Fancy dress, hedonistic hippies and WI tea tents: Rob da Bank on 10 years of Bestival

The Isle of Wight-based festival started in 2003 with 4,000 party-goers. Now it attracts 50,000. Matilda Battersby meets its founder

Bestival co-founder and electronic dance music-loving Radio 1 DJ Rob da Bank was a bit gutted when his seven-year-old son asked him for a One Direction CD. This is a man who, with his wife Josie and another couple, founded Isle of Wight-based festival Bestival a decade ago this September, and made his name by residing at the cutting edge of cool, organising weekly club nights.

"I found it quite difficult buying my son a One Direction album as it was the first CD he'd asked for. I'm a supposedly trendy Radio 1 DJ and my son's first CD was One Direction… But it's growing on me. Constantly playing it in the car every day on the way to school has made me realise it is good pop music."

Da Bank "still keeps [his] ear close to the ground" in the music scene, booking emerging bands, telling radio listeners who they should tune into and spending "months and months" of the year doing his darnedest to persuade the biggest names to headline at Bestival. This year he has bagged Sir Elton John ("he wasn't diva-ish at all"), Snoop Lion and Fatboy Slim.

But having moved from London to the Isle of Wight full-time a year ago to bring up three kids – and having established one of the most family-friendly festivals this country has to offer, Camp Bestival, five years ago – da Bank, 40, is getting a taste of a rather different life from the weekly South London clubbing institution of Sunday Best from which Bestival was born in 2003.

His life now revolves around school-runs with One Direction blaring from the stereo and one of the bestest Bestival highlights is actually the Women's Institute tea tent, he tells me (more on this later on).

Bestival is one of the more established UK music festivals in an increasingly rammed marketplace. Each year 50,000 people descend on the Isle of Wight wearing fancy dress for what da Bank describes as "a crazy, hedonistic adventure in an other-worldly magical kingdom".

Each year the organisers establish a dress-up theme and in the past have welcomed scores of pirates, cowboys and Indians, fairies and goblins and more to the parade. This year's theme is a nautical one and da Bank, as the captain of HMS Bestival, is already at the helm.

But things have not all been plain sailing for the event which was marred last year by a tragic bus crash. A coach carrying revellers home hit a tree on the A3 at Hindhead on 10 September 2012, causing the deaths of the driver, 60-year-old Colin Daulby, two passengers and injuring an additional 50 people.

Da Bank was "devastated" by the accident, particularly the deaths of two young Bestival-goers, Kerry Lynne Ogden, 23, of Maghull, Liverpool, and, Michael Molloy, 18, from Woolton, south Liverpool.

He has since been involved in fundraising for the victims and their families and also supported the release of songs written by budding musician Molloy the year before he was killed. His single "Rise and Fall", recorded with his friend Alex Evans, shot straight into the top 40 when it was released on Da Bank's label Sunday Best in May.

"When we heard what had happened it was devastating for all of us at Bestival," Da Bank says. "In a way it was nothing to do with us directly, but those two young kids, everyone on the coach, had been having a whale of a time at Bestival."

He is planning "something permanent" at the festival to commemorate the victims: "We put on a big night for them in Liverpool a few months ago. We've had people [from his team] going up [to Liverpool, where most of the victims were from] since the crash just to keep in touch. It's not a cynical thing, 'we'd better be nice to these guys to protect ourselves.' Bestival's a kind of family. This is a tragic part of its history now."

Family, whether it's the 25-strong team of organisers who run Bestival, his wife, or his own children, is the axis upon which da Bank's world revolves. During our interview he repeatedly mentions Glastonbury and the legacy the Eavises have built there. Is it his plan to pass the Bestival Empire onto his sons à la Michael and Emily Eavis?

"Yeah possibly," he concedes. "I don't look at my kids and think 'One day you're going to own all of this.' They are seven, five and two so they're not really into raving yet. They love Camp Bestival but I think Bestival is still a bit racy for them."

"What Michael and Emily and their whole Glastonbury crew has done is phenomenal. I don't think we'll ever achieve what they've achieved in festivals. But yeah, it's the same ethos. It's me and my wife and our partners, another married couple. The four of us created it together, we run it together."

Da Bank's first festival was Glastonbury when he was 17. "I remember jumping over the fence and thinking 'This is the best thing I've ever done in my life,'" he says. So you didn't buy a ticket then? "Yeah, years later I told Michael Eavis that to his face. He just sort of tutted."

In 10 years Bestival has grown beyond recognition from the 4,000-strong posse of revellers it started with. But despite having capacity to expand beyond 50,000 ("we're smack in the middle of the Isle of Wight, there's loads of room"), da Bank is keen to keep it manageable.

"Glastonbury is the only festival I know that's bigger than 50,000 people that retains its cool feel. I reckon we'd start losing that intimate vibe if we expanded. We want people to be able to lose a mate and find them again the same day, rather than three days later. I think that's quite important," he says.

What do the Isle of Wight locals think of da Bank bringing thousands of foreigners onto their turf for a three-day party every year? " The islanders are a mixture of ultra-conservatives and some very hedonistic ex-hippies. It definitely took a few years for them to get their heads around Bestival. But it is very good for the economy."

One particular triumph is Bestival's relationship with the Isle of Wight Women's Institute. "They absolutely love it. The Isle of Wight WI are held up around the country as one of the most dynamic. They started with us 10 years ago and do thousands and thousands of cups of tea and cakes."

"You see some deranged raver who's been up all night discover they can get a cuppa and a cake for 50p and they're suddenly so sweet and polite. Joan Finch, the lady who runs it, says they've never had a bad word, or any horrible people."

Will Da Bank respond to his children's influence and book One Direction next year? "I think I'd get a bit of flak for that one, but they'd be great for Camp Bestival."

Bestival, Isle of Wight (www.bestival.net) 5 to 8 September

Arts and Entertainment
'I do think a woman's place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there.'

Is this the end of the Dowager Countess?tv
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn