What with the weather in Dorset this weekend being comprised almost solely of torrential rain, chilling temperatures and winds at such a high-speed it was a safety hazard, some may suggest that being curled up near a large open fire would be a much better option than bracing the mud-deluge that was Bestival. Yet, despite what could have been a significant mood dampener, the show did go on – and it was brilliant.
Arriving to grey skies on Thursday afternoon, the crowd excitedly settled into their almost pristine campsites before being treated to a nostalgic set by Jamie T, playing all the favourites from Shelia and Sticks and Stones to more recent tracks like Zombies, and even the lesser fans couldn’t help but leave enlivened.
Having moved from the Isle of Wight, this year was the festival’s inauguration at its new site on the Lulworth Estate in Dorset and regulars were eager to see how the new setting would fair. A wander around the arena on Friday revealed a feast of delights for all the senses. From a giant inflatable Kanye West head to an ambient forest adorned with colourful dream catchers and featuring a creative corner, Bestival remains one of Britain’s most inventive festivals when it comes to daytime entertainment. Clearly, they’ve also found their forte in the form of creating large objects, with the grounds showcasing the ‘world’s largest…’ disco ball, bouncy castle and confetti cannon, as well as a pair of huge striding astronauts. You have to give it to them – they don’t do things by halves.
Friday’s main stage showcased the mellow R&B vibes of soul-singer Ray Blk during the afternoon, which should have paved the way for a grimy set from Wiley had he not cancelled. His absence, however, was made up by the xx, who captured the crowd with their spectral dance set against a beautiful iridescent moon. Over in the box, Kurupt FM played their usual crowd pleasing garage tunes as ravers tried not to slip over in the mud mid-skank.
Saturday’s torrential rain may have led to half the crowd abandoning the main stage during Rejjie Snow’s performance (the other half joined him on stage for cover), but the evening’s headline acts made for the best day yet. With much loved hip hop and bassline anthems from Dizzee Rascal and an almost tear-jerking final performance from lyrical legends A Tribe Called Quest, the castle stage was the place to be.
The highs of Saturday were soon diminished, however, as Sunday’s high winds saw ticket-holders being ushered out of the main arena and into the safety of the campsite. Loyle Carner was unable to play and the general atmosphere was one of dejection and frustration; some fellow festival-goers I chatted to even suggested an uprising. The remainder of the day could easily have been a disaster what with several people packing up to leave, had the reopening of the arena not been blessed with a colourful, energised performance from the Pet Shop Boys and a brilliant set over at the Temple Stage from Andy C.
Absent artists, abysmal weather and a temporary embargo on entering the arena could easily have spelt the end for Bestival had it not been for crowd’s resolve; as I heard one passerby say, ‘we’ll just have to get on with it’. They came to party, and party they did.
Words by Amelia Edgell-Cole