We love the Camp Bestival crew, we do. Friendly people celebrating a family knees up in a truly spectacular setting – what’s not to love? We caught up with Creative Director Josie da Bank for a chat. Lovely lady she is.
How did you get into hosting festivals?
“My husband Rob da Bank ran a record label and we used to do parties to support it in Ibiza and Miami – that was about 15 years ago – we did lots of partying! We got to meet our business partners John and Ziggy who manage the Cuban Brothers. It felt like the right thing to do festivals so we naively took our first steps. We hosted our first Bestival in 2004 and lost huge amounts of money on all the gear and kit.
About 10,000 people came along – most of them on the guestlist and free! I think of it as a real turning point in the festival industry. It was brilliant, such a special event and everyone could really feel it. Absolutely exhausting though! At that stage we had a very small team in place so we did most of the work ourselves. That first year I ran the bars, we litter picked in the early hours of the morning and we didn’t have enough security so we had to do the security guard thing too!”
And how did Camp Bestival come about?
“I have three boys: Arlo 7, Merlin 5 and Milla about to turn 3. At the time I’d just had Arlo and was expecting Merlin – I wanted to host a festival where the kids could join in the fun too. It didn’t feel right to change Bestival so we decided to create a new family festival to appeal to our generation. The very first Camp Bestival was in 2008.”
Any top tips for combining festivals & kids?
“Yes, go into it thinking it’s for the whole family. It’s not about reliving heady experiences before you had kids! It’s about having a magical family time – creating real moments.”
What are your festival essentials? Any must-have products?
“Yes, a really good pair of walking boots, even if it’s not bad weather, I spend so much time on my feet. I wear them all the time, even on stage in my big frock for the finale!”
Oohh… dressing up. What are you going to wear this year?
“Well Camp Bestival this year has an HMS theme – I’m not yet sure what outfit I’ll wear but Robbie and I both turn 40 this year. Our theme is naughty nautical so I’ll be wearing the same to both!”
What, for you, are the highlights of this year’s festival? And what are the kids really excited about?
“The kids are just really excited generally about Camp Bestival. Arlo is very keen on Horrible Histories. There’s also lots of woodland craft, nature workshops and falconry displays that my son Merlin loves. He’s really into making things – we call him Merlin Maker. This year we’ve created a big art town which he’s so excited about – a huge marquee with everything from knitting to comic making workshops. We’re using lots of recycled things to keep the costs down.”
You work with your husband. How do you make it work?
“It’s fine as we don’t really cross over in our roles. Robbie programmes the music and he’s the front man. I do all the background stuff, I design the show and create all the different arenas and elements. When we talk about it it’s usually over a glass of wine, it’s quite fun and productive. Bestival for me is my full time job whereas Robbie is hugely busy with lots of other work – DJing and radio shows. Do I find our festivals stressful? Yes, especially with the economy as it is. Plus we’re dealing with absolutely enormous budgets – the breakeven comes in the last few tickets.”
Any really standout festival memories or moments?
“Yes. We had our first proper date when we were 18 at Glastonbury and Robbie proposed to me at Glastonbury in 2000. Another brilliant moment was Robbie DJing at the top of this huge bonfire space rocket – he had literally seconds to get down a steep ladder before it exploded. And Robert Smith from the Cure was another one – Robbie had tried for years to get them down to Bestival so it was just magical. He brought out a guitar decorated with all my paintings.”
And finally any tips for getting the most out of a festival?
“Come with friends! Share the experience and it makes it so much more memorable. You see the most amazing sets ups in the campsite – people who’ve gone to so much effort and had lots of fun planning it. And remember to dress up!”