LIVE: Bestival 2017

Festival season has now certainly finished across the UK as Bestival pulls down the curtain on what’s been a pretty poor season for festivals – and unfortunately Bestival didn’t do much to change that.

I’ve visited Bestival previously in 2015, before it’s relocation to Lulworth and it was an incredible experience, which is why I’d decided to return this year. However, I was deeply saddened and a little frustrated by a series of events that unfolded over the weekend which meant the experience was nowhere near as positive as it once was.

Arriving on the Thursday like many festival goers did, my partner and I spoke to the security marshals who were assigned with our campsite for a short while before proceeding to set up camp. Despite the two marshals watching us set everything up, we were then told to move as we couldn’t camp there for safety precautions. As you can imagine, in the drizzly rain and after travelling for five hours, this was quite frustrating.

Regardless, we were at a festival which promotes peace and love so we thought we should at least try and adhere to that and tried to think a little more positively about what was set to be a magical weekend that awaited us. Suddenly, we were disturbed by the sound of machine-gun fire and various explosions that sounded very close to us. Children and their families in our campsite were very distressed about this – especially after recent events in Manchester where a musical event was sadly targeted. After speaking to Bestival via Twitter (who were quick to respond to their credit), they confirmed that the noises were from a military barracks that backed onto the site and there was nothing to worry about. There was no prior warning about that which I felt was a little disgruntling. I couldn’t help feel a little unsafe but the family camping area was very well secured in all fairness to Bestival.

Speaking to Samantha Peters, owner of Ruby’s Tea Room in Wareham, her son and daughter had experienced safety issues whilst at the festival. She said: “In the early hours of Friday morning, my son woke up to the sight of a knife ripping through the side of his tent but by the time he had reacted, the perpetrator had fled. I’d contacted Bestival but all I received was an automated message. I won’t be letting them go again.”

I understand that this behaviour happens at most festivals and is probably coincidental but with the saddening news that a man has been arrested on suspicion of murder at the site –it’s alarming.

The closure of the arena on the Sunday afternoon probably came a little too late in my opinion. Precautions were implemented through the arena, in the form of non-slip mates and bark to help try and combat the torrential precipitation that had soaked the site but by the Friday afternoon they had pretty much disintegrated. The Saturday night was far too unsafe for things to go ahead. A hilly arena had been reduced to sludge and attendees were slipping and sliding around – some even falling and injuring themselves in the process. Everything combined together just felt like a bit of a disaster.

Witnessing The xx on the Friday night was a joy to behold and I genuinely felt honoured and privileged to watch their performance. I’d never seen them before and I was swept away by what was a mesmeric and emotional affair. The same could be said about Dizzee Rascal on the Saturday, who may not have been as touching as the above mentioned but he motivated a wet crowd to full effect. Two very shrewd bookings by the Bestival crew.

I don’t want people who are reading this review to think I’m just having a moan about Bestival because I’m really not. Some people may have seen it completely different to me and I hope they did – but I’d rather be honest and people do deserve to know when they are paying upwards of £150 for a ticket. I’d be very interested in what Bestival have to say about my experience – if they have anything to say.

There’s nothing more I want than Bestival to bounce back from this and return to the festival I first visited because it was magical and an experience that I’ll never forget. It wasn’t Bestival’s year this year but please don’t write them off – they will be back. I’m sure of that.

Matt Cooper