Rob da Bank: What It's Like To Put On A Music Festival Like Bestival

DJ and Bestival founder Rob da Bank on the stresses and pleasures of running the Isle Of Wight's biggest party for the past ten years

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It’s nail-biting when you book someone like Elton John or Stevie Wonder because everyone wants it to be incredible. Luckily, they were, but it’s tense when you have someone that big. The most lengendary headliners we've ever had? It's hard to pick, but for me, The Beastie Boys.


I’ve got better at enjoying it. I didn’t used to be very good. I’d be off marching around the site, putting toilets rolls in toilets or something like that.

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I try and see every act I’ve booked. I see hundreds of performances each weekend. I’ve spent a lot of money on them, so I want to enjoy them too! Sometimes I watch near the front, sometimes from at the back to make sure people see and hear OK, sometimes from the back of the stage. I get around a lot, much to Mrs. Da Bank’s annoyance.


Sinead O’Connor said last year it was the loudest, most up-for-it crowd she’d ever had. I like hearing things like that.

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I spent so long hounding Robert Smith with emails and letters and increased offers of money before he toppled and finally agreed to do the gig. I think people were blown away by how fun he was, drinking pints of lager and playing the greatest hits. They were expecting him to be miserable.
 

Each year we start with the headliners. Even now I am thinking about next year and year after. Some bands you book so far ahead they’re talking about 2016. You’ve got to play that game to keep up with everyone else. It’s so competitive now.

You can’t be too uppity. I book pop acts, and I enjoy them too.


People who haven’t been to Bestival yet think the fancy dress is all about crappy plastic £10.99 outfits. But people have spent months making these things.


The best one for me is still this really beautiful Indian girl who came in a giant takeaway carton with a huge £4.99 scrawled on the top of a cardboard lid. The theme that year was Cowboys and Indians. She’d taken it a bit laterally.


There are three acts I’ve tried to book every year since we started: Prince, Fleetwood Mac and Dolly Parton. I was pissed off when Glastonbury got Dolly this year – we’ve been publically courting her for years. I was glad she got such a great reaction though – sort of proved a point.
 

You can’t rest on your laurels. Each time we try to improve. This year there is a new reggae and ragga stage called Reggae Roots (it’s a tree), and a new foody collective with up and coming chefs. The giant ship is coming back too.


We capped the capacity at 50,000 five years ago, and we’re happy with it at that. If definitely won’t get bigger – if anything, the number will go down. We don’t want to lose the intimacy.


Running the festival, we don’t sit in the VIP bar swigging champagne. We’re out in the field fine-tuning stuff. I don’t tend to meet the acts afterwards either because I turn into a bit of wally, though I made an exception for Robert Smith.


My favourite part of the weekend is when I’m playing a little set before some of the big names come on. No one can bother me on the radio, and I can just look out and think, wow, there are a lot of people out there and they’re having a fantastic time.


Bestival is on 4-7 September.