As the 2014 summer festival season draws reluctantly to a close, we can look back at yet another season dogged by disappointing cancellations as well as studded by stellar highlights. There’s little doubt the UK festival scene has been overcrowded for a few years now, and the burgeoning US scene has added more pressure. But this year’s casualties included both the ten-year-old, award winning Irish mainstream music festival Oxygen and idealistic dreams of the first ever major crowdfunded festival, Alt-Fest. And both radical new concept Orchestival and grass-roots Welsh music showcase Swn had to downsize from a weekend to a one-day event for 2014.
Many, like Sonosphere, do regroup and return, of course, while others with a particularly strong concept and identity, such as All Tomorrows Parties, are welcomed as stages or arenas at larger festivals with broader appeal. But if Oxygen’s reliance on headliners doesn’t work, and inspired new concepts can’t always be made to fly, what’s behind the success of festivals like WOMAD, which has been a worldwide programme of successful festivals for some years now, or Bestival, which having spawned Camp Bestival and other spin-offs, recently announced plans to take the concept across the US and continental Europe?
Bestival was set up by DJ Rob da Bank as an extension of his ‘Sunday Best’ club concept but its become a labour of love which promotes an eco message and benefit the youngsters of the Isle of Wight, a holiday destination of his South Coast childhood. Choosing the beautiful site at Robin Hill Park was just the start, as he told local website iLife a couple of years ago:“We didn’t want people just to turn up at a white canvas tent in the middle of a field with some DJs in it. It has always been about being magical, escapism and far from reality. I want people to think they are in a different world, just as I did the first time I jumped over the fence to get into Glastonbury.”
Acknowledging that most funds raised are ploughed back into making the next event even more remarkable, he said: “I believe that is the only way to do it.” He more recently told the Telegraph: “I’ve never been in this industry for the money.” He felt the event was ripe for expansion to North America and Europe because “We’ve made a real impression on the festival market and pioneered a lot of ideas.”
A measured attitude to headliners is also part of the event’s resilience. Of Stevie Wonder’s appearance in 2012 he said: “I don’t want to set a precedent of bringing huge global icons, because there are not that many” adding “I just want everyone to have a good time.”
We can’t wait to see what Bestival has his store for us over the next few years at the Isle of White, and intrigued to see where it may pop up elsewhere in the world.