Bestival 2017: the summer finale

Ah, Bestival. The summer finale. The icing on the cake. The glistening cherry on top of the proverbial ice cream sundae. Only Bestival can truly mark the end of British summertime. As we unpack our towering, still slightly damp backpacks, we should probably put away the pink wigs and orange aviators until next year. But of course, we won’t.

This year, Bestival underwent a facelift. It left it’s home of thirteen years, The Isle of Wight, and came to Lulworth Estate in Dorset. But with a new location, came new anxieties. Would Bestival be recognisable? Or have the golden years passed? Will it be mutton dressed as lamb?

The festival’s organiser, Rob Da Bank, didn’t shy away from these worries — nor did he shy away from the newness of the Dorset location. In fact, Bestival embraced the inevitable change that comes with relocating and made it exciting and positive by adding other new features. Rob Da Bank didn’t try and force Bestival into this new space, instead the whole transition felt very natural. Less of a nip and tuck, more of a really, really good anti-ageing cream.

Bestival 2017 was a harmonic balance between the old and the new. The Lovebot and HMS Bestival stood again as prized landmarks, while a giant, inflatable ‘Happy Kanye’ proved to be a new fan favourite. We were also welcomed with new stages and dances tents like ‘Stacey’s’ — the home of old school funk and soul. Complete with plush red carpet (not so plush by Monday), glitter curtains and LED disco walls.

Stacey’s quickly became the place to be, and by Saturday night the queues to get in looped around the field. We were lucky enough to catch Artwork play here on Thursday night, when we were well rested, freshly washed and unsullied by mud to come. It was magic. With any festival there comes a time, usually from 12-1am, where all music blurs into monotonous house or techno. Not an issue for some, but certainly an issue for me. Stacey’s battled hard against this disease of homogenisation that all good music seems to die of.

According to, Bestival 2017 had a daily capacity of 35,000 people. Not bad, but compared with the numbers of 2015, Bestival saw a 50,000 decrease in attendees. Either because of new site restrictions or a more hesitant public, there was undoubtedly a smaller vibe this year. However, this wasn’t necessarily a negative. With a lighter capacity came an increased sense of intimacy between artist and audience. Rejjie Snow showed his appreciation for fans seeing him play despite the pouring rain by inviting a group of six or seven audience members on stage to dance with him. Its little details like this you find hard to imagine at big festivals like Glastonbury. Bestival now seems to bridge a gap between the boutique and the commercial — similar in size to its smaller, festi-siblings of Secret Garden Party, Farr Fest or Lost Village, but still influential enough to book the big names.

Another great feature of the weekend was the ‘Eco-Bond’ that came with every wristband. The Eco-Bond gave everyone one opportunity to earn a tenner if they brought two full bags of litter to the designated collection point. This incentive really seemed to work. I found it reminiscent of Glastonbury’s ‘Love The Farm, Leave No Trace’ campaign — I am super glad this kind of environmental and ecological emphasis is catching on.

Now, you’d be mistaken in thinking that Bestival 2017 was historic just because it migrated across The Solent. No, no. Bestival 2017 also hosted the final ever show of A Tribe Called Quest. Q-Tip revealed the heart-wrenching information shortly after they held a one minute silence for fourth group member Phife Dawg, who passed away in March 2016. Q-Tip has hinted at the conclusion of the collective before, however he acknowledges that Tribe must now finish to respect the death of Phife.  Shaheed, Jarobi and Q-Tip were consistently respectful towards their lost brother, and even during his verses, let Phife Dawg’s original recordings do the talking.

Tribe’s set was nothing less than an experience, however bittersweet. The performance did total justice to their reputation as one of the biggest names in hip-hop. Filled with high energy and audience interaction; it was a nostalgic, emotional and explosive goodbye.

It was not plain sailing for Bestival this year. Along with having to prove themselves still worthy of their previous awards they tackled bad weather (40 mph winds causing an evacuation of the main arena on Sunday) and missing artists. Wiley dropped out of his Saturday night slot due to a ‘family emergency’, while headline act Justice pulled out just a day before the festival kicked off. But Bestival didn’t come up short. Soulwax were swiftly organised as a replacement headline act and gave a conceptual and jagged electronic edge to the event. With an immaculate and intriguing set design, complete with spinning robotic head, Soulwax were anything but a haphazard replacement.

The trials and tribulations that Bestival 2017 faced and overcame was a testament to the effort and spirit they poured into this years event. The whole weekend was a glittering, fun-filled mess. As it should be.

Leah Dolan


Photo credit: 1 – Garry Jones, 2 – Georgina Harrison, 3 – Victor Frakowski.