Troupes and toast modernism as Bestival 2014 prepares to welcome castaway artists

By Ben Miller | 26 August 2014

Festival preview: Bestival 2014, Robin Hill, Isle of Wight, September 4-7 2014

Click on the picture to launch a gallery from the festival

With everyone from Outkast and Beck to Chase and Status and Mad Professor appearing at this year’s castaway-themed Bestival, you might be forgiven for overlooking the non-sonic elements of one of the country’s best-loved festivals.

As the organisers themselves put it, it’s not all about the music: anyone who’s been to Robin Hill knows there’s just as much extraordinary art and performance whirling around the rest of the site.

One of the provocateurs involved, Pete Montford, is a coin-operated artist who responds according to how well festival-goers trace his puzzle-style clues. Dressed in black and white, his accomplice, Otter, lures participants in.

"I convinced Pete to get into this box,” says the other half of the debonair duo, recalling the moment he initially took over the show.

“I told him he would be the star. His name printed large all over the installation, everything advertised in his name, he would be in control.

“But all he is now is a dull and lifeless face behind a window – a fake hand and leg to give anymore essence of his former life as a human. I am the one in control.”

The idea, he says, is to breathe “some kind of life” into a “poor once-man being”.

"I will perform, verbally and physically, the sequence of actions you must greet Pete with when you meet him,” he explains.

“Get the sequence correct and Pete will reward you with the prize of my otter rocks. Get it wrong and he will shut down and be unable to respond until another coin is put into his machine.”

There’s more. Artemis, a Liverpool-based troupe who pride themselves on kaleidoscopic workshops and collaborations with glam rock bands, will be wandering around recreating the glory of their stiltwalking shows at the Commonwealth Games (they were also, apparently, the first live musicians on Richard and Judy).

Mandinga Arts, meanwhile, were set up by British-Colombian painter-printmaker pair Charles Beauchamp and Julieta Rubio in 2002, inspired by warriors from the former hinterlands south of Ghana, Senegal and Niger.

Elsewhere, life drawing sessions take on toast modernism and naked etching – the self-styled “oddest art class in town”, according to organisers Massive in China – and there’s a strong spoken word strand: look out for a dozen gifted young London poets in the Roundhouse Poetry Collective, as well as FATLiP, a collective of artists, musicians and theatre-makers inspired by tea, dodgy TV and the 90s music they loved as teenagers.

“We've made a performance called Lost Boy Sketches,” say Toby, Jak and Dana, the Beastie Boys and Nirvana-loving threesome.

“Arts Council England loved it and helped us make it happen.

“It's mad exiting that the show is gonna reach people who don't normally get the chance to see spoken word, theatre or experimental music; especially not all three things together.”


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