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DJ Rob designs his castle party to be music lovers' best weekend of the year

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: July 19, 2013

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Festival supremo, influential Radio 1 DJ and record label boss Rob da Bank is one of an old-fashioned breed – an independent tastemaker and true champion of new (and not so new) music, right across the genres.

On his early Saturday morning show you're as likely to stumble into stripped-down motorway techno as you are weird woozy folk or an electronic cover of an obscure David Bowie tune.

If a sound catches Rob's attention and pleases his ears, then he's in the privileged position of being able to share his enthusiasm with the public, either over the airwaves, on his Sunday Best Recordings or via the prestigious stages of Bestival and Camp Bestival. It is the latter extravaganza that brings Rob to the Westcountry in a week or so's time as the family festival sets up home by the Dorset seaside at Lulworth Castle.

"It sneaks up on me every time – suddenly it's almost here; the closer it gets the more excited I am," reveals Rob (real name Robert Gorham).

The younger and smaller sibling of September's annual Bestival on the Isle of Wight, Camp Bestival was set up by Rob and his illustrator wife, Josie, in 2008.

Bestival had earned its spurs over the previous five years. Having started their own family – they now have three boys aged seven, five and three – they wanted to set up a more child-friendly, eclectic and quirky alternative that would still pack a big punch.

So, here is a festival where CBeebies' pre-school superstar Mr Tumble (aka Justin Fletcher MBE) will perform for an afternoon crowd of equal size to the one that will greet musical headliner Richard Hawley and funny man and actor Alan Davies.

Spoken word, dance, circus, comedy and drama sit side by side next to a musical choice that is hand-picked by Rob and Josie.

"We are very hands-on – control freaks who check everything. But at the end of the day it's a team that puts it all together. We're getting better at giving people things to do and our staff work on both festivals. It's a pretty much unstoppable train now," he says.

"We wanted to create something different and we just want people to have the best weekend of their year. That special magical fun is a really important element of what we do – lots of laughter and people having an amazing time with their children. If you're three or 83 there's something for you at Camp Bestival.

"We have parents who email us the week after and say their kids don't know what to do with themselves – they just want to come back to the festival," adds Rob, who paved his way as a roving Muzik magazine journalist in the mid-1990s.

Rob grew up in Warsash, Hampshire, playing trombone in brass bands and absorbing the vibes as his GP father listened to The Beatles. He started playing hip-hop and funk under the DJ name of Rob The Bank, moved to London in the, where he met his co-pilot, Josie, in the student union.

"Sunday Best and Bestival wouldn't exist if Josie hadn't done the creative. It's a family thing. If you take me away you've got a really colourful party with no music, and if you took her away, you'd have a very plain event with music," explains Rob, 40. "Our whole journey to get where we are has been kind of lucky, but involved a lot of overdrafts and boring financial stuff. It's not as easy as saying 'let's put on a festival'.

"There are all sorts of licensing issues and ridiculous headaches involved, but once you have done it a couple of times it becomes easier. We just keep our imaginations running and try to make each show better."

This year's Camp Bestival jamboree runs from Thursday to Sunday, August 1-4, and the musical line-up couldn't be more diverse.

Friday's headline set comes from Sheffield alt-rock country blues crooner Richard Hawley, formerly of Longpigs and Pulp, whose superb last album, Standing at the Sky's Edge was nominated for the Mercury Prize.

Warming the stage for him will be Irish rockers Ash, Scottish folk-pop twins The Proclaimers, Billy Bragg, I Am Kloot, DJ Yoda, John Cooper Clarke, The Farm, The Correspondents, London Grammar, Mikill Pane, Filthy Boy, Fake Bush, Hudson Taylor, Jaws, Lucky Elephant and many more. There will be DJ sets from David Rodigan MBE's Ram Jam, Coldcut's Jon More and John Kennedy.

Topping the bill on Saturday are perennially awesome folk-rockers Levellers, Take That's Mark Owen in solo guise, sweet songstress Gabrielle Aplin, veterans Kid Creole and The Coconuts, Camp Bestival favourite and guaranteed crowd-pleasers The Cuban Brothers, Musical Youth, Valerie June, Lissie, Mad Professor, Clean Bandit, Ady Suleiman, Molotov Jukebox, Ben Waters, Moulettes, Lewis Watson, Lloyd Yate, and the Royal Albert Hall Ginormous Percussion Orchestra. And there will be DJ sets from Grandmaster Flash, Sasha and Andrew Weatherall and Sean Johnston's A Love From Outer Space, among others.

Sunday's is the broadest-ranging line-up of the whole weekend. Wrapping things up on the main stage will be London singer songwriter, record producer, guitarist and crooner Labrinth, otherwise known as 24-year-old Timothy McKenzie, whose debut album Electronic Earth was released last year to huge acclaim. There's a live set from drum and bass and dubstep producer DJ Fresh, and performances from 1980s stars Heaven 17 and Nik Kershaw, , The Polyphonic Spree, dan le sac v Scroobius Pip, Beardyman, The Wurzels, Sam Lee and Friends, Skinny Lister, The 1975, Fleetwood Bac, Sexy Sushi and Isaiah Dreads and many more. Rob will have his own DJ set, with other interludes from Fabio plus Grooverider, Craig Charles and Dick and Dom.

"I think it's a great line-up," says Rob. "There are lots of people on there who haven't played Camp Bestival before. Richard Hawley is such an amazing songwriter; The Proclaimers are fabulous; Labrinth and DJ Fresh are for kids and teenagers."

There's a good selection of emerging names on the list. A lot of Rob's time is spent listening to recordings sent to him by hopeful newcomers and filtering out the best.

"It's a large part of my day. My role at Radio 1 is to uncover new bands and break new acts," he explains. "There is more than ever now. I can't cope with the amount of music I get sent by a long straw; it's heartbreaking to think that there's so much stuff that I will never get around to listening to, but it would be a 24-hour-a-day job."

He remembers his own radio hero, the late John Peel, saying that he had a whole room full of tracks that he had never listened to, but couldn't bear to throw away.

"He said there might be a nugget of something special in there," says Rob, who believes radio – and festivals like Camp Bestival – will continue to flourish for many moons to come.

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