Rob da Bank Interviewed: "Bestival Is About Love, Not Glory..."

What to know how a modern festival gets put together and keeps ahead of its rivals? Meet Rob da Bank, the man who makes Bestival happen.
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What to know how a modern festival gets put together and keeps ahead of its rivals? Meet Rob da Bank, the man who makes Bestival happen.

Rob da Bank has just finished the school run; today he will have a four hour conversation with someone about the benefits of one particular portaloo over another. This will only be bettered by the six figure sum he will be asked to find for a security team of hundreds, all of this to keep the world’s biggest fancy dress party in order, or Bestival as it is otherwise known.

You have Primal Scream, The Cure and Bjork headlining this year?

It took me 7 years to get the Cure, seven years of begging letters to finally get them to agree to do it. Primal Scream have played Bestival before on the Sunday night and are helping close Camp Bestival in July, so they are perfect. Plus Screamadelica is in my top three albums of all time. I'm over the moon to get Bjork as its a UK exclusive for us, I think she will be great on the Sunday night. I try and programme the festival to my music tastes and trust my instincts, the CDs in my car match the bands on stage.

Is it tough, competing forheadlineacts?

It’s a struggle but you just have to get in quick. I have already started making enquires for next year. Some bands we have been lucky in getting just at the right time like Florence and Mumfords, but for the headliners you have to fight hard and sign them up before anyone else does. The goal for us was to mix the vintage and current, we have everything from Dubstep to Disco.

it’s a dream job. 362 days of stress, torture and impending financial destitution, all for 3 three days of happiness.

The theme this year is Rock Stars, Pop Stars & Divas, are you ready for a field littered with Gagas?

Lots of my friends have been saying that, everyone seems to think it’s going to be GaGas and Freddie Mercurys. I don’t fancy a meat dress myself, but each to their own. I don’t know what im going as yet….

S.T: I'm going as Steve Van Zandt and my mate is going as Clarence Clemons, both from the E Street Band, we are going to spend the weekend searching for Bruce.

R.D.B: That’s a great idea, maybe I could be your Bruce?

S.T: Perfect.

R.D.B: All you need to do now is convince the Village People.

S.T:  I do?

R.D.B: They're judging the competition.

S.T: Naturally.

How do you deal with the extravagant riders?

Last year George Clinton demanded a massage and a juicer which was tricky, Beastie Boys wanted locally sourced jam and chutney. We had Grace Jones one year, with 12 hours to go, she refused to walk onstage unless she had a specific type of oysters. We had to send someoneto Billingsgate in London to get them in the end. Once he got back we dressed him up as a waiter and threw him in her dressing room, it seemed to work.

You won the best major festival award last year, that must have been a turning point?

It’s a great honour and it was good to have all the team there and enjoy themselves on the night, but if I’m honest, in some ways I regret it. Not in an ungrateful way, or that I don’t think we deserved it, just where do you go from there? Surely the only way is down? Awards are great and everything, but it’s love not glory we do it for.

I get people coming up to me saying ‘Great festival Rob, love it and everything, but the toilets in the yellow camping are shit’ which isn’t really helpful.

Have you sacrificed anything along the way to mainstream popularity?

There are 2 or 3 sponsors that I wouldn’t have back. We are fiercely independent, every year we have people chasing us to sell, but we stick to our guns because we believe in what we do. There are some things I want to do, ideally I wouldn’t charge for parking or programmes, but in reality you have.

Does the emergenceof other festivals such as Secret Garden Party, make you view Bestival differently?

We aren’t the young, hip festival anymore, but that only makes us work harder at creating something different. The fancy dress idea, we created that years ago, now everyone does it. With Secret Garden Party; I think we are going after different crowds, what they do is cool but limited. We do the same with creativity but we add over 300 acts on top of it, but it’shorses for courses at the end of the day.

Doesbeing the face of the festvial come with extra pressure?

It wasn’t my choice, naturally I’m a shy person who hates public speaking but because of the Radio 1 show it seemed like the right idea. That said I think it’s important that the festival has a face, it becomes human and its not just a machine. So it’sa gift and curse really, but you can’t complain, it’s a dream job. 362 days of stress, torture and impending financial destitution, all for 3 three days of happiness.

How do you spend your time at the festival?

Skulking round in a cap and sunglasses avoiding people usually, espeically if things aren’t going well. I get people coming up to me saying ‘Great festival Rob, love it and everything, but the toilets in the yellow camping are shit’ which isn’t really helpful.

What do you see for the future of Bestival?

We have to change, next year I want to lower the capacity and in some ways start over again. I want to turn festivals on their head, I have already got an idea for a new one I want to do. The future  might be the smaller 500 – 1000 capacity festivals.  Things need to change, I want to do a free festival, or one where the punters programme it themselves. Something, because everyone is doing the same thing. If we want to be doing Bestival in thirty years time, we have no choice.

Can you imagine a Bestivalwhen you are not involved.

Never, over my dead body.

Bestival 2011, 8th-11th September. Robin Hill country park, Isle of Wight. Click here for ticket information

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