Bestival deserts the Isle of Wight for Dorset

The music festival has taken place at Robin Hill Country Park for the last 13 years, but in 2017 organisers plan to move to the site of Lulworth Castle in Dorset. The response has been very mixed.

Bestival crowd

Bestival, the annual Isle of Wight music festival, that since 2004 has taken place at Robin Hill Country Park, will not longer take place on the Isle of Wight.

A statement was posted to Bestival Facebook page this morning explaining that a licence application has been submitted to move the September, four-day festival to the site of Lulworth Castle in Dorset – the home to the family focused Camp Bestival.

da Bank: “Super excited about our shiny new Bestival adventure”
The statement by Rob da Bank reads,

“Hot off the press – yes Bestival is moving! We can confirm we have submitted a licence application for a new site at the Lulworth Estate in Dorset and we’re super excited about our shiny new Bestival adventure. We have an incredible line-up, headliners confirmed and ridiculous new stages and installations coming your way in 2017.

“We remain fully committed to supporting the Isle of Wight through music, charities and projects and will be giving Islanders an exclusive ticket offer for the new site. Plus we’re working towards a new event for the Island. Watch this space.”

Mixed response
The news has been met with a mixture of joy and disappointment.

Many have blamed the ferry companies for the move.

Been on the cards for years
OnTheWight has asked Bestival HQ for the real reason behind the move, a Bestival spokesperson advised,

“Bestival has been considering a move for a number of years for a number of reasons. We feel this is the right time for a change that benefits both the business and festival-goers.

“It’s common knowledge that last year presented a lot of challenges for the festival marketplace, Bestival included. The move for us addresses some of the more commercial challenges but also the site offers us a world of exciting opportunities that will keep Bestival top of its game for the long haul.”

Nurtured by Islanders
Those who have been going to Bestival since the early days will know that it was Islanders who helped the festival grow and develop.

There’s no doubt that the Island’s fun-loving creatives helped make the festival what it became.

Troubled 2016 festival
Without any notice to punters, last year’s festival was drastically reduced in size, with many acts cancelled and the number of marquees reduced by 50%.

Some were deeply upset by the last minute changes, others (like us) found the lower numbers much more enjoyable and reminiscent of the early days of Bestival.

There will be a great many people very sad about the decision by organisers to leave the Island.

Thornton: “We all owe the Bestival team a huge debt of gratitude”
David Thornton from Visit Isle of Wight responded to the news, saying,

“2.7million visits are currently made to the Island every year; numbers are on the rise after a considerable decline over decades. More than 40 major festivals and events every season help to attract visitors from the mainland, and the Isle of Wight is fortunate to have so many companies, organisations and groups of volunteers who deliver popular events throughout the year.

“Bestival has played a significant role in putting the Island on the map, especially in the minds of young people. We all owe the Bestival team a huge debt of gratitude for their hard work and creative inspiration.

“Rob da Bank is a terrific ambassador for the Isle of Wight, and I am certain that he will continue to work with the Island in innovative ways. But, as one door closes another opens, affording us new opportunities to develop visitor markets that deliver growth in our visitor economy.

“At Visit Isle of Wight, we believe that September offers great potential for increased short breaks and longer holidays, and for the last two months we have been planning new campaigns to make the most of the opportunities in front of us.”

Article edit
8.20 Comment from Visit Isle of Wight and statement from Bestival spokesperson on the reason for the move added.

Thursday, 15th December, 2016 7:55am



Filed under: Island-wide, Isle of Wight News, Music, The Arts, Top story

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Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.


  1. To quote Rob Da Bank on why Bestival is leaving :- “Its the obvious, its just the mechanics of being on an island”

    Dare I comment more???????

    • Jsut don’t mention the ferry costs and inconvenience!

      Oh no, they’d be nothing to do with Bestival clearing off to Dorset.

      No siree.

      40,000 people just got slashed out of Thornton’s ‘numbers are on the up’ rhetoric. I’m sure they’ll be up next year, too… in his mind anyway.

      • Mason Watch

        15.Dec.2016 10:52am

        Here we go again… Same old tired views, blame it on the ferry which takes no account of what is happening to the UK festival scene. You just have to read the comments on this year’s event to realise that the Bestival bubble had burst. When there is a coherent plan for an alternative to the current transport infrastructure then lets have a debate

  2. Old Knobby

    15.Dec.2016 8:26am

    We went to it from the start, but stopped going the year before last as it had lost it’s original vibe, the type of acts being booked were moving away from anything that interested us and it just didn’t feel like it was worth the money anymore. Still sad to see it go, but hopefully Rob might do something smaller and more in keeping with the original Bestivals on the Island in the future.

  3. OK
    I agree.
    The acts were not up to scratch. He will struggle where ever he goes if he doesn’t up his game.
    The IoW festival is still here, doing wonderfully.

  4. Island Monkey

    15.Dec.2016 8:56am

    Strange and sad that they don’t identify the principal cause, it’s not been a secret that the cost of production, stage, equipment, artists on the ferries has become a bigger problem. Move the event to Dorset, and that problem and substantial cost disappears.

    A sad day for the Island. Those of us living here are still seriously affected the separation issue. The Bestival has addressed the elephant in the room.

  5. I went to several and the quality of acts over the years went downhill. I’ve often said we don’t need two big music festivals every year. I think Glastonbury is now having one every TWO years. Rob said only 5% of islanders ever attended, the only people who made money from this event were ferries,buses and Morrisons. It’s not the end of the world and like he said, he’ll still do something for islanders but on a smaller scale and something different. Good luck to him.

  6. IM
    Is that the same elephant the IoW festival has to deal with?
    Whilst it is a loss, and any area in the country would feel it losing an event like this,
    roll on the recently announced Pride event, one door shuts, another one opens.

  7. Island Monkey

    15.Dec.2016 9:46am

    Pride event, do you think they compare in any way?

    The Isle of Wight Festival is a completely different event from Bestival. It relies on dozens of big name global superstars, where as Bestival was more reliant on what I believe is called ‘the vibe’ to sell tickets.

    Both have seen declining ticket sales, but I guess the owner of the festival is a little better equipped to withstand what may only be a dip in the ticket sales market? With Bestival gone, I would gamble on better festival ticket sales, if I were the festival owner.

  8. IM
    Where have I said they do compare?
    But I would say they are both occasions and events we should be proud to of hosted, and to host.
    And yes, I would see the IoW festival gaining tickets sales, and more than likely that will be some disgruntled mainland punters who look forward to the Bestival, and coming to this lovely Island.

  9. I am looking forward to hearing Rob’s reasons in detail in the CP tomorrow. However, he is saying that economics are the issue. This is, clearly, a reference to ferry prices. This means the levels of debt that the ferry companies have built up: to the tune of tens of millions of pounds.

    There have been other costs too, such as cleaner fuel costs, etc., but every time we take a ferry, much of our ticket price is to service very high levels of debt. As we (and our tourism and other industries) are the only ones affected, there is little political desire for Whitehall, or the banks, to help us by encouraging the companies involved to write off debt.

  10. Island Monkey

    15.Dec.2016 12:58pm

    Never going to happen is it? Unless..

    What about if you were our MP Bob, could you achieve this and seal the deal with islanders?

  11. Bob Seely

    15.Dec.2016 1:18pm


    Thanks, that is not really the point. The point is, it’s specific evidence, rather than general, that ferry prices have had a significant effect on the decision to move a major event away from the Island. We all need to be working together to get a better deal from the ferry companies.



    • Luisa Hillard

      15.Dec.2016 1:33pm

      That makes a lovely sound bite but what exactly do you think can be done to change the prices of privately owned companies that have debts to service and shareholders to answer to? I’m intrigued to know what influence you think can be applied.

      Your government thinks we are a peninsula of Hampshire and have to be reminded that we are an Island. They have refused us official ‘island status’. The government will not subsidise ferry fares as a ‘lifeline service’.

      I think you will find that your own government believes that market forces should be allowed to set ferry prices.

      Are we to blockade the ports, French style? Or boycott the ferries until they reduce prices? Can’t happen when it is a necessity, rather than a luxury. We can’t stop residents getting to work and hospital, or food arriving. We’d be rioting after 3 days.

      The only real option is to bring the ferries back into public ownership… But your government is too busy privatising the NHS to support such an anti-capitalist, socialist idea.

    • Steve Goodman

      15.Dec.2016 1:52pm


      Thanks again for engaging openly and positively OTW, which is a valuable step towards us all working together, and so much more welcome and helpful than contributions like that of your colleague Chris Whitehouse. Would you care to help us with some evidence that you and your colleagues are as concerned as we are about CW being needlessly unpleasant here and causing further offence by using the alias of an imprisoned sex offender, and are you prepared to confirm that the talk of another of your colleagues said to have been disqualified following a mainland drink-driving offence is nothing more than malicious gossip?



  12. Bob Seely

    15.Dec.2016 2:15pm

    Steve, I have answered your allegations on another thread.
    Kind regards

  13. Stewart Blackmore

    15.Dec.2016 4:58pm

    More than a bit disingenuous, Bob Seely. The government, of which you are an avid supporter, believes utterly in the capitalist system which includes companies building debt and then using cash cows to service them. Two of the most successful companies at doing this are -surprise – Red Funnel & Wightlink!

    There are only two answers to this problem (which is not going away).

    1. Build a fixed link and let people come and go as they please. Ex-chancellor George Osborne is on the record as saying that, if the Island wants it, it can be done. Or

    2. Nationalise the ferry services and run them as part of a properly regulated public transport system for the benefit of travellers and NOT shareholders.

    I am sure that the costs of transporting kit and human resources to and from the Island must be a huge factor in this decision.

  14. bob seely

    15.Dec.2016 5:18pm


    To answer your points.

    First, you are in power, so what have you done about it in the past three and a half years?

    Second, you don’t have to be a socialist to believe that debt can be written off. The introduction of a ferry competitor in time might be an incentive.

    Third, why are the only answers you propose one’s that can’t be achieved? Nationalisation is not a realistic option. If it was, it might have happened under the last Labour Government. Arguing for nationalisation is a waste of time and energy, and is a cop-out because it allows you to do nothing because the only solution you present is one that no Gov’t, either Left or Right, is going to enact. This is a combination of passing the buck and virtue-signalling.

    There are options (I am not saying they are easy or can happen overnight).

    1. Ferry firms write-off debt, under public pressure.

    2. A public service provision is inserted into ferry contracts

    3. A third competitor offers a rival service that drives the others to reduce prices.

    4. A fixed link undermines at least one of the ferry routes.

    Have you looked at any of those options?

    We could start by looking for funding for a fixed-link study, that may apply some pressure. That would be much better than the pointless grandstanding your Group tried a few years ago.



    • retired hack

      15.Dec.2016 5:42pm

      What would you actually do, if you were in a position to do anything in the future, about your option (2)? The present MP talks about it from time to time, but to no effect.

    • Luisa Hillard

      15.Dec.2016 7:10pm

      1. It is not within the ability of ferry companies to write off their own debt. Only their lenders and/or parent companies can do this. I think you are naive if you believe that it is a) likely that debts would be written off, and b) that ferry prices would subsequently reduce.

      2. A public service provision is added into the ferry contract? Contract with whom? Who has the legal power to negotiate this change and using what leverage? If they own their own their docks them they can run how they like, within planning guidelines.

      3 A third competitor? LOL. In which port that isn’t owned by an existing service provider? Supposedly business is declining, which is why off-peak services are being cut. Less vehicles per service would push up costs, not reduce them. Or you would see costs stay the same but less sailings.

      4. A fixed link? Is that going to be your election campaign when you replace Andrew Turner? Whilst I support a feasibility study I believe that it would show that the infrastructure on both sides could not support increased traffic, because that’s what it would mean. There would be huge resistance from residents surrounding the entrance/exits.

      I personally feel that the real question is not whether we want a fixed link but whether we wish to retain our identity as an Island.

      So I don’t believe that you have any plans or ability to deliver them. The Council does not have the ability to deliver your suggestions. Government has some power to intervene by as we’ve now established (and you agreed) the Cons don’t re-nationalise services.

      I think we might also conclude that in the 12 or so years since our current MP has been in office, he has been unable to find a solution. Even the Competition Commission would not intervene.

      Having had extensive dealings with Red Funnel I feel I have a bit of an insight into how effective public pressure is. And how much weight they give to the will of the Island. They are motivated by profit, at the whim of their shareholders.

    • Steve Goodman

      16.Dec.2016 10:01am

      The finances and folly of failing to nationalise our major public transport services has been well documented in Private Eye and elsewhere.

      Failtrack is notable example; renationalised mainly because too many people were killed during the privatisation period.

      Currently our government is happy that much of our infrastructure and utilities have varying degrees of state control, so long as it’s not our own state.

      • Steve Goodman

        17.Dec.2016 1:17am

        In this evening’s HIGNFY (BBC iPlayer) PE’s editor once again called for rail nationalisation.

        The government’s deal with the appalling Southern rail service providers means that the taxpayer, not the company, is having to pay compensation for the millions of lost and delayed journeys to work, study, and so on, while the company (main owner Go Ahead Group; profit last year just under £100 million) continues to make money by causing widespread misery and loss by not providing the service regarded as an essential part of the economy.

        As Ian Hislop said, as we are all paying through the nose anyway for the utterly useless railway, we should nationalise it.

        He also pointed out that Transport minister Chris Grayling (who as Justice Minister a few years ago contributed to our current prisons crisis by cutting so many staff) is failing to get involved to end the rail crisis.

        And the Times and others pointed out that one person who did get involved (to help create the rail crisis) was senior civil servant Peter Wilkinson, head of passenger services at the Department for Transport (DfT), who oversees all franchises and commands one of the highest salaries in Whitehall (£260,000 – £116,000 more than the prime minister), who commutes by plane to London from Austria, who was recruited in 2013 from the rail industry where as a consultant he was credited with helping Govia (the parent group of the company that runs Southern) win two rail franchises (there is no suggestion of a conflict of interest), who said in a 2014 interview that he had “huge regard” for train company bosses, and who made an ill-advised speech in Croydon in February when he told local rail users “We have got to break them” (train drivers) adding that those who resisted government plans should “get the hell out of my industry”. He has since apologised to the transport select committee both for his comments then and for subsequently misleading MPs about Southern’s franchise.

    • Not the fixed link again.

      People have not thought this through.

      A bridge is out of the question because of Solent shipping needs. A tunnel would be a massive engineering task, and if it was a road tunnel would need ventilation shafts in the Solent. Otherwise it could be a rail link, as in Eurotunnel which ends up being at least as expensive as the ferries.

      Either solution would require approach road configuration on both sides which would raise massive environmental objections.

      But even then we haven’t exhausted the negatives. if you think through the economics, a fixed link would NOT reduce ferry fares. A very large part of the ferry cost is fixed, and if that is spread over fewer passengers it would create pressure to raise, not lower, prices.

      At the same time the fixed link would need to charge fees probably as high or even higher than the current ferry fares, to recover the investment.

      Forget it.

      Also the “cleaner fuel” argument…they run on a grade of fuel which reduces emission levels. That is to comply with legal requirements, and the standard required is lower than that applied in some parts of the world. having said all that, because of the cost structure of the ferry business, fuel should not be more than 25% of cost. A red herring.

  15. Two things will now happen. Giddings will throw another wobbly and threaten to pull out, followed by the IWC giving him the Fairlee grounds and facilities for next to nothing. Whilst I’ve no doubt some of these events have a shelf life, few people will address the real issue here of the cost to get onto the Island, or off of it for that matter.
    As residents who have no interest in the Bestival or Festival and who live on top of the Festival, we cannot stand the disruption it causes in the area, and when it and the Bestival first started we used to be able to get a good deal to leave the island for the weekend. All desirable sailings over these weekends for at least the last five years have either been booked up or were at extortionate prices if not.
    It’s a real money spinner for the Ferries, the organisers are still packing up the sites for over a week afterwards and the Ferries are always jammed full of HGV’s moving plant back to the Mainland. This extra disruption doesn’t get reported in the Media.
    The Ferries are killing this Island, and once our kids have finished their Education here we will then leave as an alternative fixed link to the Island won’t happen in our lifetime and we wish to be able to travel and enjoy what life we will have left without such Dickensian restriction and financial penalty being imposed on us.

  16. fixed link – get in

  17. I’ts called business.It is not profitable here.

  18. After the IW festival the ‘evil’ Jon Giddings announced that he was considering moving the Festival off the IW if he didn’t get reduced costs for council rentals and services…… later recanted.

    After a cocked up and, unannounced, severely reduced September Bestial the ‘saintly’ Rob de Bank announces the end of Bestial IW.

    Who is the worst capricious chancer?

  19. I said it was the end x

  20. I think this is a shame but if anyone wants to go Dorset isn’t that far. Perhaps it will be nice for people from the island island to have a change.

    I, for one, have always found Red Funnel to be good for value especially if you travel out of peak times. Red Funnel deliver vouchers to every household on the island – we use them!

    I do not have any problem with the festivals except the Festival being held during school GCSE examination time.

    That is madness!

    • Steve Goodman

      16.Dec.2016 9:49am

      (As is the notion that RF, instead of improving it’s own ugly site, should be paid for a needless greedy land grab which would harm existing jobs, businesses, and homes!)

    • RF Vouchers can indeed be good value. The problem I find a lot is that they often aren’t available for the sailings I want to use whereas if I pay the full rate then the sailing is available, so its nothing to do with space, its all about money which is not that good a deal. It’s still more than WL offer though

    • Suruk the Slayer

      16.Dec.2016 4:18pm

      Its worth noting that the off-peak day return on the Red Jet is £16, while travelling at the same times on the RF car ferry is £42 for a day return.

      If there are three or more intending to travel, it is actually cheaper to take the car over.

      if 4 people are travelling it works out at £10.50 each, 5 people £8.40 and, if you have a 7 seater, £6 each.

      Even for two people at £21 each it is cheaper to take the car than pay the Red Jet’s full day return fare of £22.10, and you don’t have the aggravation of lugging your shopping around.

      • Luisa Hillard

        18.Dec.2016 12:39pm

        As a family of 6 I’d have to agree that it’s usually cheaper (and easier) to take the car. Unless it’s August.

        I have found that it can be cheaper to buy two day returns (and use half of each) than a long stay ticket. I’ve done that with Wightlink before. Incidentally my ferry to France was cheaper than my cross-Solent ticket.

  21. Bestival is a very sad loss to our Island. Speaking as an individual….

    Lots of businesses benefit from the Bestival including my B&B in East Cowes as does the local camp sites, taxi drives, work men and those who work at Robbin Hill and on the Ferry’s. It’s relative to us all as lost revenue increase other costs and we are all try to make a living. Loosing Bestival is about more than loosing a fun event. What does this mean for us if the Ferry companies and others feel they have to find ways of recovering this loss? Of course the additional cost of ferry transport is a significant issues and one that our government needs to recognise. Our Island economy revolves round tourist industries and the common denomination of risk is, our islands accessibility and the Ferry companies pricing structure. This is evidence that our economy is being priced out of the market by a cross Solent Costings.

    Then there is the potential loss of Bestival visitors returning in years to come revisiting and reminisce while exploring the whole island!

    It’s a huge loss and many local people enjoyed attend Bestival too. That’s before one looks at the loss of PR it brings to the whole Iow on a world wide stage.

    We simply cannot loose theses high profile events and businesses. Yes many Bestival goers pass through but then tell that to some businesses in East Cowes were reviles visit shops and stores that employ local people and who rely on the this business generated to off set quieter periods of the year.

    I just hope something can be saved from this not just for financial reasons but because many of our island population look forward to having fun and experiencing music from international artists which, are normally well outside the reach of many of our young island people.

    Thank you to the Bestival team for your hard work over the years and the memories you have given to island people. I can only hope you will reconsider or build a new venture to raise the spirits and profile of our Island.

    Karl Love – East Cowes.

  22. temperance

    20.Dec.2016 8:22pm

  23. Suruk the Slayer

    25.Dec.2016 7:53pm

    Beware, Luisa.

    The day return trick is in contravention of both Red Funnel’s and Wightlink’s terms and conditions.

    They can legitimately refuse carriage and insist you buy a new ticket if they find you doing this.

  24. I’m not surprised people were complaining about the quality of Bestival’s acts, sound and stage after a certain someone went and blew the budget on the Toronto Bestival. It’s great that he’s trying to branch out and all but he should have started small there and used the money it raised for itself to expand it, rather than using the IW budget.

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