The last decade has seen festivals of all shapes and sizes emerge in scores, as Britons, and the occasional mud-worshipping visitor, fail to shake their addiction to the heady cocktail of campfire smoke, wellies and all the live music and arts you could shake a plastic cup of organic beetroot cider at.
While smaller festivals aimed at a niche audience have proven their staying power, Glastonbury, a four-day festival of every kind of modern music imaginable, which draws major acts, enough revellers to make the site the 6th-largest settlement in South West England and, it would seem, rainfall of biblical proportions, remains the most famous.
But Glastonbury has a challenger, a young upstart that has quickly stolen many a festival-goer’s heart: the Isle of Wight’s Bestival
Best major UK festival
Held in the small Robin Hill country park on the Isle of Wight, a short jump across the Solent on the Isle of Wight Ferry from Portsmouth, Bestival started life in 2004, with Basement Jaxx and Fatboy Slim headlining for the 10,000-strong crowd.
It won its first gong, the best medium-sized festival award at the UK Festival Awards, in only its third year, when 17,000 people attended and Gogol Bordello’s Balkan Punk brought a rockier edge to the traditionally dance-orientated bill.
And by 2010, 55,000 people saw Dizzee Rascal, The Flaming Lips and The Prodigy and host of megastars from the worlds of Pop, Grime, Dance and Indie put in performances that saw the public vote it the Best Major UK Festival.
Though it shuns sponsorship and commercialism, at around 50,000 punters, Bestival cannot claim to be boutique. But it has the size and reputation to attract world-class acts –both Stevie Wonder and The XX played out to huge crowds with their headline sets at the Isle of Wight festival, in what was their only UK festival appearance this year - without the sprawl and inconvenience of Glastonbury.
The same inclusive ethos of charity, sustainability, creativity and tolerance that pervades Glastonbury is in effect at Bestival, but organisers have gone further in creating a vibrant escape from the rat race: fancy dress plays a huge part in the Bestival experience, with most revellers dressing up on Saturday (this year’s theme is wild life).
What’s more, with British summertime tending to start later and spread further into September, Bestival’s scheduling at the end of the summer makes for sunnier, warmer conditions to sit out and stay up very late in.
As we’ve already mentioned, Bestival attracts an incredible line-up of world class performers, who thrill crowds over four days on the main stage and many other venues on site.
Without Glastonbury to compete against this year, Bestival 2012 provided the year’s best line-up, with Stevie Wonder and New Order bringing they’re all-time-great back catalogues and the likes of Sigur Ros, Florence + The Machine and Django Django representing the new school.
The festival’s dance background was clear for all to see too. Justice, 2manydj’s, SBTRKT and Major Lazer joined Gilles Peterson, Annie Mac, Four Tet, DJ Yoda and many more in providing an electronic extravaganza off the South Coast.