Bestival Part I

UK: Still relatively young but undeniably effectual, the desert island disco-themed Bestival 2014 continued to refine its distinct aesthetic through a plethora of idiosyncratic conceptual art pieces, intimate micro venues, eclectic eateries, and an impossibly extravagant carnival parade. Festival Insights sat down with a few of the key players behind these innovations to discuss how they brought the proverbial ruckus.

Wandering through the Ambient Forest area offered a respite from the omnipresent four-to-the-floor bass that pervaded the rest of the arena’s airspace. Silhouettes meandered down woodland paths that wind up through trees illuminated in various shades of soft light. Robin Hill Country Park owns said light array – comprised in part by colourised Halide floodlighting, LED moving heads and 53x3w RGBW PAR IP-Rated PAR lights.

Numerous mirror balls were also placed around the forest to complement this year’s theme. Chamsys’ Magicq lighting programme – output through both DMX and Art-net distribution – allowed the onsite technicians to masterfully set the mood and ensure that everyone had a Bloody Nice Time. Robin Hill utilises the area and equipment in its year-round, similarly themed ‘Electric Woods’ events.

Also, they had this totem thing that looked like Nicolas Cage. [Photo credit: Alex Oxborough]
Also, they had this totem thing that looked like Nicolas Cage. [Photo credit: Alex Oxborough]

“With the Ambient Forest we want people to have a surreal experience, something that takes them out of their comfort zone and projects them into another world,” said Becky Burchell, Bestival’s Art Producer. “Festivals are really amazing places to provide experiences that people wouldn’t necessarily come across in real life.”

The shaded dreamscape also played host to Classic Album Sundays – presented by Klipsch Audio in the Woodland Treehouse Centre. Since the events occurred on Friday and Saturday too the title is a misnomer in this case, but the breadth of content on offer and the popularity of the installation necessitated repeat performances. Featuring uninterrupted vinyl playback through La Scala II loudspeakers and SW-115 subwoofers supplied by Klipsch Audio, the shows treated audiophiles to a roster of classic albums including Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders.

“At Camp Bestival we held Classic Album Sundays in a church and included a lot of choral, spiritual music,” said Burchell. “Everyone was just chilled out in their chairs, listening with their eyes closed.”

In total contrast to the enigmatic tranquillity of the Ambient Forest was the annual Bestival parade, also organised by Burchell and independent producer Andrea Greenwood in collaboration with carnival groups and performance troupes such as Shademakers, Mahogany, Area 51, the tribal Hype Dance Company, Mandinga Arts, the East London tranny troupe Sink the Pink, and Helen Davenport’s Quture, amongst others.

Hordes of technicolour disco freaks carved a path through the arena like a river of unadulterated flamboyance.

Just look at this hyper-phallic titan, for example.
Just look at this hyper-phallic titan, for example. [Photo credit: Alex Oxborough]

Representing all things vibrant in the culinary world was the Feast Collective, which staged a pavilion chock full of the most eclectic street food available in the UK. Festival Insights sat down with Gemma Thorogood – Project Manager of the Feast Collective – and David Wright, representing the Cake Shop Bakery.

“I’ve been working for Bestival as a part of the creative production team for four years now, mostly on food-related projects,” said Thorogood. “We’re promoting the idea that festival food can consist of more than just burgers and chips; it can be experimental, healthy and artistic.”

The tent included such stalls as Wholefood Heaven, the Crabbieshack, the Cauldron, the Cake Shop Bakery, Elephant Juice, Le Rac Shack, Happy Maki, and Tom’s Pies. Throughout the year Feast Collective representatives travelled around Britain’s food markets, such as London’s Street Feast, to scout for the best and most diverse vendors they could. One such purveyor of tasty treats they discovered in the process was Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen.

“Zoe has never traded at a festival before,” said Thorogood. “She runs a supper club in London and Berlin. Ghanaian food isn’t something you’d expect at a festival so it’s a real risk for her. We support our traders with online profiles and mini-films we shot for the Guardian’s website, but success still isn’t a certainty.”

Left to right: Myself, Thorogood, Wright.
Left to right: Festival Insights’ Michael Baker, Gemma Thorogood, David Wright.

“Feast Collective is a great opportunity for small, independent businesses to get involved with the festival industry without incurring the outlay of a full size pitch,” continued Wright. “This project has been curated with the businesses in mind, so that we can test the water with minimal risk.”

Currently both Thorogood and Wright exclusively work with Bestival and Camp Bestival within the festival industry, although they’re not against the idea of expanding. Right now the pair feel that Bestival is a trailblazer when it comes to promoting alternative food options.

“Rob and Josie da Bank aren’t afraid to take that challenge on,” said Wright. “They’re so supportive of every element of the festival too; they check in on every person onsite which makes you feel wanted, like you’re an integral part of their vision.”

Useful Links

Official Bestival Site
Electric Woods
Classic Album Sundays
The Feast Collective
The Cake Shop Bakery
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen