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Bestival’s 10th anniversary: Rob da Bank’s top 10 festival performances from the last decade

Laura Davis

2042 IMG 1963 300x190 Bestivals 10th anniversary: Rob da Banks top 10 festival performances from the last decadeTen years ago, festival organisers around the country were kicking themselves when they heard about the new kid on the block:

“Why didn’t we think of that name before? It’s so obvious!,” they cried.

As the festival of superlatives, Bestival had a lot to live up to. But with Radio 1 DJ Rob da Bank masterminding the event it was an instant hit with revellers.

A decade on and the Isle of Wight festival has a lot to celebrate. It’s received a host of awards including Best Major UK Festival in 2010 and 2012 and Fans Favourite in 2011 – and even set a Guinness World Record in 2010 with 55,000 people in Fantasy fancy dress.

Of course, Bestival is renowned for its themes. Some of the greats include ‘Outer Space’, ‘Cowboys and Indians’ and ‘Rock Stars, Pop Stars and Divas’, with this year’s theme of ‘HMS Bestival’ likely to be a heavy contender. For those who really like the sea, you can even swim there to raise money for charity - as long as you handle the 1.3 mile stretch of cold and choppy water in the Solent.

As Bestival celebrates its 10-year anniversary, we caught up with Rob da Bank to find out what exactly goes into planning an event of that scale – and compile his top 10 festival performances over the last decade.

You’ve nabbed a few big exclusives over the years – including Stevie Wonder last year – how did you get Elton John on board for this year?

Just before Bestival kicks off I start looking for the following year’s acts and talk to agents – I’ve already had knockbacks for 2014… Elton John confirmed on the Saturday of last year’s festival. It involved a few phone calls – and a large bank transfer.

How do you decide on a theme each year?

Me and Josie [Rob's illustrator wife and fellow organiser] have regular arguments about the theme – we battle over it and then both take the credit for it. HMS was a joint effort. We have a few ideas for next year already. I suggested transvestites – but some of the straighter members of the team weren’t keen –  not straight in that sense! Digging myself a deeper hole here…

My favourite was when we tried to do the clown theme, but we binned it because so many people said they had coulrophobia. So we made it circus-themed, and that was quite the spectacle.

What would you say have been the biggest changes in the festival business over the last 10 years?

There’s much more competition. And people’s expectations have gone through the roof. A few years ago, you could plonk people in a field with beer. Now they want great food options, and spotless toilets 24/7. The whole market is much more high-end now and people want to be treated like royalty, basically!

A lot of UK organisers have gone abroad to plan festivals – do you have any plans to expand?

I’m in two minds on foreign festivals – we have plans to expand, but not to go down the Croatia route – we have bigger plans in the states. I think it’s a myth that it’s cheaper to go abroad though – once flights and everything is included.

What’s been the most ridiculous rider request?

Grace Jones. She wanted a bottle of Chanel No. 5, Cristal Champagne, and Whitstable Oysters, which we obviously didn’t have so we had to send someone to get them. And then someone had to dress up as a silver service waiter and serve them! But it was worth it because she was so amazing on stage.

Could you tell us your favourite festival performances over the last ten years?


1. Massive Attack, Glastonbury, 1995

This was my first Glastonbury and I rudely jumped the fence with the help of a crusty who I paid with a four pack of beer to use his ladder. I then jumped over next to the tent where Massive Attack were playing…it was unbelievable!

2. Beastie Boys, Bestival, 2007

Not just one, but two killer sets over two different days, one classics and one instrumental. The Beasties asked for local chutney and honey on their rider and wore their Bestival cardigans all weekend.

3. Bon Iver, Coachella, 2012

Quite simply one of the finest musicians living on the planet, Justin Vernon and his band and choir blew my dusty sandals off in the moonlit desert.

4. Pet Shop Boys, Sonar, 2013

I’ve never been averse to some good old fashioned pop music and while some eighties musicians have trodden water and stagnated, the Pet Shop Boys have forged ahead with as many good new songs as the classics which rocked the huge hangar at Sonar.

5. The Orb, Glastonbury, 1997

This was my third Glastonbury and The Orb’s epic electronica and found sound mayhem with roaring motorbikes, cows mooing and tinkling pianos sounded like paradise under a starry sky.

6. Richie Hawtin, Exit, 2012

An ancient fort in Eastern Europe bristling with young ravers from across the world all intent on out hedonising each other from dawn to dusk. The überlord of techno Mr Hawtin smashed it to pieces.

7. Kraftwerk, Bestival,  2009

It’s not often I get reduced to a dribbling mess in front of Bestival artists, but meeting Ralf Hutter and seeing him perform his audiovisual magic left me speechless.

8. Orbital, Tribal Gathering, 1995

One of the first festivals I went to fell right in the middle of the poll tax riots. There were crusties driving tanks around site and a lot of dogs on strings. Orbital and their little bobbing light spectacles were awesome.

9. The Cure, Coachella, 2009

My favourite band of all time rolling out the hits, with a jovial Robert Smith backcombing his hair between classics and leading us all in a giant singalong in the desert.

10. Daft Punk, Wireless, 2007

OK so to be totally frank I wasn’t there – but I’m having to pretend I was as I can’t live with the fact I’ve never seen Daft Punk live yet. I’m ashamed and embarrassed.

Bestival takes place on September 5th to 8th 2013 at Robin Hill, Isle Of Wight. Last tickets are on sale now via www.bestival.net / 0844 888 4410

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  • mandyjeancole

    Sorry.. the venue is far.too expensive for me !!. MJC


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