Bestival Toronto is coming to the nation's largest city in a few weeks and it is primed to wow attendees with their eclectic lineup, unique stage setups, and much more. Prior to coming to Canada, Bestival has enjoyed a 12 year run in the U.K. and gained a reputation as a music lover's festival that aims for maximum fun.
EDM Canada had the chance to talk to Rob da Bank, the co-founder of Bestival, about this massive event that will take over Toronto Island from June 12th to 13th. We talk about the history of the festival, the lineup, what sets Bestival apart from the rest, the fancy dress theme, and so much more. Enjoy:
How did you originally conceive Bestival?
It was a natural evolution from my club nights called “Sunday Best” from 20 years ago where we offered nights that provided something else other than banging house or techno. What we did was coming from left field, offering a chill out vibe where you can listen to any type of music. You could have listened to anything from classical, punk, rock, to electronic where anything goes. Bestival started to slowly emerge after our experience with Glastonbury. It was a total trip for the past 12 years.
Why did you choose Toronto as Bestival's first international destination?
We've been offered festivals around the world for the past 5-6 years, and we never felt confident that we'd be welcomed there or be able to deliver the show. We just wanted to feel completely happy and it wasn't until Embrace and SFX came into the mix and we fell in love with the Toronto Island site. I think Toronto has an incredible musical heritage and it's been great to see them welcome us as they seem up for a party. I think all of these things combined will make Toronto a perfect place to do a festival.
What makes Bestival special and stands out from the rest of the festivals?
In the U.K. we have been in the market for 12 years and have become known as the fun party people festival, but not in a silly way. We are also known as the music lovers festival, but not in the a chin stroke kind of way, as people who attend Bestival love to have fun. We have a top class musical lineup for Bestival Toronto that also offers a fun place that lets you forget who you are and just escape for a weekend.
I heard that your wife is also heavily involved in the decor of Bestival – are you planning on bringing that same sense of style to Bestival Toronto?
My wife is the creative mind behind the look and feel of Bestival. She built an amazing new stage for Bestival Toronto that is currently in a container ship on the high seas travelling over the Atlantic. We will have tents that were handmade in India, we have loads of bunting, and a whole marching band set. We build and make a lot of stuff, but also bring good food from the local area. Put this all together and I think we have created a great English-Canadian merge of styles for Bestival Toronto. We are starting from scratch in Canada and it's very exciting because I feel like we need to prove ourselves. I think it's going to take the first year for people to see what we do hopefully.
On the 2nd day of Bestival you're asking Toronto attendees to dress up – can you give me a bit more detail about this Bestival tradition?
12 years ago we came up with this fancy dress theme which was supposed to be small but turned out to be huge and it is now our trademark thing we do at Bestival. Last year's theme was called “dead island disco”, and this year's it will be “summer of love”. I don't think there will be a theme in Toronto but what we want people to do is just let their hair down, let themselves go, and get into a persona. It's not about a plastic dress or a wig, it's about making an effort. Equally if people don't want to do it, they don't have to. In the U.K. around 70% of the crowd dresses up, so there's 30,000 – 40,000 people wondering around all weekend looking mad. But you can just wear jeans and t-shirt and no one is going to say anything about that. I like the fancy dress theme because it helps people lose their inhibitions and helps to break down barriers.
What was the philosophy in bringing together the Toronto lineup?
It's largely what's available and what's out there. Starting at the top, we have Florence and Nas, two incredible artists that I would be happy to have over in the U.K. From Caribou right through to the electronic and U.K. acts like Skream and Rudimental – I think Bestival Toronto offers a real mixed bag. You can be listening to a folksy guitarist one minute and then the next you could be sucked into a tent and raving to a techno DJ. Next year's lineup could be completely different as I don't have any sort of rules when putting together a lineup.
It's about providing and showcasing a wide spectrum of music. We also have Omar Souleyman, a Syrian techno musician who is flying in from Syria for Bestival. It's about presenting a diverse lineup. We definitely don't want to attract one type of person.
If you could choose one artist that fans cannot miss at this year's Bestival Toronto – which one would it be and why?
I would have to say Caribou because he's played in the U.K. festival before and he is Canadian from that region. I can't wait to see him and I loved his last album. Equally you could pick anyone from the lineup that I'd be just as excited about them.
What's your view on the current festival scene worldwide?
It's reaching a saturation point in the U.K. - that's for sure. I say that in a positive way as I love the competition. It's very busy in the whole word for festivals, so it's a challenge but a good challenge to have.
Make your best pitch – why should fans attend Bestival Toronto?
Because we're going to be putting on the best party in Toronto this summer. We'll be offering something different and I hope people will come and try it out.
My thanks to Rob da Bank for this interview.
Bestival Toronto will take place from June 12-13th on Toronto Island. If you're looking for a unique and new festival experience, seriously consider checking this event out. For ticket information, click the poster below: