My thoughts on Bestival 2016

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What would be your response to seeing the Chuckle Brothers playing the main stage of a major music festival? Given the crowd’s rapturous response to their seasoned shambolics (complete with Barry miming on the drums), it was a mix of triumph and humored bemusement. This was my second time at Bestival which, ever eclectic, had proposed a “future” theme.  Admittedly the brothers were early on in the day, but the heart-warming nostalgia guaranteed by a set chock full of “to me, to you” and “no slacking” was almost at loggerheads with this.

Oh dear oh dear, you might think. But actually, among a sea of futuristic artwork, glossy spaced-out costumes and (perhaps most importantly) a whole host of new talent, the odd dot of reminiscence in the form of legendary performers- be they acclaimed artists or the silliest of children’s entertainers- was much needed. Heck, 2016 has been a tough year, particularly in popular culture; we need a slice of sentimentality every now and then- not just to remind us of what has been, but of what can be done.

Despite me and James getting there quite late on Friday, we were still able to find space for our tent without having to walk too far into the festival. However, if you go down with more than one after the first day… well, I crave your confidence, your optimistic outlook on the ways of music festivals. Forcing ourselves to set things up properly rather than just dash off to enjoy the music was probably the toughest part of the whole weekend, even more than packing everything up on Sunday morning in the early, hungover stages of a post festival comedown. AND it was a pop up tent.

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Bestival, Chuckle style.

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Bestival and chill.

Maybe my regular attendance of Glastonbury has warped my expectations of other festivals, but the main stage certainly seemed small. For reference, it was on par with the Park stage at the aforementioned Somerset series, and it was much smaller than the main stage at, say, Reading or Leeds. In a way though, you can argue that this puts it on more level footing with the other stages of the festival; that it is on par with the rest, rather than trying to stand out.

Delays on entering the festival meant that we missed Skepta, much to my annoyance and James’s jubilation, but Major Lazer were satisfying Friday night headliners. From the first bounce of “Pon De Floor”, we were treated to all manner of shapes and speeds; even gimmicks like Diplo zorbing across the crowd were enjoyable enough. The only big let-down was the short, acoustic version of “Cold Water,” courtesy of MO, who had played the Big Top earlier. As one of the late contenders for summer anthem, I felt this was a missed opportunity.

After enduring the rain for Chuckle Brothers,  me and James escaped Saturday’s awful weather with a few hours in the Big Top; this is Bestival’s second stage, so more musical tricks than circus treats. My highlight was Beaty Heart, one of the first band’s I’ve heard who truly consider the texture of their innovative electropop, with “Flora” prompting swathes of slow grooves across the tent. Then the rain faded away for Craig David, his comeback continuing to catapult him further into our consciousness with his lively, pure feel-good R’n’B. Another mix of past and future that you can’t explain, but it works.

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The Cure’s Bestival set: “Just Like Heaven,” you may well say.

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The People’s Front Room, Bestival’s best kept secret.

Now, some bands yearn to make their festival slot a special occasion in some way, such as celebrating an album anniversary by playing it from start to finish. Instead, The Cure embraced the best of their back catalog- nearly three hours of it in fact- and delivered a spectacular set that took in all corners of alternative, from psych to disco to indie and back again. From the impassioned jangle pop of “Friday I’m In Love” to the sludgy bass intro of “Just Like Heaven” sending up wistful cheers, the highlights were predictable, but no less enjoyable for being so.

Sunday meanwhile, in the grand festival tradition, was a bit of a blur. Me and James spent lots of it exploring the less-trodden western corners of the festival, wandering through the Ambient Forest to the top of the site to take it all in. Pick of the day had to go to Will Varley on the Magic Meadow’s Invaders of the Future stage. It was a slightly difficult set in a sense because of its close proximity to the main stage, but Varley’s folk was equally rowdy and enthusiastic, doing very well in keeping the crowd with him throughout.

Coming back on the ferry late that evening, drifting in and out of sleep and reveling in the foul-language nostalgia of Teesside Tintin, I reflected that Bestival does feel a bit like a holiday getaway, bowing out the summer in spectacular style. Granted, it WAS slightly smaller this year (as festival organizers openly admitted on social media afterwards), but the festival still felt like it was giving its all throughout. Although I will admit there was a particular hideaway that underlined most of the fun across the weekend: The People’s Front Room.

Fashioned as an otherworldly nineteenth century salon, this tucked-away gem offers a heap of talent across funk, jazz, and all manner of genres for that matter, to be enjoyed from one of the plush armchairs or the Persian-style carpets. Leave your wellies at the door and immerse yourself. Being so close to the artist, it offers an unparalleled level of intimacy- despite the venue doubling in size since last year’s Bestival. It’s easily my favourite find from the fields. For me, festivals are about the hidden delights you stumble into; maybe Bestival is right in pointing to the future, to see what you come across next.

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The Great British Bake Off Referendum (#GBBOR)

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It was an emergency meeting at the Council of Bakers, and Paul Hollywood was bashing his rolling pin on the table. Thankfully, Agent Mel and Agent Sue had arrived just in time to make a cheeky innuendo about it.

“Well!” gasped Mel. “I never thought I’d see the day that Paul Hollywood would get his rolling pin out in front of everyone.”

“I know!” responded Sue. “He clearly means business today.”

“Agent Mel and Agent Sue!” said Paul sharply. “I have just about had enough of your inappropriate innuendoes. Baking was a fine art before you started ruining it with your insinuations!”

“Ooh!” said Mary. “Look at the size of Sue’s buns!”

“NOT YOU TOO MARY! HOW COULD YOU?!” Paul roared, like an injured (bread) lion.

“Paul, I was just referring to the iced buns that Sue has bought along for the meeting,” Mary replied sternly. “I know you’re stressed out, but you need to remain calm. There’s no room for soggy bottoms around here.” She took a deep breath, steadying herself as she did so; it had been a manic couple of days, a real life technical challenge.

“First of all, thank you all for coming to this emergency meeting, and at such short notice. As past winners of Great British Bake Off you have all proven yourself to be important members of the Council of Bakers… Nadiya, and everyone else who came before, I can’t actually remember your names as it’s been so long but we still very much appreciate you coming.

“Now, the reason I have called you here is because the unthinkable has become a reality- the BBC has lost Great British Bake Off.”

There were audible gasps around the council table; it was Baked Alaska all over again.

“Channel 4 has put in a higher bid and won the rights to the programme. The reason we are telling you this is because we, as presenters and judges, have a very important decision to make. We want your advice in this crucial, once in a life time referendum: shall we remain with the programme, or shall we leave? Are we IN, or are we OUT?”

“Why not just let the public decide?” asked Mel.

“Yeah, I know we’re the ones that are part of the actual process, but this sounds like far too important a decision for us to make by ourselves,” Sue added.

“We did debate that, but what if it was a really close result?” reasoned Paul. “Our audience, united by so many things, suddenly split down the middle. Can you imagine the arguing? It would be too much to bear.”

“I believe we should leave!” A mysterious unknown baker had suddenly entered the room. He had a mess of blond hair, and a mad look in his eye.

“Sorry, but who are you?” asked Mary, trying her best to remain polite.

“I am Boris Chelsea Bunson!” declared the baker with great dramatic flair. “I’m one of those unknown bakers from one of the earlier series that you’ve probably forgotten all about. Now I know I have always professed a love for the company that produces our programme, but I say now that we should leave! Take back control… of our production!”

“Outrageous!” interjected Paul. “You just want to be the new head judge on the programme!”

“Nonsense!” Boris fired back. “I am more likely to be reincarnated as an olive-stuffed focaccia than to become head judge on this programme!”

“But have you really considered what it would be like if you were to leave?” spoke up Nadiya. “There is no certainty as to what would happen. We could lose our jobs! The ratings could slump. We are bakers. We should stick with what we know.”

“But Channel 4’s content is all about innovation, experimentation, creativity!” Boris retaliated. “The Great British Bake Off is quintessentially a BBC programme! The BBC has a long tradition of making programmes  that encapsulate our favourite hobbies and show off the best of British, like Strictly Come Dancing, and Crimewatch! If we can’t remain with the BBC, we should look to go elsewhere. We are a valued commodity in the world of television. They need us more than we need them!”

“Enough!” Paul raised his hands, and silence swept round the room. “To aid our discussion, I sent Agent Mel and Agent Sue to find out what will happen if we go to Channel 4. Agents, what have you found?”

“It’s a lot worse than we ever realised,” shuddered Mel. “They are already planning a spin off show called “Come Bake With Me,” where the contestants have to go round each other’s houses to try three courses of baked goods.

“There’s also rumours of a show called “Baked Attraction,” where contestants work out whether to go on dates with one another PURELY on their baking,” Sue added. “Can you imagine anything so objectifying?”

Both agents then looked at each other, and breathed in heavily. Bemused expressions flooded the room; something else was clearly wrong.

“It’s been a tough decision to make… but we feel this is one recipe we cannot follow. We’re stepping down from the show.”

They said this both in unison, tears slowly forming in their eyes as the council stared back with shocked expressions. Paul was the first to respond. “Surely this idea is half baked?”

“No, we’re not taking the pitta,” Mel replied. “Yeah, we’re scone for good. Doughnut try and stop us,” added Sue.

They both knew that deep down, Paul really did love the puns, and all of the other bakery-related wordplay. At that moment of staring into the brink of the unknown, there was only one thing you could say for certain; at least we’ll always have the innuendoes.

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My Harry Potter Cursed Child Book Review

It’s official: Harry Potter is Lord Voldemort. His soul split into many pieces and hidden into books, theme parks and now a West End show, he will never die. But can the script alone do the show justice, and is it a worthy successor to the seven stories that preceded it?

I dissected this and a whole lot more in my Cursed Child book review on my YouTube channel. Give it a watch and see what you think!

 

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If you enjoyed this post, give it a like and let me know your thoughts in a comment below! You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and if you enjoyed my latest video, why not subscribe to my YouTube channel?  (That was a rhetorical question…)