Enjoying the summer? For most of us, these few months offer an opportunity to unwind, go crazy, try new experiences and generally get away from our normal lives. Not so Rob da bank. As well as his work as a DJ on BBC Radio 1 and running the Sunday Best record label, he also heads two festivals – Bestival on the Isle of Wight and its family version Camp Bestival in Dorset later this month. It’s all come a long way from the days of running a Sunday night club in a Battersea tea room…
“I was thinking about that the other day, for some reason it feels like one cycle has ended and another one begun. Maybe because I’ve got three kids now who are all going to school but I was listening to a load of tunes from those early days and although it seems like only yesterday, at the same time an eighteen year old now wouldn’t know them. It’s good, I still feel that we stick to our guns and do what we do best, which is really good music and a lot of fun. It doesn’t feel too much difference, just on a bigger scale”.
Did you always want to take it to a higher level?
“There was never any plan, it was just accidental. The tea rooms turned into Sunday Best parties at festivals, then I wanted to do something like a Creamfields or Homelands; a one day show. Somehow we ended up doing a three dayer, it’s taken up till now for me to take stock and wonder if we’ve done the right thing”.
What inspired you to go down the festival route?
“It’s not like I thought all festivals were shit, but we knew we could put on a real fun party that appealed to people. I still love going to Glastonbury, The Big Chill and the old rave type festivals. We just wanted to have a go ourselves, never to make a business out of it. That’s what it’s turned into though, for better or for worse”.
Was it a steep learning curve?
“We lost a hell lot of money during the first couple of years, those were the fun bits. People might look at festivals and think it’s a big, corporate money making racket but no-one’s immune to market forces. You really have to be on the ball all the time and we know that more than anyone. I love that there’s loads of competition. You have to use your head and stay a step ahead”.
What was the thinking behind Camp Bestival?
“It was mainly that we were taking our kid to Bestival and it wasn’t really the best place for a one or two year old. Bestival’s ultimately a twenty four hour, hedonistic party and although we never set it out as a family show but people still bring their kids, which I find strange. We started Camp Bestival so we could enjoy it with our families like other people, rather than watching everyone else have all the fun. I do enjoy Bestival and have seen some amazing things but it’s such a frantic show that you need to keep on the ball the whole time. Camp Bestival is designed so that we can chill out, play with the kids and watch some bands”.
It must offer the opportunity to do things a bit differently…
“I love programming Mr Tumble and The Gruffalo as much as I do Primal Scream or Mark Ronson. It’s entertainment. Camp Bestival is like the old village carnival that I grew up with. It celebrates British eccentricity, not in a nationalistic sense but as a celebration of British life. You don’t need to be serious all the time.”
So that’s your whole summer gone then?
“It dominates the whole year, an unhealthy obsession that’s taken over our lives. My wife curates a lot of the show and runs the business side so we talk about festivals every bloody day. Sometimes you’d just like to watch a film rather then discuss fancy dress or how many toilets we need. I’m not complaining but the festival is just a bus man’s holiday.”
Camp Bestival (featuring Primal Scream, Mark Ronson, Blondie, Laura Marling and more) takes place at Lulworth Castle in Dorset, UK on 28th – 31st July.