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Rick Astley headlines Camp Bestival

Rick Astley and mary berry at camp bestival
Rick Astley and mary berry at camp bestival Image credit: bbc.co.uk

Since we started reviewing headline festival sets back in 2010 we never thought we’d be covering a has-been star which graced the cover of the 1998 Smash Hits annual.

To be honest, we expect when Rob Da Bank launched Camp Bestival twelve years ago he didn’t predicted Rick Astley would close one of the days at the festival and for that matter, we guess neither did the singer himself who is only remembered for that number one track he released in 1987…

The stage screens display a message which reads ‘Time to dance. Please pick up your sunshades, tents and blankets if no longer using to make room for all.’

As mum and dads clear space to relive their youth and children are glued to social media feeds on their phones the man himself walks on stage with his band, it isn’t the first time Rick has experienced his second chance with fame.

On 10th June 2016 Rick’s first album for eleven years, 50, went platinum in the UK. Then, in February 2017 after hearing they were in the same city Dave Grohl invited Rick on stage at a Foo Fighters gig in Philadelphia and again later that year when they played The O2 in London.

Tonight Grohl may not be here, but there’s another surprise drummer waiting backstage who we will come to in a bit, but to kick things off Rick reminds us that he was no one-hit-wonder.

He may be known for that song but as he starts with Together Forever, lifting the mic off the stage and pointing it out to the crowd encouraging them to sing the words back, it’s the first time this evening we say to ourselves ‘Oh yeah, he released that song as well.’

“Good evening,” Rick addresses Camp Bestival “Get in. Yeah!” (You can tell his pretty stoked about playing tonight!) “We are gonna play you a new song.” – Which turns out to be the title track from his new album Beautiful Life.

“That felt really good playing a new song for ya.” Says the winner of “Best Act Ever” at the MTV EMAs 2008. “But it lacked some percussion. I need someone to play the drums.”

At this point we think of two options. Either A he’s going to pick someone from the crowd or B Grohl is waiting in the wings. It’s neither – and it’s one of the biggest surprises we have ever witnessed at a festival since the Eavis’ family kicked out the cows from their back yard.

Completely unannounced on walks 83-year-old Mary Berry! The crowd repeatedly chant her name, their soggy bottoms raised off the grass…they can’t believe what’s happening as the bakery queen sits behind drumkit banging and kneads away to her heart content.

“It won’t get any better than that” Rick chuckles as she leaves the stage. “Mary gotta shoot up the M3 because she’s gonna play with the Kings of Leon!”

He has it all! New songs, songs that have escaped our memory, an amazing sense of humour! Thank goodness Rick started his comeback trail in his dad’s garage a few years ago when he started his work on 50.

The first track off that album, Keep Singing, is played next and the people out front do just that! Reaching the ripe old age of 52 Rick “doesn’t do dancing any more” which is a cryptic way of asking the crowd to “boogie on down” to another song which had its lyrics published in Smash Hits magazine circa 1988 - She Wants to Dance with Me -before he plays another track off 50 – This Old House.

Camp Bestival picks the next song being offered a “slow one” or a “fast one”. With only a few hands in the air requesting the former the pace picks up with Take Me to Your Heart which has a cheeky remix of Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love in a Hopeless Place’ thrown in for good measure.

When Rick first shot to fame the only sight of a mobile phone was Del Boy holding a brick to his ear, nowadays any fools or horses can record a memory at the press of a button. It’s a problem Ashley never had to face first time around, but tonight, playing to a new generation, he begs “Please don’t put that song on YouTube as my daughter thinks I don’t play it anymore!”

Fortunately for Emilie Astley her embarrassing dad steers clear of anymore RiRi tracks – although there’s another cover on the way – and plays a song about “God meeting the devil in a local park” (Dance) and staying on the religious theme dedicates Angels on my Side to his crew and band.

There’s another ‘moment’ when two more hits from our childhood – Cry For Help and Whenever You Need Somebody – come bouncing back from the Top of the Pops days. Next, we are brought up to date with the music channels era as Rick covers George Ezra’s Shotgun – with a little help from a music stand and a songbook to help him remember the words.

He doesn’t need any prompting for Try – taken off Beautiful Life… “Whatever age you are, you’ve gotta give it a go” teaches Rick to the young faces in the crowd driving their parents nuts as they end their first week of the summer holidays. “I went to my dad’s garage to record a record and look what happened!”

Someone in the crowd shouts ‘One more song!’ – “Course I’m gonna sing Never Gonna Give You Up” RA replies putting on a captains hat to perform the most well-known track which has ever blared out of Camp Bestival’s sound-system. Before he reaches the final verse Rick introduces each band member with a quirky made-up verse which an editor of an 80’s pop magazine would be bloody proud of!

As he makes his way to the artist garden and Mary Berry sniffs a line of baking powder off the Followill’s kitchen tables the doubters in the crowd – and there probably were some – are won over. Just goes to show even if you are remembered for just one classic toon you can still headline Camp Bestival and own it. Chesney Hawkes next year?


Accessibility at Camp Bestival: Disabled guests were given ‘Accessible Facilities’ wristbands and their PA’s wore laminates (which had the code to unlock accessible toilets around the site) so they could take it in turn to who assists on the viewing platforms which operated on a strict +1 basis.

The viewing platforms for the main stage and the big top were in an ideal location. The former had moved to the opposite side of the arena from last year closer to the accessible campsite but there wasn’t a bar in easy walking distance.

BSL interpreters were working on both platforms throughout the weekend.

The accessible campsite was a short walk from the main stage and secure. There was a row of accessible showers (although apparently only one had hot water) and accessible toilets next to standard toilets.

One shower was reserved just for people with disabilities.

If you arrived in time you could park your car right next to your tent, if not there was extra car parking a short distance from the campsite.


 View from Accessible Platform for the main stage: