Falling at the end of the summer, Bestival has always marked the full stop at the end of festival season in the UK. One final party weekend for those who are prepared to gamble on the looming change in season, and this year boasts no exception. From the moment we board the ferry and embrace the car horns tooting, right through to the return leg, which see the boats hold almost as much jubilance, it’s clear Bestival’s 10th birthday bash delivered as promised.
The line up this year seems to have swung from a reasonable mix of contemporary and dance with an occasional outing of folk, to a more bass heavy, dance line up and this in turn forces me to explore the other things Bestival has to offer. For me, this means a day up at Bestiveristy, embracing ‘Feminism Friday’. Throughout the day I’m encouraged to consider what feminism means to me, to engage with discussions around fashion, and to find out what ‘The Fox Problem’ is really all about.
Musically, the highlights are varied. Man Without Country mark the highlight of Thursday night and they deliver on their promise of being ‘loud and layered, with minimal lighting’. Though the tent is sparse, the band come through with a sense of passion pushing their more atmospheric sound into Robin Hill Park. Elsewhere there’s a throwback moment, with The Wonder Stuff filling up the Big Top with an older crowd on Sunday afternoon. Here I’m reminded of Erika Nockalls’ prowess on violin, and just how timeless Size of a Cow really is. With new single Friendly Company (from their latest album Oh No….it’s The Wonder Stuff) getting an airing, it’s clear their winning formula has not departed.
Elsewhere I embrace the magic of the Grand Palace of Entertainment and am treated to drag caberet and a talent competition, which sees at least some of the participants confused about the definition of the word talent. Still, with a 6 foot man performing ballet in a leotard, jokes which raise about half a smile, and a guy who can contort his body in ways that seem impossible, it’s Butlin’s style entertainment at its finest. It’s also a welcome relief from the crowds which form around HMS Bestival as the dance beats ring out.
Despite a three year hiatus, Lissie returns stronger than ever. Though she’s crossed over from the more folky sounds to embrace rockier tones, what becomes strikingly apparent within minutes is the power of her voice. With Back To Forever due for release in October, it’s clear the album is likely to be a strong offering, with the likes of Further Away (Romance Poilce) undoing any doubts that first single Shameless created. Opener, The Habit marks the tone of the album, and though old favourites such as Everywhere I Go still get an airing, it’s the songs with the heavier guitars which seem to capture the crowd.
Nevertheless, there’s really only one star of the festival, and that’s closer Elton John. Launching onto stage in a jacket with his classic album title Madman Across The Water emblazoned on the reverse, it’s two hours of solid hits. Tiny Dancer, Candle In The Wind, Rocket Man (I think It’s Gonna Be A Long, Long Time) and Your Song all punctuate a set which is littered with classics as he plays to the crowd, favouring the songs which are going to make them dance. Still, when tracks from his new album The Diving Board do arrive it’s clear he’s not lost his magic, and as we’re given the lyrics to Home Again on the screens as the set draws to a close, there’s not a single voice not singing along.
Though the tone of the festival seems to have shifted a gear with the atmosphere feeling somewhat less friendly than in previous years, there’s still something special about the closing festival of the summer. Whether you chose to escape into the Ambient Forest, get married in the blow up chapel, or drink warm tea at the WI Tent whilst watching over the festival site below, there’s always going to be something that takes your fancy. For me, the majority of the highlights lay off the beaten track, but for others it’s clearly the all night partying which has been the draw. Whichever it is, Bestival boasts a little bit of everything, and though not as renowned as Glastonbury for it’s diversity, it might only be a matter of time before it’s pulling rank with the Pilton Paradise.