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It's About Taking Risks
c Just days until Bestival . You must be very busy?
Yes, it’s getting that way. Our summer sort of builds and builds. Summer holidays tend to be going from one festival to the next and then holding our own, so it feels natural now. I realise it’s not a normal way to spend a summer, though.
c Is there a point where it eases off?
A week or so after the festival it quietens down. The festival itself is 72 hours of hectic madness, for all involved. Thankfully nine out of 10 times it’s absolutely great, and once we’ve got the tidying up done in the week after, and the park is put back how we found it, we can relax a little.
c Does it feel like when you have a house party and you can’t relax properly because you’re worried about something getting damaged?
Yes, that feeling where you think you’ll have to call the French polisher out? It can be a bit like that. I’m not so worried about the actual fields and things, but it’s difficult to enjoy it because I just want everyone to have an amazing time, and now we’ve got 25 stages that I’ve programmed and booked, and I just want to check on them all every minute of the day. I’m obliged to see every act I’ve booked, which is impossible, of course. I’ve got three people I work with and we’re stationed at points across the site. It is enjoyable, but hard to relax. I try to have a beer on the Saturday evening and unwind.
c The festival is relatively new, this is the ninth year.
When did you feel it was getting established?
Two or three years in we knew we were doing something good, and that it was popular and we’ve been doing well since.
I desperately don’t want to be seen in the same light as Reading and Leeds, V or Isle Of Wight. That’s a big part, that we’re a small party festival.
We might be 50,000 people now, but it still feels like a boutique event, and I think in the next few years we might look at reducing the size of Bestival. Act-wise, I don’t go after the massive poppy names either, I want interesting, brilliant artists.
c How do you stop it becoming a big faceless major festival?
It’s just something we have to watch and be vigilant for. It would be easy to go massive, get sponsorship and make some easy dough. Weirdly, even coming into our ninth year, we’re still lucky to break even, and that’s because we plough everything back into the festival, whether it be the infrastructure or acts playing.
c Where do you start with the line-up?
I just book everyone I want to hear.
Sometimes I don’t even ask anyone else.
But I get mixed reactions, some people will say a line-up is the best they’ve ever seen, and others will say there’s no one they want to see. I’m not trying to educate people, but I definitely want to give the crowd options.
c Who would you like to put on at Bestival?
I’d love to put on a mad metal band like Slayer. Metallica would go down really well. I don’t want to become known for putting on one style of music, so in the coming year I’d like to go even less mainstream than we are already.
It’s about taking risks.
c And you’ve got Stevie Wonder headlining this year. How do you go about approaching someone like him?
I always said Stevie was on my list, and here he is. We just put a call in speculatively, not holding out much hope, and they came back to us and said he was interested.
c Who is on the dream list?
Prince, Kate Bush and Dolly Parton. The Cure were on there, and they headlined last year, so I’m ticking them off.