Almost two and a half decades after meeting in the Goldsmiths Students’ Union as 18-year-olds, Bestival founders Josie and Rob da Bank are to be named Honorary Fellows of Goldsmiths, University of London on Thursday 18 February.
Born in Portsmouth and growing up in Southampton Robert John Gorham played trombone in brass bands as his father listened to The Beatles. Moving to London in the early 1990s, Rob enrolled on a BA French Studies and History of Art at Goldsmiths and started playing hip-hop and funk in the city’s clubs under the DJ pseudonym Rob da Bank.
Josie Gorham – now known throughout the festival world as the creative director and producer of Bestival and Camp Bestival, Josie da Bank – joined Goldsmiths in 1991 to study illustration. Bestival’s unique visual landscape and artistic promotional creative is all down to her and the team she leads.
Rob started his weekend club night Sunday Best in 1994 at the Tea Room des Artistes in Clapham- a night that quickly gained cult status and is credited with helping develop bar-based music culture, as opposed to “club culture”.
Having recently graduated from the Department of Art, Josie designed and made the flyers and banners for Sunday Best, and developed both her skills and reputation for event management. She had artwork commissioned by a number of top names in music at the time, including Dido and her brother Rollo, before opening the bar Cocomo – described as “one of the first hip bars in Shoreditch” – in 2000, designing both the space and cocktail list.
After visiting Glastonbury every year since they met at Goldsmiths, Rob proposed to Josie at the 2000 event. Four years later they launched Bestival on the Isle of Wight, an annual music festival that regularly picks up ‘Best UK Festival’ awards. Held in late summer, the first event attracted some 10,000 music lovers, growing to 50,000 in just a few years.
Initially described as “boutique”, Bestival was a pioneer in the small to medium festival scene. Whether it’s cleaner toilets, polite security, or Josie’s hand-stitched Bollywood Tent serving cocktails on day-beds under parasols – the couple have always focused on giving revellers a more comfortable, good quality experience than the average outdoor music event.
In a recent interview with the Goldsmiths Alumni magazine Goldlink, Rob explained how a lot of his friends as a teenager “ended up going to Goldsmiths or Chelsea, so we were all knocking around that arty scene. I love art, but music’s my thing. It was more exciting for me being in South London. Hanging out where the Ragga Twins recorded, meeting Fabio and Grooverider and going to dirty raves!”
He recalled both his “ridiculous orange camouflage trousers” and that Goldsmiths opened his eyes: “I think it was, and it probably still is, one of the most culturally diverse and enriching places you could go to. I was getting an education studying French, and I was getting a musical education and the life skills. It was coming at me from all directions. I couldn’t have been happier.”
Graduating in 1995, Rob began a career as both a music journalist and, later, a presenter of BBC’s Radio One’s chilled-out Blue Room programme. He also hosted the station’s One Music Show on Thursday nights, and filled in on the John Peel Show after the DJ’s death in 2004.
Until 2014, Rob hosted a Friday-night BBC Radio 1 show focused on left-field electronics, then joined 6 Music, has a show on Spotify, and set up a music supervision company, Earworm, to create original music for television, film and computer games. Bestival now has a home in Toronto, and the Da Bank’s recently initiated a metropolitan festival concept called Common People in both Southampton and Oxford.