Rob da Bank: Bestival Crosses the Pond

Thu, 10 September 2015
rob da bank bestival

Every summer, 50,000 revellers cross the English Channel by ferry and descend upon the Isle of Wight to attend Bestival, the fancy dress party of the year. This June, for the first time however, there was a similar migration to the Toronto Islands in Canada.

Since its inception in 2004, Bestival has become one of the UK’s most-loved music festivals in an increasingly crowded market. Co-founder Rob da Bank describes it as “a crazy, hedonistic adventure in an otherworldly magical kingdom” − and the DJ was at the helm of its first international expansion to Canada.

Best known as a former BBC Radio 1 presenter and for his eccentric dress sense, Bestival − as an eclectic music festival with a seriously imaginative dress code − is Rob da Bank incarnate.

With Bestival Toronto mixing local favourites such as Owen Pallett and Caribou with big headliners Florence and the Machine and Nas, we spoke to Rob about his new location, Canadian talent and his fetish for ferries.

JUICEBOX: What about Toronto makes it an ideal location for Bestival?

ROB DA BANK: It has a great musical heritage, it’s very diverse, and they are sympathetic to our idiosyncratic UK show! We needed somewhere that would accept our slightly off- the-wall tendencies and mixed-up line-ups.

J: What local talent were you particularly excited about showcasing at the first Bestival in Canada?

RDB: Some great Canadian acts like Harrison and Caribou. Maybe I will challenge Caribou to a battle on the beach.

J: What changes to the original Bestival concept did you have to make to bring it to Canada?

RDB: It’s not the same old rubbish if that’s what you’re asking! Well, the biggest difference is that it’s not a camping festival. We knew we would have a big hill to climb to get a new audience on board and prove ourselves.

J: Is there anything you hoped to retain from the British version?

RDB: Creative stage design, marching bands, fancy dress (I think they call it costume party over there) and things like the Bestival Inflatable Church. We will be taking them all with us, and hoping people haven’t seen them before. We are definitely trying to wow them a bit.

J: Bestival Toronto is on Toronto Island, a ferry ride away from the mainland. Do you have a thing for ferries? Or is taking people away from the mainland in keeping with your non-establishment attitude and sense of adventure?

RDB: I think the answer to both of those is yes. We’ve got a thing about ferries. And it wasn’t part of the deal that we had to have somewhere with a ferry but I love the synchronicity of having two festivals both needing a ferry. We’ve had worries before that the whole ferry journey is too much, but when we asked Bestival- goers nearly all of them said the ferry journey was part of the whole experience for them.

J: Five things you pack in your suitcase for a festival?

RDB: Well for a start I wouldn’t have a suitcase, that’s not really me. I would pack my backpack.

  • Walkie-talkie – That’s how I make sure everything is running smoothly.
  • A bin bag – In case there is a shower or a piece of rubbish (like every good promoter I would pick it up myself.)
  • A pair of swimming shorts – So I can have a dip in the lake.
  • My USB stick – Because hopefully I will be DJing back to back with Caribou on the beach bar, as well as all my other sets.
  • Some kind of insane multi-coloured glittery cape and some leggings.

J: We’re sure a lot of people will be travelling across the globe to Bestival. Can you recommend six tracks that might make their journeys a little more interesting?

Words by Becky Tong and Adam Callan from Juicebox Photo by Alice Lubbock Shot at Brunswick House

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