Bestival 2015 Review

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The main stage at Bestival 2015

The main stage at Bestival 2015

Where do I begin? This is a question I’m sure many Bestival goers were asking themselves as they arrived to this year’s Summer of Love at Robin Hill Country Park. With so many distinct areas comprising countless stages, amusements and attractions, the closing festival of the UK season had so much going on at once that it had the potential to leave even the most laid back festival goer suffering with a serious case of FOMO (or fear of missing out if, like me, you’re less than fluent in modern day acronyms!). Whether it was the abundant line-up of DJs that left the Bollywood Tent resembling a tropical rainforest, swelteringly hot and raining with condensation, or a cast of shitfaced Shakespearian actors performing ‘The Merchant of Venice’ to a packed out woodland amphitheatre in the Ambient Forest, or even the workshop that encouraged the artistic and not so artistic amongst us to paint messages of peace and freedom on flags in the sun-drenched garden of The Commune, there was always a performance or activity to match my mood.

I started off on Thursday, after a slightly less successful experience pitching a new-fangled inflatable tent than expected (with my friends doing what all good friends do and laughing through my struggles!), exploring the incredibly random and wonderful attractions that were inhabiting the Grassy Hill, Magic Meadow and Wishing Tree Field, including the brand new and rather impressive eight meter tall interactive Love-Bot, powered by love and affection, and Bestival stalwart, the Wishing Tree. Last year, my best friend and I had had a rather drunken heart to heart whilst sat inside the Wishing Tree, crying our eyes out as we chatted about how much we loved our other halves, how much we loved each other’s other halves, and how much we both hoped that the other would get married and live happily ever after with the respective significant other…you know, typical drunken girlfriend chat! Well, as Leah and I strolled around what must surely be the tiniest dance floor of the festival, chatting about manicures (prompted by Rimmel offering free ones in the Magic Meadow), she was suddenly waving her left hand in my face asking if I noticed anything new. Thrown by the manicure lead in, I was embarrassingly slow on the uptake, but as the penny dropped there were yet more hugs and tears and squeals of excitement from inside the little tree…my bestie is getting married! (At least the wishing tree granted a wish for one of us!) To be honest the rest of the day was a bit of a celebratory blur, spent consuming multiple cocktails and plastic pint glasses of wine whilst dancing our wellies off to the likes of Rudimental (where the husband-to-be spotted the drummer of Chase and Status watching from the back, which left me wondering whether they might be playing a secret set), Gorgon City, Jamie XX and Jaguar Skills along with a whole host of DJs I’m nowhere near cool enough to have heard of before.

Wishing tree

To my surprise, I didn’t feel too hungover on Friday morning. However it would seem that the alcohol must have slightly addled my ability to perform simple tasks like remove items safely from my washbag. As my friends and I potted about in and around our tents, getting ready for the day ahead at a nice leisurely pace, I distractedly plunged my hand in to take out my toothbrush and accidentally caught the uncovered blade of my razor, taking a fairly sizable chunk off the tip of my finger. I won’t lie, it bloody well hurt, and my friends howled with laughter as I only half-jokingly lamented the loss of my favourite part of my favourite finger, with the complete stranger in the process of pitching his tent next to us joining in to take the piss, but not before handing me a tissue.

The first port of call for the day then, unsurprisingly, was a visit to the pharmacy, where I was then promptly pointed in the direction of the first aid tent to have my finger properly cleaned and dressed. Armed with a Tia Maria espresso cocktail, which became a firm favourite beverage over the course of the weekend (down partly to the deliciousness of the drink itself, but down mostly to the deliciousness of the guys, or one in particular, who were serving them from the Tia Maria sponsored milk float) I endured the unpleasant disinfecting process and emerged about half an hour later rattling with painkillers and looking like E.T. with my index finger bandaged up in the most ridiculously over the top dressing and feeling like a Gremlin, with my number one instruction being to not get it wet. I was then treated to my first ever experience of Shitfaced Shakespeare, a concept whereby a small cast of classically trained actors performs one of Shakespeare’s works of literary art whilst one of them is, well, shitfaced! As the play got underway, I did feel that having a brief knowledge of The Merchant of Venice’s plotline would have been advantageous, but that didn’t stop me laughing at the obvious deviations that required the non-shitfaced actors to ad-lib, or the not so occasional and presumably non-Shakespearean “fooking ‘ell” coming from the pissed northern actress.

My highlight of the day, and possibly even my weekend, was seeing Ella Eyre perform at the Big Top. I often resign myself to having to watch performances on the big screens flanking the stage, if indeed I can see anything other than the back of the person in front of me (small people problems!), but I’d managed to muscle my way right to the front for Ella’s set. She and The Chemical Brothers were the acts I was most looking forward to seeing, and her high energy performance combined with her beautiful, soulful voice and emotion injected into every lyric absolutely did not disappoint. With my Tia Maria and painkiller concoction helping to remove any anxiety about making a tit out of myself, I sung my heart out and danced like a maniac through the whole set, and was thoroughly disappointed when it came to an end.

Ella Eyre

So at thirty-something, it would seem that I’m no longer quite as sprightly as I used to be, and by Saturday I was seriously starting to flag and was in dire need of some quiet time to recharge my batteries before the rave-fest that would be The Chemical Brothers’ set that evening. Prior to the weekend I had been most intrigued by the arrival of brand new ‘festival within a festival’ Slow Motion, promising a beautiful juxtaposition of a little sanctuary of peacefulness, with its offerings of mindful meditation, llama petting and everything else needed to calm the mind and heal the soul, against the not so distant sounds of hard-core raving. Starting out with a little lie down on the grass at the Kaleidoscope stage, which was playing some of the mellower sounds of the festival, I soon became restless with the urge to visit the llamas. I was quite unsure of how I felt about animals at a festival before the weekend. I’m a big animal lover and wondered whether they would be distressed surrounded by drunk people manhandling them with loud music in the background, but the reality was quite the opposite. They were relaxed and inquisitive, with everybody around the enclosure respecting their space and the handlers instructing on the right way to interact with them. They didn’t seem at all bothered by the dull thud of the music or by the people gathered around to watch and stroke them, and I was surprised at how calm and relaxed I felt just being in their presence. After stroking one of the llamas, which rather surprisingly had incredibly soft fur, I decided to dive completely into the mind, body and spirit theme with a guided meditation at the Huffington Post Yoga Yurt whilst my friends opted for the polar opposite and headed off to see the Chuckle Brothers. After emerging from the heart space meditation, which was apparently designed to open my upper heart chakra and increase my self love, I stumbled across a talk at the Bestiversity tent with Poorna Bell, Executive Editor of the Huffington Post, in conversation with Michael Acton Smith, CEO of Mind Candy and creator of Moshi Monsters. Wanting to just chill out by myself for a little bit longer, I joined the small audience not really having a clue as to what the subject of the talk might be. Unusually, for the CEO of a tech company and editor of an online news outlet, the conversation was about being in the moment and not letting the hyper connectivity of modern life distract us from whatever we’re doing at any given time. Both speakers were fierce advocates of ‘the joy of missing out’, the notion that there is more joy to be gained by eliminating distraction and focussing completely on one thing at a time than from spreading our attention too thinly and focussing on the things we’re missing out on. Pretty deep, but also quite apt given that there were a hundred and one things to choose to do at any given time at Bestival. And also incredibly ironic that through the entire talk my friends were trying to get hold of me to arrange to meet back up, and were calling and WhatsApp messaging me incessantly as Poorna and Michael chatted about their disdain for people who constantly check their phones!

Lama

The evening wound up with a fantastic DJ set from Annie Mac, who is as exciting to watch as she is to listen to, and then The Chemical Brothers, who got me revved up from the start playing brand new single ‘Go’, which I’ve been obsessed with since I first heard it on Radio 1, along with firm favourites accompanied by an amazing graphics and laser display.

I nominated Sunday as my ‘mop up’ day, which means I spent it dipping in and out of all of the smaller stages and attractions that I’d been simply walking past for the previous three days. Highlights included a singer at The People’s Front Room, a very intimate ‘Pat Butcher’s living room’ style venue, whose comedy songs including one about masturbating when you’re feeling depressed and one about his girlfriend forgetting the safe word, which was ‘teacup’. I also very much enjoyed seeing Fake Adele at The Grand Palace of Entertainment, particularly when she sang Skyfall, but replaced the lyrics in the chorus to “I love trifle”. And whilst I can’t really say that I’m much of a Missy Elliot fan, I decided that I really couldn’t miss seeing her headline the main stage on Sunday night. But for me the weekend was nicely rounded off after her set, and the fireworks display that followed, by Mark Ronson’s DJ set at The Port, which was utterly fantastic despite the torrential rain that had held off all weekend right up until the early hours of Monday morning.

All in all I had a yet another fantastically brilliant weekend on the Isle of Wight. Thank you for another great weekend Bestival. Until next year, peace out.