Bestival 2014 review: A rave-tastic end to the summer

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Bestival 2014

Bestival 2014

Oh Bestival, you have completely broken me but you’ve certainly lived up to your name in the process. Prior to last weekend I was clueless as to why so many people flocked to the Isle of Wight for you, pegging you as simply just another festival – and one that was an utter ball ache to get to at that. But now I understand your allure. Now I see you for the quirky and magical, show-stopping treat that you are. But just like summer itself, you’ve come and gone so quickly.

It seems like only yesterday that I was rushing around like a headless chicken with obsessive compulsive disorder sorting all of my festival packing into piles and writing list upon list, all the while working myself up into an anxious mess over the unknown entity that would be my first ever ferry crossing. I’d read on forums prior to leaving for Portsmouth that the journey over the water was sure to be a nightmare, where I’d indisputably have to queue for hours beyond my pre-booked 7.30pm crossing. I’d prepared myself for the worst, so how pleasantly surprised I was to reach the quay without any difficulty and find my best friend, Leah, and I promoted to an earlier sailing. Fantastic, this meant that we’d stand a chance at pitching our tent in daylight. However this did seem to come at the expense of finding ourselves on a boat with no other festivalgoers and zero party atmosphere. Where were they all?

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Tent friends!

Already there it turned out. I had incorrectly assumed that more people would be making their way after work on Thursday, but once we’d made our way through the entrance we discovered space to pitch my palatial tent to be extremely sparse. After resigning ourselves to the fact that we’d have to settle ourselves way, way out in the pink campsite, we set up shop. With our rather luxuriously furnished (does an air bed with duvet, pillows and furry throws count as luxury?) tent erected, we were then rudely disturbed from enjoying the fruits of our labours when a group of three guys, who’d arrived even later than us, shining their torch in our faces whilst begging for our help. It turned out they’d bought new tents for the occasion without a clue on how to erect them, but luckily for them I am no stranger to a Eurohike or Vango. We obliged, although in my case slightly begrudgingly (nagged vehemently out of my nice warm nest by Leah and the trio) and set about making our first friends of the weekend. As we admired our handiwork and drank to our (my!) construction prowess, I discovered my second wind and was ready to party. Bestival, unfortunately, was not. As we started to make our way towards the main attractions, we slowly noticed that we were swimming against the tide of people making their way back to camp and decided to call it a night ourselves.

Time to explore

The following day I was up early and ready to explore all of the attractions on offer, and explore we did. Leah and I walked for so long around the different fields and tents and soaking in the amazing atmosphere, I was convinced that I’d end up with #fitfam worthy buttocks of steel by the end of that one day. The scale of the event was just enormous with spectacles of awesomeness and randomness every few paces. Our morning was packed with an exploration of Grassy Hill with its charming, bric-a-brac Caravanserai camp, relaxed The People’s Front Room performance area, and the truly crazy inflatable church and confetti disco. At lunch we chowed down on some seriously delicious sushi from Happy Maki whilst watching fancy dress clad yoga at the Grand Palace of Entertainment before continuing on into the Stardust Field to marvel at the worlds largest disco ball and frolic in a tent filled to the brim with balloons like an oversized ball pool for oversized kids.

Bestival disco ball

Whilst all of this entertainment was amazing, the best discovery of all for me was, believe it or not, the flushing loos! Now I won’t blame you for laughing at me when I admit this, but I have a massive phobia of toilets. It used to be so prohibitive that I wouldn’t travel unless I could be sure of a ‘friendly’ lavvie nearby, and whilst my fear is much more under control these days, the thought of a long drop still fills me with dread. So when I stumbled upon luxury loo company When Nature Calls, the £30 wristband for unlimited access all weekend was a complete no brainer. The only flaw, as I could see it, was that they only had one set of loos at the whole festival, and whilst I had no problem going on a mini trek each time I needed the little camper’s room, Leah wasn’t quite as chuffed with the whole idea. Fortunately, I think I was forgiven for being such an awkward and annoying friend when we discovered the nearby wishing tree. The massive, hollowed out tree stood amidst a sandy beach area littered with hammocks in earshot of the relaxed Reggae Roots stage. The warm, enclosed space, rhythmic sounds and chilled out atmosphere provided us with the perfect setting to have an inebriated heart to heart, whilst tricking us into feeling as if we were in Jamaica or Barbados rather than on the Isle of Wight.

Broadening my musical horizons

We spent Friday morning meandering slowly and distractedly in the direction of the main stage, reaching it just in time for Lethal Bizzle to be announced as the first surprise act of the weekend and managing to bag ourselves a premium spot close to the front. Whilst I hadn’t listened to much of Mr Bizzle’s back catalogue before, I found myself getting thoroughly into the party spirit during his set, dancing away to the banging tunes and feeling pretty dench in the sunshine. The rest of Friday and Saturday then became a complete euphoric blur of eclectic musical and immersive experiences as we watched performances from Sam Smith and Disclosure, Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip, The 2 Bears, The Kooks and 1-800 Dinosaur and a thoroughly bizarre set from The Cuban Brothers. We were completely spoilt for choice all weekend by stages and attractions vying for our attention, but none blew me away as much as The Port, a landlocked boat staging a host of drum and bass and dubstep beats whilst aerial acrobats suspended from cranes performed above the crowds as lasers and pyrotechnic displays exploded from HMS Bestival’s funnels. Meanwhile, just a short stroll away, the wood that usually plays host to a children’s play area had been transformed with speakers, atmospheric lighting, pianos and poets into something magical beyond words.

Despite stiff competition for the accolade of being my favourite performance of the weekend, the top spot had to go to La Roux. Again, bagging a top notch position in the front row and right in front the speakers, Leah and I enjoyed the heavy thud of the baseline reverberating through our bodies as we sang and danced along, marvelling at Elly Jackson’s astoundingly beautiful voice and effortlessly cool demeanour. Despite being in Bestival’s second largest venue, La Roux somehow seemed to make the performance incredibly intimate, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to come away with a newly discovered love for Elly’s music along with a bit of a girl crush!

Another highlight for me was when Sam Smith joined Disclosure on stage for a performance of Latch. Having played the main stage earlier in the day, and with both acts modestly recalling their previous year’s performance in one of the smaller venues, the emotion on Sam’s face as he surveyed the sea of people who had flocked to the main stage for the penultimate Friday night set was clear to see. He looked entirely awestruck, and as he took a few moments to absorb the tens of thousands of cheering people, I couldn’t help but feel a little breath taken at the thought of being a tiny part of something so special.

Oops, I peaked too soon

Whilst my Friday and Saturday were spent blissfully going from attraction to attraction listening to the sounds of happiness and revelling in the sunshine, which had made an unexpected and prolonged appearance for the occasion, my Bestival experience was definitely a story of two halves and on Sunday I began to come down with the dreaded festival flu. I woke up on Sunday morning completely drained of energy and lacking any enthusiasm or inclination to leave the comfort of my bed. Despite the fact that all weekend I had most been looking forward to Sunday’s line up, only the combination of the beating sun heating up the tent to furnace-like temperatures and Leah’s eagerness to see Busta Rhymes – who it turned out had cancelled – and Major Lazer could rouse me from my slumber. We opted to party at The Port instead of seeing main stage headliners Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, who didn’t really appeal to either of us. But on the way back from the rave epic that was the Jaguar Skills set, we managed to catch the last of the disco finale from the side-lines and were utterly astounded at the turn out for what I had considered to be an odd choice amongst a weekend jam packed with electro dance music.

Nile Rodgers

All weekend, though, there had really just been one woman that I was desperate to see. Paloma Faith was due to headline the Big Top just after midnight, but having dug deep to make it all the way to half past ten I was failing to just keep my eyes open through the closing fireworks display, for which I contributed the obligatory ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ to the rest of the crowd’s audible appreciation. Feeling absolutely shattered and broken, I bowed out and was back in bed by 11pm, absolutely gutted to have missed Paloma and thoroughly embarrassed to have turned out to be such a lightweight.

The perfect way to see out the summer

Despite my weekend not quite ending as I’d hoped, I still had an incredible time and I’m already looking forward to next year (armed with a large supply of Berocca!). With so much to see and do, I did come away with a little disappointment that I hadn’t managed to experience everything, but now I’m just ready and determined to go back and pick up where I left off. With a vast selection box of attractions on offer, the sunshine beating down on us all weekend, and everybody’s party spirits sky high, Bestival really was the perfect ending to a fantastic summer.

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