Organizer Q&A

Rob Da Bank (Camp Bestival)

Jul 20, 2021

6 min read

Welcome to Festivals Advisor's Organizer Q&A series. Here, we have intimate conversations with some of the festival market's most exciting and influential innovators.

Are you a parent that’s addicted to the festival lifestyle but feels bad every time you leave your kid? Camp Bestival is a party for the whole family! A wholesome offshoot of the hedonistic Bestival, this safe, feel-good get-down comes to life every late July in the seaside county of Dorset in the UK.

Co-Founder Rob Da Bank and his crew started Camp Bestival because they themselves were having kids, and they’ve been sure to book stellar acts representing the best of hip-hop, punk, dance, pop, reggae, and more. From Chuck Berry to Blondie, Groove Armada and Fatboy Slim, Bon Iver, Mark Ronson, and more. Camp Bestival is a world-class lineup in the midst of England’s historic Jurassic Coast. An ancient castle looms in the background as fantastic acts entertain dancers from one week old to 70-plus years. Literally, everyone is welcome to this one-of-a-kind event, so what are you waiting for?

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What is your name and what is the name of your festival?

Hey Festival Advisor and anyone watching, good choice. I'm Rob Da Bank and I'm here to talk about Camp Bestival, our beautiful family festival in Dorset in the UK.

When did the festival start and what inspired it?

The festival started in 2008, I was pretty chuffed with the lineup for the first one although it is a family festival. We had Chuck Berry and the Flaming Lips. We had people like Kate Nash and Billy Bragg. It was inspired by what we already ran, Bestival, which some of you may have heard of, which was a festival that ran for 15 years and may or may well come back someday. And we started having children while we were running Bestival, and Bestival, if you didn't know was a very crazy particularly crazy hedonistic party and not that suited for small children. So we thought let's start a family festival and looked around saw that there were barely any family festivals in the UK or even the world and yeah, so we started Camp Bestival.

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When and where does it happen?

It happens every year in Dorset, which is a county in England on the seaside-y kind of yeah seaside of things. It's on the Jurassic Coast, which is a really historic part of the UK. Amazing fossils - loads of dinosaurs have been found. It's really quite a stunning rugged coastline. So yeah, it's set in the grounds of a castle. So the artists as they're playing out are playing towards this. This ancient castle, so yeah, pretty spectacular. And it happens at the end of July. So yeah, kind of the beginning of the summer holidays in the UK.

Tell us about the site and how it influences the festival?

Yeah, so Longworth castle is the site and it does inspire the festival because it's got ancient woodland there. It's got the castle, it's got a jousting arena, which we may bring back next year. So jousting, you know, riding on a horse with a big primary thing and trying to stick your opponent so yeah. It really does inspire us. It's quite historical. It's very English. Very British. But yeah, it's a beautiful green, green-filled site.

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What kind of musical artists play at your festival?

The kind of musical acts that play our festival. Well, you know, as I said, so the first one was everything from yeah, Billy Bragg to Chuck Berry to the Flaming Lips. 2011 was Primal Scream doing Psychic Screamadelica, Blondie, Mark Ronson, Laura Marling, House of Pain, ABC, the kind of 80s pop band, Groove Armada, Norman J. So yeah, loads of you know everything just basically my record collection from the 1960s, 1970s through to the present day. Bon Iver there played there to a crow of about 400 people when he was kind of on the up. Friendly Fires, Florence and The Machine. This year, we've got Fatboy Slim, Groove Armada, we've got Kelis coming over so yeah, this is really where people love everything from hip hop and punk through to reggae and pop.

Who was the first act you ever booked?

So I think it was the Cuban Brothers. Although yeah, we had Chuck Berry and the Cuban Brothers are the sort of Resident Funsters of our festivals. And if you can imagine some Glaswegian naked breakdancing guys pretending to be Cuban, then you're somewhere near it. So it's quite a complicated story, but they're very funny, they're our residents.

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What’s the most memorable set or sets for you?

Probably Wayne Coyne. That first year getting into his hamster ball bubble thing and coming off the steps of the castle into the crowd. Everyone turned around and was like what's all the raffle about and Wayne Coyne came into the crowd in his hamster ball and yeah, it just rolled all the way to the stage and he got out, and yeah best of all, it was absolutely amazing. And the Bon Iver gig I said and PJ Harvey as well she was pretty awesome. But yeah, I mean too many to mention, every year is a winner.

Who is the target audience for your festival?

The target audience for our festival I mean, it's obviously, it's a family festival, but don't think for a second that it's a boring square, sensible festival it's quite leftfield, people get dressed up. It's very, you know, adventurous. It's, it's not. It's not a lot of people that are kind of drunk and it's not a late-night festival. So yeah, I mean it's kind of more sensible than some festivals out there, but it's every age from where we took our baby here, our fourth boy there when he was a week old Eli, and, uh, my mom and dad come in, they're in sort of their late mid to late 70s. So literally everyone is welcome to the party at Camp Bestival.

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What is unique about your festival? What sets it apart?

I suppose, you know, where we started it as a family festival and we kind of just planted that sort of seed of, you know, you got a, you got a family, you've got kids, come to our festival in that is our sort of our DNA and I think people know that it's going to be safe and well run, but it's also going to be fun.

So I think that uniqueness is the atmosphere and artists love it. You know, a lot of artists who also played Bestival or which was a much racier festival, they loved the vibe of Camp Bestival because they didn't get hassled, there wasn't so much pressure. Maybe it was a bit bit of a more diverse crowd and people that you know, were just very, very accepting and yeah, I think that's what makes it unique.

Anything else you'd like to tell us about?

Anyone's ever in the UK or coming this way in late July. Please come and see us. We would love to see you at Camp Bestival. Thanks for watching. See ya.

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