Rob & Josie da Bank
Camp Bestival 2013 Q&A
1. Camp Bestival – why? Which of you hit upon the idea first (and where were you when inspiration hit you)?
Josie: Well we'll always argue about who thought it up… I’m sure that I did, but Robby swears he did.
Rob da Bank (RDB): There’s been a lot of water under the bridge (and a few cocktails in the Bollywood Bar!) since then so I can’t quite remember but we both wanted to do a family show. We'd just started having kids ourselves and felt there was a bit of a gap in the market for a show with a really strong musical line-up alongside lots of things for kids and families to do.
2. How did you settle on Lulworth Castle as the venue for Camp Bestival?
Josie: We'd been there to another festival a long time ago and remembered it being really magical.
RDB: Yup, we spent hours lying in what is now Camp Bestival's Dingly Dell staring up at some mad installation in a tree full of mechanical insects… And then you’ve got the Castle itself, which makes a magical backdrop to the whole party too.
Josie: The whole Jurassic coast around Lulworth is an amazing part of England and perfect for summer holidays for families too.
3. If you could sum up Camp Bestival in one sentence of not more than 20 words, what would that sentence be?
RDB: A whirling merry-go-round of endless fun for everyone and the best family party you’ll ever go to.
4. How hard is it to please everyone when you're booking the line-up each year?
RDB: Kinda tricky. We need to please babies, toddlers, teens, thirty-somethings, mums, dads, grannies, grandpas, aunts, uncles and pretty much everyone in-between. It’s not as simple as booking three headliners and be done with it. We spend as much money on non-musical entertainment from arts tents and soft play areas to sit down restaurants and even a knitting tent just to try and tick everyone’s box.
Josie: I’m not sure how Robby does it, but it all seems to fall into place. Some people want really cheesy 80s stuff, others come and want very credible indie bands like Richard Hawley and I Am Kloot. Luckily Robby seems to know his music so I don’t have to get involved in choosing what to book. I spend all year booking the non-music stuff though, which is really rewarding as people seem to love what we unveil each year.
5. This is the 6thyear now for Camp Bestival – what is your fondest memory so far?
RDB: Maybe seeing Chuck Berry take to the stage… or Florence whirling around in her inimitable fashion, whipping up the crowd into a frenzy.
Josie: It was quite emotional watching the opening ceremony of The Olympics on the big screens inside the Big Top with Robby and our kids. We weren’t sure that stopping the music for an opening ceremony would work, but it was a huge draw and very powerful hearing everyone sing along under the stars.
6. How far in advance do you have to plan for the event?
Josie: It’s pretty much a non-stop steamrolling show that doesn’t halt for anything. We're already talking about 2014 now!
RDB: Yup, we're always planning. It’s a bit of a problem for us as we work together, live together, have kids together and everything seems to come back to talking about Camp Bestival or Bestival after a while! Seriously though, it’s the best job in the world.
7. Fancy dress is obviously an important part of Camp Bestival (this year’s fancy dress theme is ‘Around The World’) – what are the best costumes that you have seen in previous years?
Josie: The best costume I have ever seen is someone dressed as a take away curry at Bestival. The best costumes at Camp are when the whole family gets involved – we once had a family come as the entire cast from Alice In Wonderland, complete with beautiful handmade costumes. Another year we had a whole family come as yellow coats from Hi De Hi.
8. Are there any official estimates as to how much Camp Bestival adds to the local Dorset economy annually? Do you work closely with local businesses and charities?
RDB: We have had some work done recently which came out in the millions. You can’t underestimate how may families use Camp Besti as the start of their summer holiday and then go and stay locally and spend locally. We certainly get welcomed by most businesses and hotels down there for what we bring to Dorset each summer. We also use local suppliers and staff wherever possible and work with lots of local charities. My personal favourite locals are the Women’s Institute (who make a cracking cup of tea when you’re feeling a bit knackered).
9. How does Camp Bestival differ from its sister event Bestival (on the Isle of Wight)?
RDB: Chalk and cheese. Bestival is a vast, throbbing, psychedelic 24-hour monster, whilst Camp Bestival is its sunny, happy-go-lucky chilled-out little brother.
Josie: I think people start coming to Bestival when they’re 17 or 18 and then graduate to Camp Bestival in their thirties and forties, when they’re having kids and need a slightly more laidback vibe. That said, we love both shows as much as each other.
10. “Camping is God’s way of reminding us how great hotels are,” quipped one commentator recently. Can you explain to those perhaps still a little unsure about spending time under canvas how your Camping Plus (and Boutique Camping) differs from other festivals?
Josie: We pioneered boutique camping at Bestival a decade ago and now that whole industry is vast. We've always felt some people just wouldn’t be content in a small two-man tent and have laid-on other options – from fully furnished bell tents, tipis and yurts through to Airstream caravans, winnebagos, PodPads (little wooden houses to sleep in) and just about any other accommodation you can name. Camping certainly doesn’t need to be a hassle anymore and the Camp Bestival crowd prove that and have so much fun.
RDB: Our Camping Plus facility also takes the stress out of that mad rush to get a camping spot at a festival. You buy a pitch in advance which is all measured out and numbered and, Bob’s your uncle, it’s already there whenever you turn up.
11. Camp Bestival is renowned as festival foodie heaven – is it true that you both genuinely have a hand in choosing what food is available on-site at Camp Bestival?
Josie: Yes, I hand pick them all myself. I often give out a few free pitches to up-and-coming new foodie traders that need a hand getting off the ground. I have also asked a few people to become a festival trader because I liked their food so much – Peallaria is the best example of this and it’s now the most popular food stall. Last year and this year we have the Young British Foodies coming along too, who bring the best selection of street food out there that you won't see at any other show.
12. Camp Bestival wouldn't be the same without Mr Tumble, Dick N Dom and The Cuban Brothers, but which new things are you most excited to have added on-site this year?
Josie: This year we have Horrible Histories, which is a firm favourite of my son Arlo – it will be super to see that. We have made some changes to the Dingly Dell; expect to see lots of fire and water and late-night storytelling. We also have a new night in the Big Top called I Love the 80s – I think that will be a good one for the mums out on a ladies night.
13. Lulworth Castle seems to be magically transformed every year for Camp Bestival – how important is it to you (Josie) to get the look of the event right and to keep it fresh every time?
Josie: It’s really important that Camp Bestival and Lulworth Castle & Park look and feel like they do. We have a very strong identity and look in which we take a lot of pride. I am currently having lots of new bunting and signs made, creating new venues. It has a lovely feeling of summer. I hope the look and feel of the show will stay with children forever.
14. What are your plans for the future of Camp Bestival?
Josie: To keep it going , to keep it the same size, to see the same children coming back and getting older and also to welcome and meet new families. To keep the content changing every year. And for the sun to keep shining on us!