It was recently Bestival's 10th birthday! The UK-based, 4 day long, end of year festival curated by Rob Da Bank is situated in Robin Hill on the Isle of Wight.
Now, if you weren't already in the know - Bestival is notoriously difficult to get to. You begin your outbound trip from Portsmouth, UK - where you queue for hours with thousands of other festival-goers until eventually you're able to board a car ferry which takes you across the channel to the Isle of Wight. Once you arrive at this popular UK holiday destination, you are forced to battle through crowds and 3-4 hour long lines BEFORE YOU HAVE EVEN LEFT THE ISLANDS PORT, let alone boarded a shuttle / bus. You will eventually be crammed into a tiny shuttle bus and sent on your way to Bestival.
To those of you looking to go next year, here is a useful life hack:
Skip the queue once you arrive at the Isle of Wight port (tell the staff you have booked a taxi) and catch the number 9 bus from the station. At £6 it's an absolute steal, and you're guaranteed to arrive hours before everyone else. The bus takes about 30-40 minutes to get to Robin Hill which, after a long day of queues and traveling, can be a little tedious.
BUT, YOU HAVE ARRIVED OUTSIDE OF BESTIVAL.
You have endured the endless lines and entered the Bestival site. You have entered Bestival and begun your 4 day journey. The festival boasted one of the larger varieties of food tents to choose from this year, including Nandos, Hog Roast, Kebabs, etc. all at semi-reasonable prices. You are split for choice with a large selection of music, stages, and activities to choose from. The festival actually boasted the worlds largest disco ball this year - the 34ft high monolith took pride of place in the middle of the Magic Meadow, and was lifted via crane into the night sky.
I began by heading straight to Temple Island (which would soon become my favourite stage) to photograph Kidnap Kid. Temple Island was host to a variety of my favourite acts throughout the duration of the festival - such as: Kidnap Kid, Karma Kid, Taches, Krywolf, Klangkarussell, Sigma, Blonde, Bondax and more. In my opinion - aside from the main stage; Temple Island was number one. It's only downfall being the pillar right in the front-middle of the DJ booth, blocking any / all sight of the DJ during their set. Upon arrival I was initially turned away by the security - they refused me any stage access due to accreditation issues. Not so easily deterred, I convinced the guard to allow me past him to access the road behind the tent, so I could source the accreditation office and amend the mistake with my press pass. He allowed me to pass him and I immediately walked backstage (once he'd faced the crowd again). I spent the evening shooting Kidnap Kid and learning to hate the set designer who decided it would be a good idea to place a pillar in the middle of the DJ booth.
Following this, I stumbled back to the press tent to edit photos and steal chocolate milk. OH. THE PRESS TENT HAD UNLIMITED, FREE CHOCOLATE MILK. Needless to say I spent the majority of my time there exhausting their resources before returning to my own, spider-ridden tent to get all of about 2 hours sleep before being woken up by noisy festival neighbours.
The following morning I crawled out of my tent and pulled myself towards the communal showers. Along the way, I bumped into a close friend of mine who had been selling Bestival tickets for The Physical Network (TPN). I told him I felt dirty and needed to clean myself, so he slapped a Temple Island Wristband on my arm (which allows you access to a private campsite / showering facilities). I was more than grateful. Once I'd freshened up, I decided it was time to put together a schedule for the day. So, after looking through the Bestival App on my iPhone, trying to decide who I should shoot, I made my way to Temple Island to photograph Taches.
I spent a little time talking to Taches after his set and talking to some other artists before being reminded that Disclosure were actually playing the main stage today. I'd wanted to photograph them back out in LA at Hard Summer, but security was pretty tight on credentials and wouldn't allow me on stage or into the Media tower opposite the stage (even with my Brit accent). I was determined to get a shot they'd like / use, even if it meant breaking rules. I made my way to the main stage and caught the end of Laura Mvula's set. Eyes fixated on the Media tower, I concocted a plan in my head that was a complete long shot, but might work. The plan was to act as though I was in a rush / confirming the right way into the tower with the first guard, with my camera strap wrapped around my wristbands, to approach the second guard, signalling to open the gate and let me in; hoping that he'd do just that. Aaaand I pulled it off. BOUND 2 FALLING IN LOVE.
Once I was in, I had a 4 hour wait until Disclosures set, so I set up my work station, asked for the Media wifi password, and drank most of their tea. Eventually Disclosure's set came around, and I grabbed some gnarly crowd shots, which they actually ended up using on their Instagram and Website. I left the tower and headed to BBC Introducing / Bollywood to catch Monki, Route 94, & Skream. But unfortunately, my camera had a malfunction during Route 94's set and I was forced to retreat to my tent for the rest of the evening until it miraculously came back to life.
Day three, and I'd already snuck into many places I was not meant to be, drank my weight in rum, and listened to some great music with good friends. Today, Basement Jaxx were due to play the Big Top, and I was certain that I'd be able to sneak on stage somehow. I began the day by hitting the media tent for my daily fix of chocolate milk, before raiding a sausage roll food stall for extortionately priced savoury food (but remember that I'd not consumed anything but chocolate milk and rum for 2-3 days now and I was prepared to pay whatever it cost for a half-full stomach). I headed to (YOU GUESSED IT) Temple Island to shoot a friend of mine; Karma Kid. I ended up sticking around and grabbing a brief interview with him about some upcoming release / news surrounding him right now. This is before he introduces me to Guy from Disclosure, who I end up showing the photo I took of them the night prior (which he loved). I make my way to Big Top, as it's Dan Le Sac & Scroobius Pip's last ever live performance together following the success of the three albums they planned to release when initially collaborating. I wasn't actually allowed access to this stage either, but I remembered walking past a small opening in the fence behind this tent the previous day. Optimistic that it'd still be there, I walked around to check. It was still there. I climbed through and ended up in the back stage area next to Basement Jaxx's dressing rooms, standing next to Scroobius Pip and Dan Le Sac. Their set was incredible, full of energy and received a guest appearance from Rob Da Bank.
The rest of the day passes fast and after shooting Karma Kid's second show with Bondax at the BBC Introducing tent. I end up assembling a group and beginning the infiltration of Big Top for Basement Jaxx. I already know the way I'm going to bring everyone in, and I'm confident that we can all get backstage. We get past the fence, we arrive backstage, we make our way up the walkway towards the side-stage, we are stopped. Extra security has been placed on side-stage for Basement Jaxx performance and we are initially denied entry. I return alone and tell him I'll be literally 10 minutes on stage, and to my surprise, he lets me on stage. I am on stage for all of about 5 minutes before the stage manager runs across to me and another photographer, screams at us and kicks us off the stage.
I make my way back to my tent.
It's the final day of Bestival and it's flown by. I'm shooting Diplo, Trippy Turtle, MK, Chase & Status, Gorgon City, Blonde and more today. After waking up really late, I head out to The Port to grab an early interview with Gorgon City and Monki before Gorgon City starts their set. The Port is probably the most visually impressive stage Bestival has to offer in my opinion. Zak Abel made an appearance with Gorgon City and dancers spun hula hoops around their waists on the top of the ship themed stage. MK's set began and I had positioned myself under his legs, with just my head and hands poking out from between the CDJ's (I was told I couldn't access the front of the booth during his set, so I had to improv). Once I'd finished on this stage, I had some down time with a friend in the Ambient Forest on our way to the Red Bull Stage for Trippy Turtle and Diplo. I'd come across Trippy Turtle out in Los Angeles at Hard Summer, and I'd been a little taken back by the energy this guy had on stage, so I was certain we'd be in for a treat tonight. The Red Bull stage was packed (front and backstage). Trippy Turtle killed his set and ended up throwing sweets into the crowd before Diplo began his set. Unfortunately, I was actually called out of the festival at the moment Diplo's set started (before I'd even got a chance to see Chase & Status, Blonde and more).
All in all - this is one of my favourite festivals, and what a way to end the season. Definitely check Bestival out if you get a chance.
Written and photographed by Liam Simmons
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