set and they must have garnered a few new fans following this classic and bold performance. The Maccabees were next on my agenda, however I missed John Grant for this and wasn't too happy with myself - oh the clashes that have to be dealt with!

Zola Jesus is fast becoming a favourite of mine; oozing talent this operatically trained vocalist has an awful lot going for her and never fails to deliver a mesmerising set. I've become fixated by those "Nora Batty" grey tights she keeps wearing every time I see her - I want them! It was a real shame that the DJs who were playing right before her were too arrogant to get off stage before she came on and then proceeded to try and ruin the our attempts to capture this mercurial creature. A fascinating set from a fascinating woman, she's firmly on our radar and I think you'll be hearing a lot more both from and about her.

Warming up the crowd for Bjork was Robyn, our third strong female performance of the day. Short of trundling out the Cuban Brothers you couldn't get a more opposite act to Bjork, Robyn was lively, bright, dizzyingly energetic and deceptively catchy, bringing her brand of Euro dance music to Bestival.

The headliner for the grand festival finale, and arguably Bestival's greatest coup, was non other than Bjork, Iceland's very own top musical export. Now I have to confess that I have never been a Bjork fan, I have always found that to my ears she's a wailing banshee but I decided that given this amazing opportunity I would make the effort to actually listen to the whole set.

As the lights dimmed in front of an electrified crowd the distinctive tones of Sir David Attenborough explained the concept of her album, "Biophilia" and Bjork arrived on stage looking like a rogue clown, sporting a huge ginger wig, an unfashionably ruffled blue ensemble with a beige skirt and a strange blue plastic hat fused together like the sides of a flea. Bjork is renowned for her odd outfits, so we were not disappointed. She was accompanied by a full Icelandic choir with some ethereal backdrops but the video screens were not active so anyone not towards the front of the stage would have been oblivious to the goings on which seems a shame to me. If you are going to put on a full spectacle like this then why not make sure everyone can see it? At one point during the performance Bjork told the assembled crowd that her music was not really aimed at a festival.

The most exciting part of the superstar's appearance for me was when a rogue Chinese Lantern made it onto the stage - causing a few gasps and an appropriately aimed fire extinguisher. Now I'm almost sorry to say this but I couldn't help but wish the fire extinguisher had put Bjork out of her misery, as this would have helped my increasing headache. This over the top, avant-garde performer has her fans, many of them were there at the festival and many were really moved by the performance. I really, really tried to understand and enjoy her performance but Biophilia just didn't translate for me, maybe if I could have sat on a comfy sofa with a drink and been warm and comfortable that may have made a difference? There were some choral sounds that were good but it just wasn't for me, I have to admit that when so many hail a performer as a genius then the problem must lay with me and my own ears, but try as I might (and I did persevere) I felt an immense amount of relief when it was over. I think this was one for hard-core fans in the main, I also think that many there would have loved what was a very brave choice for a headline act but I would take some persuading to sit through another Bjork set.

One of the great joys of Bestival is that it's not afraid to take a risk and bring you something totally different, there's no reluctance in moving away from simply catering for the vocal majority, no - there was something different, precious and valuable on offer here. It wasn't for me but for those who loved it it provided just the same almost spiritual experience I got from Brian Wilson, The Cure and Public Enemy - and that can never be a bad thing.

Once Bjork had left the stage we got our yearly firework display, as has become traditional with Bestival. The finale was a true spectacle for all and included huge spooky snowman type figures walking around on stilts, adding an eerie air. A superb soundtrack accompanied a display that brought out all the usual oohs and aaahhhs - you can't really describe it - you have to experience the magic, sit back and just enjoy it.

Plenty of festivals end after the Sunday night headliner, but Bestival rolls on until the wee hours of the morning, as ever. I decided it would be wonderful to get some images of DJ Shadow for the site, knowing his popularity it seemed plain rude not to make the effort so off I trundled through the mud back to the Big Top. We waited, and we waited, in pitch black we waited, there were some shadowy figures around the sound desk: were any of them DJ shadow? To this day I have absolutely no idea whatsoever, my concentration was utterly focused but in the end even the shadowy figures disappeared - in desperation I resorted to photographing the backdrop - that was DJ Shadow, then? Thanks. But I suppose it's more about the people enjoying the music! We left Bestival before Fatboy Slim was even planning his first track as we decided to call it a festival! We made our way back to the car just as the weather took a turn and tried to wash the site into the Solent ...

Conclusion

Bestival has remained true to its wonderful boutique festival roots, retaining its independence despite growing in size, stature and reputation. This festival simply does not let itself be drawn into the typical mainstream commercial scrum and as a result produces an event that others can only dream of having the balls to put on.

Bestival has evolved to become festival perfection; it's just how festivals ought to be in the 21st century, effortlessly and endlessly cool and trendy. It's achieved the unthinkable, it's got the Glastonbury vibe without Glastonbury's "too big for it's boots" commercialism and in the process has cemented itself a place in festival history.

This is an event that in theory simply shouldn't work on any level, it doesn't bring you your average or standard line-up, there's some of the most kitsch and cheesy entertainment to be found mixed with some of the most forward thinking acts, up and coming upstarts, total legends and chart toppers which in turn brings an intriguing and diverse depth to a very forward thinking and clever mix of styles, genres and music that doesn't fit anywhere else.

It's all at once beguiling, enthralling, captivating, exclusive and utterly surreal. Bestival attracts the friendliest festival crowd out there, where the focus is purely on having a good time and sharing the vibe, this is a party where everyone is welcome and no-one feels out of place.

Bestival is a festival within a festival within a festival, a place that's almost taken festivals back to their roots and somehow succeeded in bringing something a little more special and a little more inclusive. To say that once you enter this world you enter the weird and wonderful Aladdin's Cave of delights that owes more to Alice in Wonderland than NME is an understatement. The magic lies in the fact that all these wonders, that in any other setting would be frankly a little too freaky, seem perfectly normal and natural and you simply don't bat an eyelid at sharing a moment with a fish or a Freddy Mercury, things that in the boring old real world would completely scare the shit out of you.

The Bestival crew really know how to throw the ultimate party. The Bestival faithful return year after year and, to be honest, it's quite a special crowd and those two factors combined result in an explosive festival that's managed to capture the spirit and soul of what festivals should be: an escape into wonderland where all things, no matter how weird, are the norm. Where else could you be served in a bar by dwarves, be taught meditation, learn to dance, take part in a roller disco, work out with Mr Motivator, do yoga, watch films, indulge in theatre, comedy and cabaret and even get a chance to see The English National Ballet in all their wonder and splendour? When a burly, hirsute man, dressed as Freddy Mercury in drag, pulling a vacuum cleaner behind him walks past and you don't bat an eyelash, you know you're at Bestival.

Bestival has once again become the best festival of the season - cult, cute, trendy, different, it's epic and it's tumultuous, its very nature is indefinable while all the time it's quirky and quintessentially British. The Rob da Bank experience - open Pandora's box and step inside, you will not be disappointed. Roll on 2012.

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Review Info

Author:
Deborah Rees/Derren Nugent
Added:
22nd September 2011
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Bestival 2011 Review: the festival goers’ No1 festival

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Iron Maiden close their world tour at the return of the best metal festival in the calendar and rub shoulders with J-Metal schoolgirls and Chas & Dave
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Picture and review from the final of four great Boyzone Forest gigs
Blissfields 2014 reviewed
Sebastian Schofield checks out this little hidden gem in the heart of the Hampshire countryside
Glastonbury Festival 2014 review: Could Dolly Parton upstage Metallica, Kasabian and Arcade Fire?
As Glastonbury Festival opened up for its 2014 outing, there was much talk about the suitability of a band like Metallica headlining on the Saturday night. In reality the weekend was more to do with Country and Western and thunderbolts and lightning than heavy metal as Dolly Parton stole the show and storms broke it.
Little Mix @ Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire 20 June 2014
Little Mix at Westonbirt just one of the diverse and eclectic Forest gigs on offer this year

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