GT Stage

Bestival 2011

The fabulous Lyndsey Honour tackles Bestival without getting her feet wet.

When you don’t camp at a festival there’s always the worry of missing out on the entirety of the experience – the strategic wet-wiping of mud-encrusted crannies, the gag-inducing communal morning bathroom-stop, and sleep made impossible by irritatingly perky 16-year-olds camped next door who still have the capacity to yack all night.

But with 2008’s washout Bestival still sloshing in my memory I decided to do what any cowardly festival-goer would when Metcheck predicts a lake-load of rain, and jolly well booked a B&B.

Arriving at the Bates-esque hotel it was like I’d stumbled into the wrap party for Cocoon. A sea of wispy white hair and expansive ear lobes surrounded a bingo caller straight from Phoenix Nights, and I started to fear that hedonistic festival-going and paisley wallpaper were not a great combo.

As soon as I stepped onto the Robin Hill Park site, though, I was instantly struck down by that inimitable Bestival magic. Meandering down the hill to immerse ourselves in the fun, we stopped at the Band Stand to watch a quirky performance with the twinkly lights of the site spread out below, then popped into Cocktails and Dreams where karaoke classics were being belted out in Club Tropicana surroundings, and twenty Freddie Mercurys were dancing along on stage.

Passing the main stage where the teens were gathered for Friday’s headliner Pendulum, we headed to the Bollywood tent which always offers an eclectic line-up of bootay-shaking music – my favourite kind. Later at the Sailor Jerry's stage, Frank Turner gave a raw acoustic performance that had the gathered crowds singing along with every word, his fans sharing in his impassioned performance. It was a night topped off by some interpretive dance at the Red Bull stage – though I’m not sure the music warranted it.

On the Saturday – after a dreamy night’s sleep (despite the crackle of the piss-sheet) – we re-entered the site as the Bee Gees. The festival has a dressing-up theme each year, this was Pop Stars, Rock Stars and Divas, and Gagas, Bowies and Madges roamed the site at various stages of their career.

The Village People – the real ones (though who would know?) – brought some fun to the afternoon, but it was the night’s later artists that everyone was anticipating. The Cure certainly didn’t disappoint with a set almost as long as their career; recent Mercury award-winner PJ Harvey was enchanting in a black feather headdress; and Primal Scream performed Screamadelica live from 1am, a trippy piece of scheduling which saw a tent full of fading pop and rock stars reliving teenage memories with eyes closed and bodies swaying.

Even in just a short visit, the beauty of Bestival is apparent: you don’t have to know what you’re looking for to find something uniquely amazing and entirely different. Just a short stumble will take you from cheesy tunes to underground artist to music legend, with a huge dose of spirited fun thrown in.

Even the rain held off in the end, making me feel slightly guilty I hadn’t done it authentic-style. Oh, who am I trying to kid?! Waking up in a room with actual sides, not having to adopt an innocent face upon exiting the bathroom, and a dose of trash TV before brunch on the seafront? I’ll never camp again.

Check out the official website.
Review: Lyndsey Honour

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