Bestival's space themed festival goers enjoy a sensory overload

Bestival 2009 review

published: Thu 17th Sep 2009

around the festival site (2)

Friday 11th to Sunday 13th September 2009
Robin Hill Country Park, Downend, Nr Arreton, Isle of Wight.. PO30 2NU, England MAP
£140 (Adult) - / £70 (Age 13-15)
last updated: Fri 4th Sep 2009

This year's Bestival was indeed a blast! With the 'Year Of The Spectacular' space theme, a colourful site, festival goers in fancy dress everywhere, and entertainment on thirteen stages, Bestival pushes it's festival goers happily to sensory overload! There were also a feast of bountiful delicious food on offer, and a fantastic line-up of entertainment going long into the wee small hours.

around the festival site (1)
A world of colour, noise, flags, site art, and fancy dress, planet Bestival is set on a deceptively compact looking site, which includes woodland walks (lit at night), and a variety of 'zones' within the site. After three days of partying hard the slopes and the distance I'd covered have taken their toll on this reviewer's feet.

I had foolishly assumed the arena area was compact enough to zip from end to end, covering all the acts I'd highlighted each morning in the programme. However, it soon became clear that this was a big festival, with a crowd of 40,000+ and a host of happy diversions to hamper my music plans.

The arena area itself was much smaller that the campsite area, which unfurled from tipis, and yurts in bespoke camping via the family camping, to the large bustling campsites, to quiet camping, and eventually the campervan field (where we were based). Despite being the furthest away, we were happy to make the well lit walk each night, the journey home made entertaining by the crazy antics of the party fuelled revellers. I've never been to a festival that has such an 'up for it' crowd, or such great (loud) sound quality on so many stages. The fun, games, dancing, fancy dress, and good humour were infectious.

The Cuban Brothers
This is also the only festival where there's more partying between the main acts than during them, with DJs and the many guises of The Cuban Brothers, as well as acts such as Beardyman, and The Correspondents, bringing a crazy party vibe to the crowd with their predominantly cheesy party classics.

There were musical options galore, as well as the main stage (I'll come to that in a minute) there was the Big Top which offered large screen projected visuals, and lasers to accompany the acts. Both these topped and tailed a field which also offered a secret disco, Club Dada, Lock In, The Black Dahlia, XBox Tent, and Polka Tent.

around the festival site (1)
Behind the Big Top, the new Magic Meadow area offered comedy with a full three day programme, and a chilled out vibe, as well as being a great place to hear the main stage over on the other side of the valley. Home to flags which were covered in projections at night, the large Bestival sign also imbued with projections at night, a Tiny Tea tent clone, Bramble Fm, the bizarre Insect Circus, and more.

A short walk through the often congested crowd control 'one way' gates and we were delivered into the lovely Bollywood Field, the lively Rizla bus, Dressing up stall (there are no clothes stalls or market areas at Bestival), Bollywod Tent, Knees Up, a tent full of Christmas trees where you get Christmas dinner! Space Academy with it's own entry tunnel, Pink Flamingo, before ending with a Big Wheel and Helter Skelter, here too are the only block of loos with long queues worsened with no urinals and not enough on offer to cater for this field and the Fire Field beyond.

around the festival site (1)
The furthest field is the fantastic Fire Field, housing the fire spewing, Arcadia stage, as well as the Wonderland Inn (real ale), Inflatable Church, a giant alien top hat wearing snail, Jim Beam stage, an inflatable church, the lovely relaxing Pushka Restaurant, and for those thrill seekers a toboggan run. This proved to be my favourite area of the festival, a warm sun trap during the day where festival goers can laze with an ale whilst listening to the amazing effects of the Funktion1 speaker test. At night it was the warmest area and not just because of the flames, it was also more sheltered. At night the crowds grew steadily and yet there was always space around Arcadia to dance.

And beside it lay a path that headed off into the woods, offering a maze of bridges, walkways, water features, lit foliage, dark zones, pagodas, wood carvings, installations, site art including a crashed rocket and stuck in tree canopy spaceman, and even ET, all made this a great place to walk around either to escape the sunshine or at night away from any cold breezes.

around the festival site (2)
The arriving festival goer has a choice of entrances, those arriving by car (and paying a £10 car parking fee) have rather a steep inclined walk into the valley housing the campsites. Those arriving as pedestrians have a less steep incline, and a beautiful walk, after entering via what seems like a seaside camping supplies shop, which kind of sets the tone nicely after the police dogs. Once wristbanded there's a stunning view of the site, and 'The Village' area, strewn with bunting, offering a chance to hear bands on the bandstand, the best fish and chips I've ever had at a festival, and W.I. Tea Tent, cream teas, cakes, kids activities, and a village fete feel.

The most striking feature of the festival, apart from the long steep walk into the campsite, was the imposingly positioned stage, which was also the subject of annoyance. Positioned on the top of a slope and raised extensively at one end to make it level. Those watching it struggled to find a position offering a good view and clear sound. At one point I was able to stand in front of the main stage, just behind the mixing desk and hear three other stages reasonably clearly at the same time.

around the festival site (main stage)
Positioning yourself on the lower slope below the soundstage, afforded you an angled look at the giant screen on the other side of the stage, but little chance of viewing any entertainment on the stage, it was just impossibly high, and I felt sorry for all the short people in the audience who just couldn’t see a thing. Having said this there was always the higher ground, which although a hike through a congested crowd, afforded a vantage down onto the stage, good sound quality, and the large screen to look at. The only other good location was to position yourself before the screen mounted behind the sound desk, which also had a handy speaker array.

With their only being one way up into this cul-de-sac area, there was also one way out, directly into people arriving from the campsite and having said all this the amount of music options available elsewhere resulted in many people who may have spent time at the main stage going to see alternative acts.

around the festival site (1)
Alongside a varied menu of musical treats Bestival also offers a huge variety of quality caterers, and it was revelation to find festivalgoers who had come to the festival with the intention of just eating as much as they possibly could, the hedonists!

It wasn't just about music, although rather lite on the good cause brigade there was still the chance to paint our faces blue as part of Oxfam's Shout 'til you are Blue in the Face campaign, and the Pants to Poverty attempt to reclaim their Guinness World Record on Sunday afternoon. As well as a giant viewable from anywhere cube structure where we could add our thumbprints of support to Save The Children.

around the festival site (main stage)
Apart from the main stage location, and sound quality, and the lack of toilet facilities in Fire/Bollywood fields the only other gripe I have is the fact this festival calls itself non-corporate. Yet we have Xbox (Microsoft), and Rowntree (Nestle) both at the festival. We also have a fair amount of branding whilst not 'corporate' it's still the big boys with Pizza Express, Red Bull, Tuborg, and Gaymers pushing their branded products.

It's also rather expensive, coming in at the top end of our festival budget, there were a few catering options under £5, however drinks were priced at just under £4 for a tinny. To counterbalance this there is also a host of local stalls provided by island businesses, and the Isle Of Wight's own Goddards Brewery providing the real ales, although rather than being in every bar these are located at the outer reaches of the festival. One closing early and the other a long walk from the main stage for a beer during a headline acts.

Blastival
This is a minor gripe about one of the nicest festivals I've been to, one which saw no rain all weekend, and offered a wealth of late night entertainments, which alongside acts like headliners Massive Attack, Kraftwerk, and Elbow. Plus a supporting cast of DJs, rising stars, and established acts all spread over 13 stages. See other pages for the reviews of acts each day. with over 300 acts to choose from it made for a weekend of clashing acts, and concluded with a huge firework, and bonfire spectacular, which saw festival organiser Rob Da Bank DJing from a rocket beforehand. It really was a spectacular conclusion to a fantastic, if rather tiring, weekend!

Thanks to Rob Da Bank and co, and everyone who helped to make it happen, and kept it running smoothly.

Blastival
review by: Scott Williams

photos by: Karen Williams

Friday 11th to Sunday 13th September 2009
Robin Hill Country Park, Downend, Nr Arreton, Isle of Wight.. PO30 2NU, England MAP
£140 (Adult) - / £70 (Age 13-15)
last updated: Fri 4th Sep 2009


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