A look at Bestival’s new 2016 installation, the Spaceport

Last year’s Bestival was all about the Summer of Love. This year, it’s the future. We talk to the festival’s creative director Josie da Bank about her plans to create mechanical astronauts, a dazzling light show and a 20-metre tall rocket made from shipping containers…

Since 2013, Bestival’s electronic music stage has had a nautical theme, with a vast ship’s hull made from shipping containers and a lighthouse that doubles as a helter skelter. This year, however, the HMS Bestival will be replaced with the Spaceport, a new stage with a giant rocket at its centre.

“I like to change the big things every three years to keep people interested,” says da Bank, who has been running Bestival with husband, DJ Rob da Bank, since 2004. “The funnest bit about having your own festival is designing new stages – well, it is for me, for my husband it’s booking all the bands he likes – and I wanted to do something different that would make a really big statement,” she adds.

The rocket will be made by Spacial Installations from a steel frame and 13 20-foot shipping containers. It is based on drawings by da Bank, who designs the festival each year.

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Logo design by Charles Williams

“I did all the drawings to begin with (not the technical ones) until we got to a point where we knew exactly what we wanted it to look like. Then we gave it to Spacial, who we work with every year,” she explains. “The substructure and engineering that’s gone into it is quite in depth, so it’s not been easy, but I was ready for that challenge.”

The rocket will be accompanied by a light show devised by Paul Normandale, who has worked on Bjork and Coldplay concerts and collaborated with Adam Smith and Marcus Lyall on the Chemical Brothers’ Born in the Echoes tour last year.

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2016 poster with artwork by Charles Williams

“We always have a lighting designer on stage but usually, we only commission them at the end. This time I thought I’d find someone I really admire and bring them on at the beginning. [Paul]’s been great consulting on the size of the stage and the layout and his work is brilliant,” says da Bank.

Bestival has hosted several ambitious (and enormous) installations over the years. Last year, da Bank worked with Shipshape Arts to create The Love-Bot: an eight-metre tall robot that reacted to love and affection in the audience (detected via sensors) by lighting up, ‘blushing’ and emitting smoke from his ears. In 2014, she worked with Newsubstance to create a record-breaking, 10-metre tall disco ball covered in 2,500 mirrored tiles.

Disco Ball World Record
Bestival’s giant disco ball, created in 2014
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The Love-Bot was created for Bestival 2015 and lights up in response to love and affection from festivalgoers

To promote the announcement of the new stage, da Bank commissioned artist Nabil Nezzar to create a startlingly lifelike triptych of headlining DJs Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox and Diplo. “When I did the initial mood board for the Space Port, I posted pictures of David Bowie as an astronaut, with the lightning flash on his face,” says da Bank. The initial plan was to commission Bowie-esque portraits of the three DJs, but a week before da Bank was due to do so, Bowie died, “and we just felt it wasn’t the right thing to do,” she says.

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Nabil Nezzar’s lifelike portraits of Spaceport headline DJs Diplo, Carl Cox and Fatboy Slim

“We were going to send someone out to do a photoshoot with them instead, but it was going to be too expensive, so we thought, ‘let’s get somebody to draw them’. I was Googling for artists who could do realistic portraits, and came across Nabil’s work through a London agency.”

Campaign artwork is also space-themed, with illustrations and an animated teaser created by Charles Williams, who was commissioned after da Bank spotted his work on the cover of a magazine in WHSmith.

Most of this year’s creative budget will be spent on building the Space Port, but da Bank is hoping to commission ShipShape Arts to create a pair of giant astronauts that will interact with the light show on stage. “The idea is that the astronauts and the rocket will all link together and create a laser field over the audience’s heads,” she says.

Bestival takes place from 8-11 September at Robin Hill Country Park on the Isle of Wight. See bestival.net for details. You can also read our 2015 interview with da Bank, in which she discusses the origins of the festival and creating posters, artwork and installations for it here.

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