Rob da Bank, founder of Camp Bestival, discusses the family-friendly festival’s expansion into Shropshire, and the UK festival market…

As a promoter, I always get nervous about meeting a new audience, but I also get excited because you never know who is going to turn up,” says Rob da Bank, founder and co-curator of Camp Bestival.

Bank is talking to StandOut about Camp Bestival’s expansion. The family-friendly festival is preparing to head north this year. Camp Bestival Shropshire will take place at Weston Park [August 18-21] three weeks after Camp Bestival Dorset at Lulworth Castle [July 28-31].

“We couldn’t have produced both shows on the same weekend because we have so much handmade stuff that we want to take to Shropshire, but it’s not a carbon copy,” Bank assures StandOut. “I’m excited to see what Josie [da Bank and co-curator] and the team will do, as I am not very good at imagining a festival site. However, I do know it’s a beautifully natural site with all the bits you’d want for a family-friendly festival.”

CONSCIOUS OF COMPETITION

Bank describes Camp Bestival’s expansion as something that has been in his and Josie’s head for several years. Having received a tip-off about Weston Park and its availability, the expansion into the heart of England is what he calls a “happy accident that fell into his lap” – an opportunity not to be missed and a chance to respond to many punters that had been asking for something “more north”.

“Now that Camp Bestival will be two shows and we’re covering more of the country, I am more conscious of the competition,” Bank continues. “Some family shows are only 20 quid, and I don’t want to be rude but there’s barely anything there. There are only a handful of proper family-friendly events like The Big Feastival and CarFest. Deer Shed and Greenman are trendy adult festivals that you can take kids to, but we’re out and out family friendly and I think you can count on one hand the competition.”

UPS AND DOWNS

Camp Bestival Shropshire has a licence for 39,999, compared to Camp Bestival Dorset’s 30,000. The Lulworth Castle site regularly sells out. Bank is predicting sales of 20,000 for Camp Bestival Shropshire and would be happy with that figure for a year one show.

“Our licence at Weston Park is for 39,999. We won’t get anywhere near that this year. That’s fine, as I would like to get a feel for the site first. I don’t want 40,000 people turning up and for us to not get it right.”

APL Event and Ginger Owl are just two event suppliers working on Camp Bestival, providing services to the festival. Bank says that the supply chain has not been without its challenges. “Last year was hard,” he adds. “Our caterer pulled out three days before the show and lots of suppliers had mental health problems. We had six weeks’ notice to put the show on. It was tough for people and proved too much for some. Some suppliers have now moved on and for their own right reasons.”

Bank states that the UK events industry is operating in a “different landscape” and is pleased that Camp Bestival was able to go ahead in 2021.

“In festival land, you have to roll with the ups and downs,” he says. “I am lucky to have a stable show and sales are good. For a lot of people, 2022 will still be year one, and their first show [after COVID]. If I hadn’t done a show last year, I would feel nervous.”

BRING IT ON

But what’s the big plan for Camp Bestival and the new site that will feature wellness, water sports and woodland activities? “It’s Camp Bestival’s 20th anniversary in 2023,” Bank adds. “Me and Josie don’t sit with a diary and map out any big plans, but we would like Camp Bestival to have slow and gradual growth.

“After two decades of ups and downs, you know what you need to be prepared for and to make sure you have your ducks in a row.”

Speaking on the UK market, he concludes: “I feel like there will be a constant stream of family audiences coming through and that family shows are at the safer end of the festival bracket.

“It’s an exciting time for the festival market. The UK has the strongest festival market. I’m not sure if I am saying this because I have been there and done it. But I love competition. It keeps you on your toes because it means you’re pushing to be the best. If competition wasn’t there, we’d get lazy. I welcome it. Bring it on because it makes you stronger.”