Ask ‘the festivals’: Rob da Bank from Bestival on treading your own path

"Bestival has always been about everything from Balkan beats to trance, funk to folk, pop and rock."

“They should have booked INSERT MASSIVE BAND HERE!”, we all cry. “Why don’t they just put on more loos?”, we ask. Seriously, when it comes down to it, we don’t know much about running a festival. But that’s okay, because we’ve tracked down the people behind your favourite events, and asked them all the questions you’ll ever need to know. (Okay, maybe not the toilet one.) Next up, we have Rob da Bank from Bestival, which takes place this weekend (2nd – 5th August) at the Lulworth Estate, Dorset, with London Grammar, Silk City (Diplo and Mark Ronson), M.I.A., Grace Jones, Plan B, Chaka Khan, First Aid Kit, Mura Masa and loads more.

Hey Rob, how’s it going? All ready for this year’s Bestival?
We’re never ready until about five minutes before the gates open. I always think that’s the mark of a good festival. Seriously though, it’s such an ongoing project that we’re often booking acts the week before and changing the site plan the day before we open! We are really pleased with our line up though, and tickets are up from last year, so we’re kinda ready yes.

Tell us about the event’s beginning – what made you want to start a festival, and what were those early days like?
A ragtag bunch of us thought it would be fun to gang up and put on a little festival. We never anticipated we’d still be running it 15 years later. It started as a 4000 capacity knees up with a strong fancy dress angle and Basement Jaxx and Fatboy Slim headlining. We doubled capacity every year and never looked back. It was a lot of fun in the early days as we were a bit more carefree and irresponsible, but it’s still a buzz now

What are your main points of consideration when curating the line-up, and has that changed over the years?
I try not to tread the same path as everyone else. It’s kinda easy to book those big radio-friendly acts and imagine it will put bums on seats but actually if you look at the reactions to many festival line-ups, they don’t all want the same acts. Aside from headliners, it’s crucial we have a fat middle line up and loads and loads of new bands which is our forte. Bestival has always been about everything from Balkan beats to trance, funk to folk, pop and rock.

Are there any acts still on your wish list that you hope to hit up for future events?
Absolutely – Kate Bush, if you’re reading this, please answer the doorbell, I just want five minutes of your time to persuade you to come to Bestival.

You guys have won loads of awards, are there any that are particularly important to you? It must be nice to know people love what you’re doing.
Awards are good for propping up wobbly tables and nice for the staff, but we really don’t rest on our laurels on past glories. Festival land is moving so fast we just focus on the future.

Do you have any surprises in store for 2018’s event?
Always! Some great new spaces planned as well as some mystery guests.

Bestival takes place from 2nd-5th August at the Lulworth Estate, Dorset.

Words: Sam Taylor

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