It's already 2 weeks since I began my journey to the Isle of Wight for Bestival and yet it still seems so recent...
Bestival was amazing!
Camping was horrible…. but Bestival was amazing! And looking back now it seems like it was over in the blink of an eye, but it was 4 days and 4 nights!
(A video compilation of my time there is at the bottom of this blog post.)
I’ve never been to a ‘proper’ music festival before other than one day events in London like South West Four and Lovebox. I think the camping thing (and the cost) has been a turn off but when I was asked to be a part this new thing they were trialling I was honoured and excited and didn’t focus on the fact that I would need to sleep in a tent for the first time ever (especially as I had looked at the line-up of DJs and acts…erm, hello Missy Elliot, Duran Duran, Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Annie Mac, Jaguar Skills, Jamie XX, Mark Ronson, The Jacksons, Rudimental, Gorgon City and soooooooooooo many more!).
Let me explain why I was asked to be involved and what was going down…
First let me tell you about Bestival: It started in 2004 by DJ Rob Da Bank after ten years of pioneering music events and record releases from his Sunday Best record label. The BBC Radio 1 DJ wanted to create his vision of how the modern day festival should be and although I’ve never been to a proper festival, I’ve seen photos of them all and I really think that Bestival presents itself in the most flamboyant, eccentric, colourful, crazy and beautiful way. It really was quite mind blowing.
And this year they introduced a whole new area called Slow Motion. The idea came from Rob and his wife getting older and slowing down somewhat and also noticed the way younger people seem to be looking after themselves better – at least a lot of the ones who were going to Bestival! Rob said that when he was a teenager, no one would have done yoga, spinning or meditation, but now it's part of a lot of people's lives. He wanted there to be an area you could escape to and just zone out for a few hours – or a day or two…. a whole festival within a festival! “Slow Motion does what it says on the tin - there’s nothing wrong with raving, late nights and partying but now there’s a way of refuelling your mind and body before the next Bestival adventure!” says Rob.
Examples of what else was happening in Slow Motion before I go on to tell you all about what I was doing…. First of all, I should say that the area was laid out on the side of a very steep hill which looked out across the whole of the Bestival site, which was HUGE, literally as far as the eye could see was arenas, people (approx 60,000) and then tents… so many tents!! Slow Motion offered the chance to breathe and step into a more horizontal escape: There were all sorts of yoga classes (hip hop yoga, flying yoga, acro yoga, ashtanga…) heart space meditation workshops, gong baths, healthy whole foods, a Pip & Nut Toast bar, cold pressed juices, awesome coffee camper vans, therapists and treatments, glitter face painting which almost seemed to be compulsory, a beautiful kaleidoscope stage, an observatory cocktail bar, debates and spoken word, outdoor games and general nonsense.…
Each morning we would be greeted by the wonderful sight and sound of Spandy Andy in his spandex, running, leaping, dancing and generally cavorting about with the most infectious smile, sprinkling positive vibes all over us whilst being chased about by someone pushing a huge sound system on a luggage trolley, pumping out uplifting house tunes in his wake. I wish I could put Spandy Andy in my pocket and take him everywhere! Everyone needs a Spandy Andy! The Lost & Found area had their team of “Fitties” dressed in lycra (there’s definitely a spandex theme going on) and for want of a better explanation “chatted rubbish” continuously, for the full 4 days, in American accents, large wigs and moustaches, yeah! They were hilarious and engaged fantastically with the crowd whilst ‘breaking records’ (quite literally, cracking old vinyl records) and then getting people to se how many clothes pegs they could get on their face or something equally as silly but highly entertaining. They also had a huge soap water slide which went a good distance down the hill. I wish I had made time for the Hot Tub Bus- yes an open top bus with hot tubs on the top deck where you could sup champers and take in the view of the whole of Bestival… all the best bits of contemporary wellbeing.
And then right at the very top of the steepest part of the hill was a disused shed. Rob had asked Tim Weeks (former Creative Director of Psycle in London, a boutique spin studio which has been likened to the US’s Soul Cycle) if he could come up with a way of utilising this space… and Revolution Rides was born. Tim said “Revolution Rides is a ‘never been done before’ concept created especially for Bestival’s brand new area Slow Motion. Euphoric spinning, on bikes, yes like that kind of spinning." Tim wanted to see if he could unite the Bestival community through the power of music and exercise – whereby, like at a music gig, the audience is taken on a musical journey – a trip – an experience where you leave having been emotionally blown away. Music has a simple but powerful ability to bring people together – Tim just wanted to add another dimension to that experience. When Rob da Bank approached him, they chatted over tea and both agreed that if they did it right, this really could break boundaries.
“This isn’t about just taking a fitness class to a festival. This is about integrating a basic concept into the DNA of Bestival and creating something that has never been done before. Just like all the other stages and tents, Revolution Rides will have a music line-up of different artists, bands and DJs… the major difference being you are in an intimate venue (the old Cinema)…on a bike. This isn’t about burning calories. This is about making exercise part of modern culture and society – not just something for the ‘fitness nuts’. It will be like going to a party in Ibiza or a gig in London – but healthier – with a similar endorphin rush and psychological high. We want everyone to leave grinning so hard your smile meets your ears – you even feel powerful like you can change the world – and you’re scattering rainbows and glitter as you walk… Hold on to your seats folks… this will be a little bit special.” said Creative Director of Revolution Rides, Tim Weeks.
And I have to say, he totally delivered. When I went for the first rehearsal I left with my mind having been completely blown! I was so psyched about the vision he had just imparted onto us (myself, the other instructors and the rest of the team who would be helping). I was asked to be involved by Lulu Le Vay, who is Gymbox’s Blog writer and DJ, who I’ve known for a few years now and out of all the indoor cyclists at Gymbox she knew that I would ‘get it’! Lulu is Revolution Rides’ resident DJ and she and Tim had curated several playlists of awesome music with a carefully planned pattern to take the riders on a musical journey. She knew I would understand the vibe that Tim was aiming for… not a sweaty spin class (the revellers had no showers, unlike us: the ‘artists’) but an experience, a light hearted, uplifting, euphoric disco on a bike!!
Having just briefly mentioned the rest of the team, I must highlight what an amazing bunch of people they all were. In total there were about 15 of us, with 4 main instructors and lots of helpers who assisted putting drunk revellers on bikes, restocking water, keeping the vibe alive at all times, and every single one of them were absolute stars! We kept remarking how wonderful it was (and very rare) that every one got on like a house on fire. There were no egos, no bust ups, no awkwardness, just complete harmony. It really made the whole experience super special and we’ve made friends for life.
But what was it like, in the Revolution Rides wooden shed? Well, we had people stationed outside enticing people to come in, most notably Simon, who just so happened to be the Creative Brand Director of Dorothy Perkins, the most outrageously, hilariously camp super star with a heart of gold and a filthy mouth. He soon discovered that the best way to get bums on seats was to just tell people to go and have a look and it sold itself!
As people were ushered through a curtain into a long corridor they could see a large screen with animations playing on it, the decks with a DJ spinning choonz and a load of bikes with people spinning! Their reaction was great. Always complete shock. They never expected it! Some would rush to get on, others would need a little more encouragement but every single person came out saying “that was the best thing ever”, “that was mental” and many came back the next day or the day after.
The guy who is in charge of booking the DJs for the festival, Keith, turned up on the Thursday and you could see he was apprehensive so we gave him an impromptu demo and seeing his face as the penny dropped was priceless. At that point he said “I get it now” and began finding us really cool party DJs to come and do ‘headline’ sessions, which created huge hype. We had Rob da Bank who opened the live sessions and it WENT OFF BIG TIME! All 40 bikes were full with people dancing down the corridor. He was playing to the crowd so each track got bigger and bigger in his set, banger after banger. We also had the Cuban brothers twice and Flying White Dots, who utterly nailed the type of music which fit perfectly with what we were doing. DJ Yoda came to play but he only had vinyl sadly, that was noted for next year, learning curve: have both types of decks available.
We had to adapt in many ways and I think this is why it was so successful because if we noticed something wasn’t working or could be done better we changed it, trialled it and implemented it. For example, the sessions were supposed to be 40 mins but we noticed quickly that whilst some were staying for 40 mins, some even longer, many were giving it a go for 10 mins before heading off, mind too blown to be able to cope and staggered out to explore the rest of the site. But this then meant that the first day we pretty much rode all day, with Tim doing most of it until we found our feet, then took it in turns to keep the energy alive. The next day we decided to close down between 12pm and 2pm and then go continuous 2-4pm, then have the live sessions scheduled on the hour from 4-8pm with Simon announcing in his Liverpudlian accent which DJs were on and when.
It was really interesting to see the vibe in the shed change over the course of the weekend. Thursday and Friday everyone was super bouncy, with Friday being a little ‘messier’. Saturday, you could tell people hadn’t been to sleep and quite a few were high as a kite. Thankfully we didn’t have any injuries or incidents, which amazed me, but we did have helpers adjusting seat heights and strapping everyone’s feet in, whether shod in wellies or flip flops. By Sunday there was a slight shift in atmosphere to moody and lairy (apparently not a real word but you catch my drift) with large groups of lads being quite boisterous but nothing we couldn’t handle and to be honest they got bored quite quickly so left soon after arriving.
People’s costumes and outfits were amazing. The theme was Summer of Love so there were a lot of hippies and hearts. I thoroughly embraced the whole festival chic thing and adorned myself with floral garlands, feather head-dresses and epaulettes, spandex and bright colours. Everyone had gone to so much trouble. Highlights for me were 10 Care bears taking up the front row, the guy who was wearing a plastic laundry tub almost getting stuck on the bike, his mate who was dressed as a frog on a toadstool who was ridiculously smiley, the guy who stripped to his underpants and pulled them up the crack of his bum (all seats were wiped down with disinfectant after each rider) and too many more to mention.
It wasn’t all ride, ride, ride (thankfully because by Saturday my bum was raw and my coccyx felt like it had ben kicked by a mule). I got to see most of the DJs I mentioned earlier. Underworld’s Born Slippy was incredible. Missy and her dancers were phenomenal. Duran Duran still got it.. it never left ‘em! Jaguar Skills’s skills were off the hook, insane, never heard anything like it- he played one track that was just base with a drum and base beat over the top, but mainly just one big long base note- which reverberated so hard through me I thought my head was going to implode! I loved it! Annie Mac played all the tracks you want to hear, notably the weekend’s anthem “House Every Weekend”. Lulu DJ’d in a wishing tree! And I have now been able to tick The Chemical Brothers off my bucket list- blimey what a show!!!!!!
Things outside of Slow Motion which blew me away: Gospeloke… karaoke but you’re backed by a gospel choir, songs like “One Day Like This” by Elbow or ‘Happy’ by Pharrell - very uplifting and an awesome atmosphere; The world’s largest Disco Ball; An inflatable church with people getting married and the cheesiest tunes spun by Disco Dave and his Wheels of Steel (not his actual name but you know what I mean- brilliant!); an all singing all dancing, brass band wandering through the throngs, very talented; The Commune, a full on hippy village complete with teepees and fire displays at night…. so much more I couldn’t even begin to do it justice. I basically cannot wait until next year… (Keith mentioned the main stage next year, just saying!!!)
Rob da Bank says: “Thanks a million for making our Summer of Love so spectacular… It was a crazy colourful explosive ball of fun and love and music and mad things happening. With truly memorable moments and amazing new things like Slow Motion, Missy, the Carnival Parade, the Port, the Blind Tiger, the Chemical Brothers, Revolution Ride, the Love-Bot and a thousand other things I could list, I think we’ve taken it up another level this year and having such a lovely crowd was no small part of that. I’ve already got some amazing things lined up for next year, so watch this space!”
Please note that Revolution Rides were sandwiched between The Chemical Brothers and the Love-Bot…. that must mean SUCCESS!!
Photo credits to Bestival's official photographers, taken from the website
And here is a video montage of the few times I filmed amidst the ridiculous fun and frolics!
Have you been to Bestival?
Were you there this year? Did you try out Revolution Rides?
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