Isle of Wight Festival –
The old and the new
Whether you love or hate the Isle of Wight Festival the old and the new, the excitement is already reaching fever pitch for this year’s extra special 50th Anniversary event and the countdown clock is on.
Its global success now hails this incredible event a festival force to be well and truly reckoned with and it has once again firmly highlighted our tiny yet perfectly formed Island on the world map, in the brightest stage lighting possible for all to see.
Where did it all start?
Way back in 1968 Ron, Ray and Bill Foulk (brothers) of Fiery Creations Limited sowed the original seed for the start of what would be an incredible three year run of festivals which at that time were considered counterculture events. But to many Island residents, even the idea of a music festival was nothing short of appalling and the rumours alone sent tidal waves of objections throughout the Island.
Some residents, especially the well-to-do retirees who had come here to seek out peace and tranquillity in their later years, and also the ‘grotty yachties’ as the sailing fraternity have long since been known were absolutely aghast at the very thought.
Perhaps they actually feared the mass arrival of noisy so-called ‘free-loving hippies’ who I suspect must have been the most freakish looking of people to the aforementioned retiree and grotty groups, who rather than embracing the changing times looked at the proposed event as both unnecessary and unwanted.
An eclectic mix of bands and artists played at all three of the festivals Bob Dylan (It was Bob’s first performance following his motorcycle accident of 1966), Jefferson Airplane, T Rex, Miles Davis, The Moody Blues, Joe Cocker, The Who, Joni Mitchell, and Jethro Tull to name a few. To my mind, by far the coolest act was the late great Jimmy Hendrix. A tribute statue of this great musical legend can be found outside Dimbola Museum and Galleries, in Freshwater.
The stage was set, but where?
31 August to 1 September 1968
Held at Ford Farm in the pretty village of Godshill where approximately 10,000 ‘free loving(?) hippie types’ attended our maiden music festival!
30 August to 31 August 1969
Held in the parish of Wootton near Ryde where an incredible 150,000 festival goers made their excited way over to our shores, for festival shenanigans.
Even the audience was sprinkled with legendary famous faces John Lennon & Yoko, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Keith Richards and Jane Fonda to namedrop a few!
Bob Dylan had been widely expected to play at Woodstock that year as he lived there but instead he made his way to perform on our humble Isle and for that ‘we thank you, Bob!’
From a crowd of 10,000 to 150,000 in one year and if you bear in mind that the population of our Isle at that time was only around 100,000 that is quite something!
26 to 30 August 1970
Held at Afton Down in rural West Wight where there weren’t many properties nearby and therefore the expected increase on the previous year’s attendees could be accommodated, little did they know just what was in store!
What was to be the finale of the trio of festivals in 1970 was even bigger than Woodstock with an estimated 600/700,000 people attending, (although these numbers have always been disputed by the organisers) the logistics alone in getting them to and from the Island let alone keeping control of them whilst they were here were mind-boggling, to say the least.
Can you imagine?
A few years ago, I met a lovely guy who had lived in the farmhouse opposite the main ground who told me this great tale which occurred during the 1970 Festival.
He awoke late one morning and as usual, made his bleary-eyed way down to the kitchen for a hearty home cooked breakfast, lovingly prepared by his mother. He could hear her chatting away to someone which was unusual because by the time he made an appearance he was normally the last of the farm workers to leave the house.
Walking through into the kitchen his Mum bid him good morning telling him to sit down and that his breakfast was ready. Reaching into the oven she added casually ‘oh this is Jim he is going to the festival today so I invited him in for something to eat.
There sat at the farmhouse table eating cornflakes and drinking tea was Jimi Hendrix, I get ridiculously excited just sharing this story, I cannot begin to imagine the atmosphere of being there at the time! Bless Mum, she had no idea at all of just how famous her Jim was!
An untimely end.
In essence, in just three short years this almost ridiculously popular event had sadly become a victim of its own success. Faced with crippling political and logistical difficulties it soon became apparent to the organisers that despite their events success and notoriety from around the globe, their gig would not actually return them any profit at all!
Whilst most people had paid for their tickets the 1970 event ended up becoming a ‘free for all festival’ and of course the no profit element sealed its fate and the then already much talked about and anticipated Festival of 1971 never happened.
Although only three at the time, I was lucky enough to go in 1970, where I lost my beloved ‘Jacko’ – my ‘real life looking, cuddly baby chimp toy’ so if you happened to find him do let me know!
It would be some thirty-two years later before anyone was brave enough to step forward to pick up the Isle of Wight Festival Gauntlet.
What do you think of it?
If you are lucky enough to be an Island resident now, how does the Festival make you feel – are you a lover or a hater and on what basis have you made your decision?
Not long now!