"We love inspiring people with music - that’s what we’ve always done and that’s what we’re trying to bring here."
- Ben Turner
"...that’s quite a challenge, to get a site like this and turn it into a festival in your mind, and then for it to actually work on the ground. But I think we’ve pulled it off." 
- Rob da Bank
I had the pleasure of talking with both Rob da Bank and Ben Turner of Bestival. Ben is one of the directors of Bestival, and group of Bestival companies in the UK. We talked during a media preview, overlooking the main stage build-out the day before the festival. Ben talks love for Toronto, festival beginnings, myriad other projects and inspiring people with music. Festival founder, Rob da Bank shared his perspective on the festival, challenges they've faced and the importance of vibes. Read on for two insightful minds behind Bestival!

Thanks for taking the time to talk here today! Have you been doing this a long time? 

BT: Yeah, we’re in year 13 in the UK. It actually began before Bestival in a little tea shop in London called the Tea Room des Artistes. Rob da Bank and his wife, Josie, used to host this Sunday night. I was a magazine editor, Rob worked for me and we used to go there every Sunday and he would always get people like Andy Weatherall and Zero 7, and quite big DJs at the time, to come and play for nothing on Sunday. It was 99p to get in and it was just really good fun, all about the music and that just grew and grew. We did a little stage at Glastonbury one year like that and it was that year that Rob and Josie said, ‘We can do this ourselves, let’s do our own festival.’ So we began year one in the Isle of Wight, it was like five thousand people and then it sort of grew exponentially over the next ten years. Now we’re fifty thousand people on the Isle of Wight every September.

We chose Toronto over every other city in the world to do our first international show. It’s our second year and we’re really, really proud to be back here on a new site and we love this city. We think we have a strong connection with the city in terms of understanding what young people are into musically and I think we have very similar musical tastes. Just feels like a great place for us to be and we’re loving being here. 


Is there anything else you’d like to add about Toronto and being here? 

BT: We’ve worked very hard, our local partners are Embrace, they’ve done a lot of work in the city and we couldn’t have done it without them. They’re our eyes and ears and help us promote it right on the ground here and we feel we’re doing everything we can to really integrate with the city - from the food that we select and curate, to the drinks and the bars, which are all done by CODA. We’ve tried to really work with the city and make it feel like an event for the city. We just bring our colour and our creativity and our wackiness to the party. 

It’s a great, fun vibe! What’s your greatest reward from doing all of this? 

BT: Well, we’re music lovers through and through. We create great events in all the things that we do. For me personally, I’ve always wanted music to progress in terms of the business side of things and for people to connect to new music and discover new DJs and artists and bands. We get a real thrill of turning people on to new music and that’s at the core of what we do here - the fun and creativity around it is the dressing, but it’s also the character. We love inspiring people with music - that’s what we’ve always done and that’s what we’re trying to bring here. 

Amazing. Thank you! 

BT: Cool!

Many thanks to Ben Turner and LCPR for setting up the interview! Next we have Rob da Bank who founded the festival with his wife, Josie. We chatted Saturday on a grassy hill to the side of, and overlooking, the main stage while Jamie xx performed.

Nice to meet you! How do you feel watching all this that you’ve created?

RdB: Yeah, I mean it’s beautiful. It’s great sitting here and just watching it all happen. It’s a little bit more relaxed than doing the festival in the UK because we’ve got great partners here, Embrace and SFX are taking a lot of the load so, I could kind of just sit here and do nothing and the festival would happen, which is nice. We’ve done kind of all the hard work, and there’s a lot of people working really hard across the weekend to keep it going. But, luckily I’m not one of those people so, I have the privilege of just.. It’s really important to me that everyone’s having a good time, so I’ll spend my time going around and checking the vibes.

That’s what I’ve noticed, the biggest thing, is the great vibes everywhere..

RdB: That’s our goal, really. Yeah, if we sat here and there were people moping around and looking bored and sad then we wouldn’t be doing our job. Every festival that we’ve ever done is this level of production and people come here and they go, ‘Okay, these guys have really put a lot of love into this.’ And hopefully they feel that and give it back.

Yeah, you can tell. What are you most excited about being here in Toronto?

RdB: I mean you know, it’s sitting here, looking out at that crowd enjoying it. But I think it’s doing things like the inflatable church and seeing people get married in there, doing the parade at 7 o’clock where loads of people will just be blown away by that. Hanging out and meeting lots of Torontonians. In the UK I can’t really walk around the festival because everyone knows me and I just get stopped all the time, but here it’s really lovely meeting new people and listening to what they want.

What would the biggest challenge be in putting this together? How do you keep on top of it all?

RdB: Last year we had a beautiful site but it was on an island and we had some problems with the ferries, so we had to start again. That’s quite a challenge to get a site like this and turn it into a festival in your mind, and then for it to actually work on the ground. But I think we’ve pulled it off. I can already see things we need to tweak for next year but, we’d like to stay in one place now and just build it.

How did you feel about your DJ set today - was it fun for you?

RdB: Sort of, yeah. It’s weird DJing your own festival. Your mind’s not really on it so.. I’m sort of coming from checking the toilets and cleaning, to wristbanding people at the entrance or checking if the security are being nice to people, and then you have to jump up and be the showman, and then you have to sort of go off and do stuff. But yeah, I love it. I’m not really a technical DJ, I just play tunes that I think people will like and luckily people in front of me seem to like it so..

(photo: Stevie Gedge - Bestival)

Sweet. What’s next for you?

RdB: Well, my wife’s expecting our fourth child (laughter) next month. She should be here really, she created this with me; she’s back in England. We’ve got two more festivals to go in the UK so yeah, our summers are just nuts, but I’m just looking forward to tomorrow, seeing The Cure headline and then jumping back on the plane and spending some time with my family (laughter).

Awesome. Thanks, it was great to meet you!

Yeah! Yeah, I hope you enjoy the festival!

Big thanks to Rob da Bank for his time and thoughts, and Samantha and Lindsay at LCPR for setting up the interview! 

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