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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Festival Preview: Bestival & Camp Bestival

A look at two of Britain's more interesting festivals, taking place every year on the south coast

Written by Ian Steadman

Another weekend on the festival calendar that has readily established itself as one of the more well-regarded events around is Radio 1 DJ Rob da Bank’s Bestival, which takes place every year in the late summer on Robin Hill on the Isle of Wight. This year’s event takes place from the 9th to the 12th of September, and having such a late date every year marks it out as being perhaps the last significant camping festival to take place on these fair isles before autumn’s cold, clammy hands take a grip of the countryside.

It’s been running since 2002, but in 2008 its ‘little sister’ spinoff, Camp Bestival, was launched. Based at Lulworth Castle in Dorset, Camp Bestival is a much smaller, and more intimate, affair (10,000 capacity versus the 43,000 of Bestival), specifically designed as a more child-friendly event, and taking place much earlier in the year (in mid-July). It conjures up much of the same ethos and atmosphere as its older brother, but there’s more of an emphasis on making it a happy environment for the kids – which is a splendid idea, really. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to reach middle age only to find that the annual road trip mashup bangin’ weekender at Reading becoming less practical with a newborn baby on the backseat.

Like a lot of smaller, more ’boutique’ festivals, Bestival offers more than just a music lineup. The Saturday of the festival is usually designated the day for dressing up in costume (in 2005 they attempted to break the Guinness World Record for most people in fancy dress at one time), and there’s a heavy focus on political and environmental causes. It’s not uncommon to find artists interrupting their sets to declare their opposition to some military action in some far off country, or to promote vegetarianism (there’s a lot of vegetarian food on offer at Bestival), or merely to lead a chant for peace.

The organisers also try to make the festival carbon neutral, which includes offsetting those things that they can’t control (like the petrol burnt to get everything to the site) but also by promoting recycling and sustainability on site.

Camp Bestival is similarly-focused, but the main difference between the two (apart from the size) is that the focus is much less on the music. A large number of comedians perform at the festival, and there are also tents for poetry readings and theatrical performances. This makes sense, when you consider that up to 5,000 kids can attend on top of the 10,000 adults, and parents will no doubt love a chance to sit and relax, not having to chase small bundles of energy around.

Bestival’s musical lineup this year includes the Prodigy, Flaming Lips, Dizzee Rascal, Roxy Music, the xx, Fever Ray, a solo set from Jonsi of Sigur Ros fame, and a rare festival appearance from LCD Soundsystem (who will most likely disband at the end of this current tour, so catch them while you can). You’ve also got Gil-Scott Heron, Echo & the Bunnymen, Chase & Status, Simian Mobile Disco, and even Rolf Harris will be putting in an appearance.

Campe Bestival’s lineup is less prestigious, but still worth a shout – headlined by Madness, Friendly Fires, and the Human League, with appearances also from the legendary George Clinton & Parliament, as well as the slightly-less legendary Lee Scratch Perry, and also Calvin Harris, Marc Almond, Billy Bragg, and a host more.

So, taken, together, you’ve got a couple of pretty decent ways to bookend your summer on the south coast. Just make sure that, if you go, you do recycle – a new study out today has shown that festivals are emitting over 80,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. Every little helps, eh?

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