DJ Rob da Bank on the success of the Common People festival in Southampton
PUBLISHED: 10:31 10 August 2015 | UPDATED: 10:31 10 August 2015
Revelling in the success of Southampton's newest festival, Common People, Radio DJ and organiser Rob Da Bank confirms it will be back for 2016 when he met with Peter White
Radio DJ and Isle of Wight Bestival curator Rob da Bank admits he wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he came up with the idea of staging the Common People festival in Southampton.
But after a hugely successful weekend of music, fun and entertainment, enjoyed by around 35,000 revellers of all ages, Rob has already put plans in place to stage the event in 2016, and hopes it will be an annual fixture for many years to come.
In an exclusive interview for Hampshire Life, the man with the golden touch when it comes to organising festivals has revealed his delight at the feedback he received following Common People, and explains why he believes it can become an integral part of his events calendar.
Having already staged the Bestival along with wife Josie and his talented team for the past 12 years, Rob felt there was a niche in the market for the two-day extravaganza, and he felt Southampton Common proved the perfect setting. He said: “We realised that one and two-day festivals were increasing in popularity and we had the appetite to do one somewhere in the UK.
“It was also partly because I didn’t want to get left behind, because I think that over the next five years or so there will be more cheaper one-day events and fewer three or four-day weekend shows. There’s a whole new market of people who don’t want to go camping for three or four days - they want a quick fix!”
So why Southampton? He continued: “We felt it was the ideal market for us. A lot of people who came along to Common People also attend Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle in Dorset, and Bestival on the Isle of Wight.
“So making Southampton a new venue gave us a nice little triangle of shows, and I was absolutely blown away by the Common. I was slightly naive, and didn’t really know the area that well. But when I was standing there in the middle of it during the build of the stages, I was surrounded by trees, and couldn’t hear any traffic - it was a lovely, peaceful spot, and the ideal venue for the event.”
With Fat Boy Slim and Grace Jones among those wowing the revellers, Rob and his team felt just three stages fully complemented the event, and there are no plans to expand Common People beyond recognition in years to come. He continued: “We were happy with the acts, and also the number of people who turned up to support the event, so we think it will be very much the same format next year. My favourite part of the weekend was seeing how well everyone, from 18-year-olds and 70-year-olds, all mixed together on site to enjoy the event - there were even six-week-old babies, as well as my mum and dad! I love those sorts of festivals where that togetherness co-exists.
“I hope those who came along will form the opinion that Common People is part of their lifestyle - somewhere that has great music, a friendly atmosphere, and is for the family for much of the day and then slightly racier at night. We want to be part of the fabric of Southampton, just as we are with Bestival on the Isle of Wight.”
He added: “The event also seems to have gone down well with Southampton Council, and even Friends of the Common, who are naturally precious about the great site, seemed to enjoy it. So I see no reason why we cannot be set fair there for a good few years. With any festival you are lucky if you get it all up and running entirely to plan in the first year, and you cannot really afford to do something for just one year, so as far as I am concerned it is a long-term plan.
“We have already talked to a couple of acts who might want to perform at Common People next year, and we have had discussions with the Council, so hopefully we will be back there on the same Bank Holiday weekend next year.”
Rob’s commitment to the area is further underlined by the fact he does his ‘Rob da Bank Music Club’ in Eastleigh every month, pointing out: “We don’t just want to drop in and out of the city in three days - we want to keep the story going, because music can be an escape for some young people who have had bad times.”
Rob was particularly pleased that so many families turned up for Common People, saying: “From the time the doors opened in the morning up to 7pm there were families on site, chilling out and enjoying the music. Then there was more of a Bestival-type crowd later in the evening. So it turned out just as we planned it - sort of half Bestival and half Camp Bestival.”
Mark King, lead singer and founder of world-renowned band Level 42, was among those who enjoyed the Common People experience. Level 42 are on the list of main stage performers at Bestival, and Mark said: “I went along to the first Common People as a punter, and I have to say massive congratulations to Rob and his team for making it such a big success. It was a great weekend which everyone seemed to enjoy.”
However, Rob and his team were not able to rest on their laurels for too long. He and wife Josie had to quickly turn their attentions to another new venture - Bestival Toronto, which took place on Toronto Island, Canada on the weekend of June 12 and 13.
Then it was off to Dorset for Camp Bestival before final preparations were put in place for Rob’s first and still biggest event - the Isle of Wight Bestival which will celebrate its 12th birthday when it is staged from September 10 to 13 at Robin Hill Country Park, near Arreton.
With over 25 stages, revolutionary sound systems, zombie love-ins, psychedelic woodland adventures, 24-hour free haircuts, and a host of dazzling new attractions, this year’s Bestival theme is ‘Summer of Love’.
Somehow, Rob and Josie come up with new ideas every year, and this year is no exception with the introduction, among other things, of ‘Slow Motion’ including Josie’s innovative Kaleidoscope stage, which is being described as ‘the ideal place to to cultivate good habits or sustain your regime - an expedition for the body and soul’.
The brand new arena is dedicated to energising pursuits, and is very much a festival within a festival. There is even the opportunity to leave the Bestival site for an hour or two of extreme invigoration from surf lessons to rock climbing. Bestival-goers can also enjoy a trip on the new Land Train - like the ones that once ran along seaside esplanades - and even stimulate the senses by cuddling a llama!
Rob said: “We have noticed over the last couple of years that people coming to Bestival are really looking after themselves a lot more, especially the young people who want to be fit, healthy and eat well...so this is a whole new angle embracing that. You can still have that crazy party at Bestival, but this is somewhere to escape into a whole new world.
“For those with a sense of adventure there will be a huge inflatable slide at Bestival this year. It’s 200 metres long and those who dare to go down it will end up in a pool of water at the bottom. So whatever the weather there will be this mad competition to see who goes down the fastest. We always try to find something that stands out from the crowd, like the giant disco ball last year - something that people talk about for years.”
Just as he was at Common People, Rob is very much one for being out on site at Bestival, ensuring people are enjoying themselves. He said: “Of course a bit of time is spent in the ‘office portakabin’, if only to catch my breath and find out what everyone else is doing. But I like to be out there as much as possible to notice if there is anything wrong, before other people do. The only problem is that Bestival is such a vast area, you set off to check things out and three hours later you’ve only got halfway round the site. By the time you’ve finished it’s nightfall and you have to start all over again. It is non-stop and quite exhausting, but just to see the acts and the crowds enjoying themselves makes it all worthwhile.”
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