Bestival prides itself on being more than just a music festival. It has so much to offer; from woodland retreats to shisha bars, yoga sessions to TEDx live talks, it is a festival of many facets.
Bestival (when I went) was held on the Isle of Wight which had quaint little shops selling crabbing lines and homemade toffees, cozy pubs, streets lined with bunting, and the smell of the sea wafting around every corner. It really was unlike any other place I had been to for a festival.
I have done Bestival a couple of times now and both times I went it was held at Robin Hill Country Park.
Getting there is a bit of a mission if you don’t already live on the island. Getting the ferry to the island isn’t cheap, especially if you’re driving, but was by far the easiest and cheapest option when I went with friends. If I was traveling alone, and perhaps a few bags lighter, I would recommend going as a foot passenger to save some money.
When we arrived at the campsite, after what can only be described as a mountainous abseil from the main entrance, we set up our trusty tent (which I have used for every festival I have ever been to expect Reading in 2014!) and went off to explore.
During our little explore, we scouted out the food places we wanted to try and the best route to the main arena. Bestival has a vast campsite which is great for campers as it means you’re not camping on top of each other. However, this does mean that walking from one place to another takes longer and can make your tent slightly harder to find in the dark. Finding the best spot to camp when you arrive will make all the difference, especially if it’s a big campsite.
>> Check out my post all about where to camp at a festival, and how you can secure yourself the best possible spot.
While exploring, we came across the Worlds Biggest Bouncy Castle. This thing was enormous! We had to pay £5 to have a go but it was so worth it. It was such fun and really made us feel like a bunch of big kids.
We also went to an amazing virtual reality experience by Samsung where we were watching a behind-the-scenes performance of a band through a VR headset. It was amazing, a little disorientating but an incredible experience and even better.. it was FREE!
The Music At Bestival
Both times I went, Bestival didn’t disappoint with the artists they had lined up to perform, and the amazing stages they had set up to showcase them on.
First time around I saw some absolute corkers: Major Lazer, Sam Smith, The Kooks, Outkast, Foals, Disclosure, Chase and Status, Clean Bandit, London Grammar, Busta Rhymes, Annie Mac, Eats Everything, Gorgon City and Jaguar Skills to name a few (or rather a lot).
The second time around I saw: Wiz Khalifa, Bastille, Diplo, Major Lazer, Hot Chip, Caravan Palace, Craig David, Jeremy Loops, Katy B, Skepta, Wolf Alice and Years and Years.
Bestival always has a few big headliners who never fail to bring in a crowd. But it also plays host to some of the smaller, perhaps less well-known names.
I saw a couple of acts that I had never heard of before and instantly found myself heading to Spotify to download their music. One of them was a South-African guy named Jeremy Loops who played acoustic, Ed Sheeran/James Bay type music and was brilliant. He only had a short set but was great at interacting with the crowd and even included the crowd on his loop pedal (no pun intended). The second was Caravan Palace, a French electro-swing band from Paris. Caravan Palace, who I then went on to see at Wilderness in 2015, are just so much fun! Their music has an electro-swing vibe to it and their sets are always fun, energetic and filled with incredible live instruments which always get everyone up and dancing.
The food and drink
One place I loved was the Al Burrito Bus, which as you probably guessed, sold Burritos. We bought food from the lower level of the bus and then proceeded to the open air, upper-deck of the bus to eat and admire the view over the arena which was fabulous.
There were lots of amazing places to eat including delicious churros, burgers, falafel, wraps, and even a Nando’s van which was incredibly popular. The Nandos truck even hosted amazing live DJ sets which were a great little surprise at 3am.
Drinks at any festival are important, but queuing for them is always the one dreaded task everyone within the group tries to avoid. You always see people carrying enough drinks for 100 people just to avoid having to make that second trip back to the bar. At Bestival however, there were plenty of bars dotted about which meant that queuing for drinks didn’t take all day, Hurray!
The one thing I really liked about Bestival was that they were making a conscious effort to consider the environment. They used recyclable cups which if collected up, earned the collector coupons for free drinks.
Bestival is renowned for its fancy dress, and many people go all out when it comes to keeping up with the annual theme.
The first time I went the theme was Desert Island Disco. Cave people, castaways, hula girls and many more were seen wandering through the festival. The second year that I went the theme was The Future which meant aliens, cyborgs, robots, and plenty of foil, sequin, and metallic garments making an appearance. With Bestival, like most festivals, anything goes when it comes to clothes.
One tiny niggle…
The only thing I felt the second time around was that it felt a bit more… budget. Only small things, but it made me feel like they hadn’t put as much oomph into it as when I had been the first time. The wristbands were plastic when I went in 2016 rather than the lovely pink, glittery, fabric ones we got in 2014. Plastic or cheap wristbands are always a bit of a pet hate of mine. They get very sweaty and the graphics on them always wear off by the end of the weekend.
I loved Bestival and although I haven’t been since it moved to Dorset, I would love to go again and experience it in its new home. Bestival has so much to offer and never disappoints with its music line-up, community feel and its quirky extra offerings, I would recommend it to anyone.