Bestival’s arbiter of all things cool talks 12 years of festivals, tapping into his feminine side and introducing UK events into the North American market.
AUDIENCE PROFILE: We aimed to get a slightly older audience this year, reflected in our headliners – the Jacksons, Duran Duran, and Missy Elliot. However, the likes of FKA Twigs and Tame Impala are popular with the younger indie crowd. You can change audience profiles successfully from year to year. Our crime rates are low and there’s always a really friendly atmosphere here.
GIRL POWER: A promoter once said to me that Bestival has a reputation as a ‘girly festival’ and I said, ‘thank you very much’. I really like that. Keeping a good proportion of the acts female is important to us, and providing an atmosphere where female audiences feel comfortable is great.
SPIN OFF SUCCESS: Our spin-offs, including Bestival Toronto and Common People, taught us that the market is growing, so we may well set up other festivals internationally if the demand is right. A lot of UK festivals have failed to translate to foreign audiences. We loved how the Canadian audience embraced the event and elements like the Inflatable Church, where couples, gay and straight, got ‘married’ and really created an amazing vibe.
CANADIAN COUNTERCULTURE: Canadians, we heard, were quite conservative, but we found the opposite. Bestival Toronto had a nude beach area right outside and a hippy commune. It was a liberating experience.
PITCH INVADERS: I find that, in general, people are a bit more chilled out about brand presence at festivals. It’s part of everyday life walking down the high street and people understand the necessity of brands and how they help fund some really creative experiences. You don’t want a neon flashing Coca-Cola sign on the Port stage, but brands nowadays understand the modern festival scene better, and take tasteful branding into account in their pitches.
IDEA FACTORY: My wife Josie is very creative and pitches a lot of ideas. I chip in too, but we have a team of 20 people who are responsible for what Bestival is. We’re well known for our memorable set pieces, like the mirror ball. Some festival audiences are happy to have the same thing each year, and that’s cool, but ours is an audience that likes to be surprised.
ELECTRIC DREAMS: Bestival has a lot of electronic music played here, but while around 65 per cent is like this, and it’s like a big rave, there is plenty of other music, indie, world music, hip-hop. We have exciting plans for next year we will reveal soon, but I guess the spread of genres is roughly the same, although the headliners will be more indie-orientated.
BUGBEAR: Artist exclusivity is really bad for acts. Certain promoters are responsible and there’s a lot of frustration in the independent festival sector with acts being pulled at the last moment. It’s bad for the music industry in general.
CONGRESS: The AIF was a really exciting project to set up and it’s tackling some really important issues. It’s now become more professional in its approach and the Festival Congress rallies the industry together. It’s about the underdogs coming together and celebrating the fact that we have stayed true to our visions and not sold out.
This feature originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Access All Areas, out now.