This weekend sees the summer's last big party, as Bestival brings the festival season to a close. Bestival has a reputation for being one huge party, with costumed party-goers seeing off the summer in style - and this year they are set to do it under clear skies and unbroken sunshine. Excellent stuff.
Ahead of this year's Bestival, we caught up with the man behind the madness, Rob da Bank to discuss keeping the festival's small event mentality as its popularity grows, his plans for the future of the festival, booking Amy Winehouse at the height of her addiction problems and find out what his costume is for this Bestival 2012.
Is it hard to hang on to your 'small festival' ethics with Bestival's reputation and growing popularity?
We have capped the capacity, so we're not growing in terms of that - and that's really important to us. We stopped it at the right level. It's growing in terms of people's heads, and certainly with people like Stevie Wonder on the line-up we are getting bigger in some ways but it's still the same little party it always was, delivering amazing music offering alongside the greatest party you can have at a festival. That's really important yet.
Have you got your costume sorted yet?
Yeah - costumes. We've been a bit disorganised the past couple of years. We're putting on the party so we need to set an example. We always get into some sort of outfit at some point but this year it's wildlife and we've got a lot of stuff to choose from. I've got an ant costume and a sparrow costume. I didn't really want to go down the normal route of a fox or a badger, but wildlife has a lot of different angles. A lot of people will be thinking outside the box, a lot of people will be thinking of a lot of different ideas. Hopefully it'll be one of those ideas where everyone has scope to dress up and have a lot of fun.
Who on the line-up are you proudest of having on the line-up this year?
I can't answer that without saying Stevie Wonder. He's a legend and you probably won't get a chance to see him again at a UK festival. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity. A lot of the other stuff like The xx and Sigur Ros are playing their only UK festivals this year at Bestival so i'm really proud of that.
Watch 'Varud' by Sigur Ros
Sigur Ros are performing their only UK show at Bestival. How did you swing that one?
I didn't set out for that or specify that was how it had to be. Some years they do absolutely everything, other years they keep it really tight. It was luck really, it was their decision to do it like that. Really chuffed to have them on the line-up. They're heroes of mine, musically. There's all the big stuff and i'm just as proud of the littler stuff that's just breaking through, like AlunaGeorge and Clock Opera, those sort of acts who I've been really supporting on the radio and now with the festival. They might only be playing to a 500 people but I think those moments will be just as valid as the big ones. I remember when Florence did her first Bestival and she did 'You Got The Love' for the first ever time in front of about 700 people, that still sticks in my memory as one of my best festival moments because I know what it went on to become. There'll be big moments with tens of thousands of people and then there'll be special moments with 50 people.
Amy Winehouse performed in 2008 at the peak of her addiction problems. What was your reaction to her performance?
When I booked her, actually, hand on heart, I was stood on the side of the stage and I'd been DJing, warming up for her, I was right there sober and totally with it. It maybe wasn't her best ever performance or the best ever show we've seen at Bestival but it was by no means a disgrace or embarrassment. Obviously she was ill at the time and it wasn't fantastic. I don't regret booking her. I booked her for her musical capability and she obviously won't be able to do it again. I totally stand by having booked her. She played a good show, she knew where she was, she knew she was playing Bestival, she was trying her best.
Watch 'Back To Black' by Amy Winehouse at Bestival 2008
What criteria do you go by when booking artists for Bestival?
I probably book more bands than any other festival outside of Glastonbury, i've booked hundreds of acts. Some acts just tick the boxes - I want them at the festival because they are brilliant musicians. The likes of Chic or New Order, Sister Sledge, De La Soul - band i've grown up with and I really want to see them. If it's new acts then it's the ones i've been playing on the radio show that I really love and support.
Bestival is a bit of a rites of passage for a lot of bands, it's not like they have to be the best they ever could be. I want it to be fun for the bands as well.
Beyonce and Jay-Z have headlined Glastonbury. Steve Wonder is a Bestival headliner - have festival goers' music tastes changed?
What's happened in the last ten years in the UK in general, is that music lovers and people who listen to the radio have a much broader taste. 16 year old kids growing up now are open to a lot more sounds - from heavy metal to grime to dubstep. There's just a lot more music being made in a lot more styles and obviously young people are a lot more open to that. It's amazing the amount of young people, 16-year-old kids, who were listening to The Cure last year at Bestival. Some of them had probably never heard of The Cure in their lives. Even for Bjork, kids saw her and were blown away.
I think the best festivals are pushing boundaries a bit and not just booking the same old same old - and that's not knocking the bigger festivals who have to book the Coldplays and Kasabians, because their audience want that, it's what they desire. If Kraftwerk would do Bestival every year i'd book them, if David Bowie would come and do Bestival every year i'd have him. The problem isn't people repeating themselves, it's what you do with the rest of the bill and I think people maybe focus too much on the headliners and say it's the same old things. The middle of your bill is where it's important and if you're breaking medium level bands, that's when people won't be coming to festivals for the headliners. It's the middle of the bill that's the crucial bit.
Watch 'The Man Machine' by Kraftwerk at Bestival 2009
The festival scene has struggled in 2012 with a lot of cancelled events. Why do you think that is? Too many festivals? Too expensive? Too similar line-ups?
It's a mixture of all those things. Primarily it's a financial question and the Olympics. Last year, around this time I was pooh-poohing the Olympics a little bit, not really thinking it was going to have any effect but I was wrong, it's had a huge effect on event sales in general. That, combined with economic woes, for a lot of people it hasn't been good and we had a pretty terrible start to the year with weather and stuff. The year has been crap for a lot of people, but we're about to sell out on Bestival and we did sell out for Camp Bestival. We've just about managed to get there but it certainly hasn't been easy. I just hope it gets better for next year. Maybe in a good way it will separate the wheat from the chaff, anyone who puts on an event without the best possible reasons might fall by the wayside. I don't mean that in a renegade way, I love competition, there's hundreds of festivals to compete with and I love the UK festival market, but there are definitely some shows that are just in there for the money or reasons that aren't necessarily for the fans.
Do you think festivals are essentially simple to put on - but difficult to make any good?
Anyone can open the gates on a field with a bar, a stage and some second rate bands. The truth has been proven this year, because with everything that's going on people have decided to go to just the one festival and it's got to be pretty special. People are getting very picky about where there go - and rightly so. Ten years ago people were happy just pitching their tent and drinking some beer, now they want boutique camping, they want stuff laid on, no queues, spotless toilets - and we can provide most of that in the right conditions, if we're lucky but it's certainly got a lot more demanding and the trick is to deliver that sort of festival.
Bestival takes place this weekend, 7-9 September 2012. For ticket information, visit Gigwise Gig Tickets.