In the early and mid-1960s, despite the rise in popular music, there were no rock or pop festivals held1. Music fans wishing to see their favourite acts live had to attend individual concerts, although many of them may have had support acts. Then in August 1967 the first popular music festival in Britain took place2, followed in 1968 by the Isle of Wight Festival - Britain's second popular music festival. In 1969 the second Isle of Wight Festival took place, and thus the Isle of Wight became Britain's first repeat popular music festival, paving the way for Glastonbury and all other festivals that followed.
The Isle of Wight Festival3 was held in various locations between 1968 and 1970, but since 2002 has been held at Seaclose Park.
The Festival's History
The Isle of Wight Festival is a story of how to fail to build a swimming pool in style. In the late 1960s there were no municipal swimming pools on the Isle of Wight. People wanting to go swimming were forced to either visit one of the Island's beaches or the outdoor Blue Lagoon swimming pool in Sandown, neither of which were popular in the winter. The local council was uninterested in paying for a pool, so local residents decided to hold a music festival to raise money for the cause. Although it failed to raise enough money, and sadly made a loss, it did pave the way for a second festival the following year4.
In 1969 one man helped turn the fledgling festival into a major musical event. Two years after his last live performance, shortly before a serious motorcycle accident, Bob Dylan, one of the most popular and influential musicians of his age, was living in seclusion at his home in Woodstock. Hoping to wean him back into public life, he received offers inviting him to perform at two different music festivals; the first, Woodstock, was to be deliberately held near his home to make it easy for him to attend. Bob Dylan chose instead to travel across the globe to perform at the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival, which was advertised as 'Bob Dylan's Only Appearance in the World'. Highlights of Bob Dylan's 1969 Isle of Wight Festival appearance can be heard on his Self Portrait' album. Although 2010 is the first time Paul McCartney has been to the Isle of Wight Festival, in 1969 John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr5 attended in the audience, watching Bob Dylan perform. In 2004 Ringo Starr's son, Zak Starkey, performed at the Isle of Wight Festival, drumming for The Who.
The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival was the biggest music festival in the world at the time. More people attended the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival than Woodstock, with over 700,000 people in attendance. Joni Mitchell, who wrote a song entitled 'Woodstock', was not actually at Woodstock but attended the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, along with other acts including Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Moody Blues, Melanie and Donovan. More people attended the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival than Live Aid. Only one other music festival of the time, the 1973 Summer Jam, was of comparative size.
Sadly, the festival was a victim of its own success; many of the 700,000 attendees chose to sit on Afton Down, the hillside overlooking the 1970 festival site, watching the festival for free at a distance. Others, who refused to pay, rioted and broke into the festival site itself.
1971 Isle of Wight Act
Parliament responded with the 1971 Isle of Wight Act which was specifically designed to prevent music festivals from taking place on the Isle of Wight. No unauthorised gatherings of more than 5,000 people could take place on the Island, and the hours in which large crowds could assemble were restricted to before midnight.
Since the passing of the 1971 Isle of Wight Act, other festivals, such as the Reading and Leeds festivals have arisen - most notably Glastonbury, which has replaced the Isle of Wight Festival as Britain's largest music festival. Glastonbury also suffered until the mid-1990s from riots and attempts to break into the festival grounds, with attacks on the toilets common at the Reading and Leeds festivals too. Fortunately in recent years the majority of festival goers are from a younger, more responsible generation who expect to pay to attend music events.
In 2002 permission was granted to re-establish a music festival on the Isle of Wight, firstly with a one-night event, known as Rock Island 2002, held at Seaclose Park, as well as surrounding fields and the neighbouring Medina arboretum. Seaclose Park was deemed a better location for the festival than sites in Godshill, Wootton and Freshwater, used for previous festivals. Being in the centre of the Island, Newport, the capital, is easy to get to from any of the ferries and has regular bus links. Newport, being one of the larger towns on the Island, is one of the few places that can cope with an extra 75,000 people – over half the population of the Isle of Wight – suddenly turning up on its doorstep. It has a reasonable selection of shops, supermarkets and pubs, and the festival site is within a very short walk from the town centre.
A larger, two-day event occured in 2003, but it was the 2004 festival, the first three-day festival since 1970, that put the Isle of Wight Festival back on the musical map, with the return of The Who, who had performed at the 1969 and 1970 festivals, as well as David Bowie, Stereophonics and Manic Street Preachers headlining. Since 2004 a three-day event has taken place every year at Seaclose Park in the second weekend in June.
The Isle of Wight Festival since 2008 progressed to two, and in 2009 three main stages: the Main Stage, in the main Seaclose Park field, the Big Top, a stage inside a large marquee, and the Acoustic Stage. The Big Top, being an almost fully enclosed space, is by far the loudest stage, but has a great atmosphere. The sound quality varies greatly in the field around the main stage depending on where you stand. As well as the stages, since 2002 there have also been giant screens showing the performances dotted around the site, as well as next to the stages. Although having more stages means that more acts are able to appear at the festival, sadly this means it is no longer possible to see everyone.
As well as the three official stages there are smaller stages inside the larger beer tents, where live entertainment is performed. There have also been, in European and World Cup years, giant television screens showing the football.
The Isle of Wight Festival, like most music festivals, charges more than average for food and drinks and food and drink brought into the area from outside. There is a wide variety of different types of takeaway food available at a convenient distance from the main stage and elsewhere, although the quality of the food varies greatly. It is worth trying to find the best and tastiest food stalls, or eating outside the festival venue if there are no acts on that you wish to see at the time. Queues for food become extremely long later in the day between the big acts, so it is worth eating early. There is also a fun fair, and a field with a wide range of stalls selling all sorts of things.
Tickets for the Isle of Wight Festival are expensive, however if you compare the price to the price to see two different big live acts at other arenas or stadiums, the price per hour works out quite reasonable for three days of entertainment, provided you see at least two or three acts you really like.
The Isle of Wight Festival has its own established joke, which goes something like this:
Did you know that the Strokes and the Kooks are performing at the Isle of Wight Festival this year?
Not this year, just the Strokes and the Kooks.
Mobile phone networks and manufacturers have sponsored the festival in recent years, including Nokia, BT and Blackberry. This is perhaps ironic, as the one electronic device that does not seem to work at the festival is indeed the mobile phone. Having almost 75,000 mobile-phone-owning people in such a comparatively small space, many of whom trying to keep in touch with other people there, completely jams the local mobile phone provision. With the volume from the stages making conversation difficult and the mobile network's reception unreliable as far as text messaging is concerned, anyone attending a festival is advised to arrange where and when to meet up with friends in advance.
Isle of Wight Festival Television Coverage
Since 2002, like most large festivals, highlights of the Isle of Wight Festival have been broadcast on television on the weekend of the event. Between 2004 and 2007 the festival has had highlights broadcast by Channel 4, and between 2008 and 2010 the rights to broadcast have been bought by ITV2. As the broadcasts have been shown on commercial stations, there has usually been on average a five-minute advert break after every 10 minutes of programme.
After being at a festival, seeing the television broadcast can be quite disappointing. Although you do get to see the artists up close without anyone's head in the way, the television cameras don't always capture the atmosphere, the thrill of being there. And they also fail to capture the noise – a song that everyone was singing along to loudly in a deafening manner is shown at a reasonable volume on the television, with the 75,000 audience singing along reduced to a background noise.
This took place on a farm outside the sleepy village of Godshill on 31 August, 1968. It was also known as 'The Great South Coast Bank Holiday Pop Festivity'
- Tyrannosaurus Rex
- Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation
- Plastic Penny
- The Move
- The Pretty Things
- Jefferson Airplane6
- (The Crazy World Of) Arthur Brown
- Fairport Convention
- The Cherokees
This took place outside Wootton.
|Friday 29 August||Saturday 30 August||Sunday 31 August|
|Nice||The Moody Blues||Bob Dylan|
|Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band||Joe Cocker and the Grease Band||The Band|
|Eclection||Fat Mattress||Richie Havens|
|Marsupilami||The Who||Julie Felix|
|Pretty Things||Tom Paxton|
|Marsha Hunt||Indo-Jazz Fusions|
|Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation||Third Ear Band|
|Edgar Broughton Band||Liverpool Scene|
|Wednesday 27 August||Thursday 28 August||Friday 29 August||Saturday 30 August||Sunday 31 August|
|Mighty Baby||Terry Reid||Cactus||Sly and the Family Stone||Richie Havens|
|Kris Kristofferson||Groundhogs||Voices of East Harlem||Melanie||Leonard Cohen and the Army|
|Kathy Smith||Black Widow||Procol Harum||The Who||Joan Baez|
|Rosalie Sorrels||Gilberto Gil and Caentano Veloso||Family||The Doors||Jimi Hendrix|
|Judus Jump||Supertramp||Chicago||Emerson, Lake and Palmer||Jethro Tull|
|Tony Joe White||Ten Years After||The Moody Blues|
|Fairfield Parlour||Lighthouse||Ralph McTell|
|Shawn Philips||Kris Kristofferson|
|John B Sebastian||Good News|
The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival was filmed and recorded, allowing artists who performed there to subsequently release albums of their performances. There is also a selection of performances from the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, released on both DVD and double CD, called Message To Love – The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. Other available performances include:
- Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 - available on CD and DVD
- Jethro Tull, Nothing Is Easy - Live at the Isle of Wight 1970
- Jimi Hendrix has had a number of videos, albums etc. containing extracts from the Isle of Wight Festival, but the definitive version is Blue Wild Angel – Live at the Isle of Wight Festival. This has been released on DVD and in single and double CD editions.
- Leonard Cohen - Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 available on CD and DVD.
- The Moody Blues - Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 - available on CD and DVD.
- The Who – Live At The 1970 Isle of Wight Festival - available on CD and DVD.
2002 Festival – Rock Island
This was the first to use the current site of Seaclose Park, Newport. From this festival's humble relaunch the Isle of Wight Festival's continued success would emerge.
Monday 3 June 2002
- The Charlatans
- Robert Plant
- Hundred Reasons
- The Coral
- The Bees
The Bees are the most successful Isle of Wight band since Level 42. The Isle of Wight Festival, since 2002, has encouraged smaller Isle of Wight bands to appear by holding a talent competition known as Wight Noise, the winners of which get to perform at the Festival.
|Saturday 14 June||Sunday 15 June|
|Paul Weller||Bryan Adams|
|Iggy Pop||The Darkness|
|John Squire||Hell Is for Heroes|
|The Cooper Temple Clause||The Raveonettes|
Starsailor became the first act of the 21st Century to return to the Isle of Wight Festival.
|Friday 11 June||Saturday 12 June||Sunday 13 June|
|Stereophonics||The Who||David Bowie|
|Groove Armada||Manic Street Preachers||The Charlatans|
|Super Furry Animals||Jet||The Libertines|
|22-20s||The Stands||Snow Patrol|
|The Duke Spirit||The Electric Soft Parade||Delays|
|British Sea Power||Suzanne Vega|
|Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel||Alfie|
|Proud Mary||Jerry Fish and the Mudbug Club|
|The Leah Wood Group||Countermine|
|RAW Samba||RAW Samba|
At the 2004 festival:
- The Charlatans became the first act to have been relegated from Headline Act status (in 2002) to support act status.
- The Who became the first act to not only play at three different Isle of Wight Festivals, but at three different Isle of Wight Festivals in three different decades – 1969, 1970 and 2004.
A DVD entitled Isle of Wight Festival 2004 was released. This contained songs from the performances by Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Snow Patrol and Jet, but curiously not the main headline acts of The Who and David Bowie.
|Friday 10 June||Saturday 11 June||Sunday 12 June|
|Razorlight||Roxy Music||Snow Patrol|
|Idlewild||Goldie Lookin Chain||Starsailor|
|Black Velvets||Babyshambles||The Magic Numbers|
|Mighty Roars||Ray Davies7||Caravan|
|Nine Black Alps||The Subways|
|Tara Blaise||Kate Aumonier|
Snow Patrol became the first act at the Isle of Wight Festival to appear one year (2004) as a support act and return the following year as a headliner.
Starsailor became the first act to appear three times at the Isle of Wight Festival in the same decade.
|Friday 9 June||Saturday 10 June||Sunday 11 June|
|Goldfrapp||The Editors||Lou Reed|
|The Rakes||Dirty Pretty Things||Maxïmo Park|
|Morning Runner||Suzanne Vega||Kubb|
|The Kooks||Procol Harum|
|The Proclaimers||The Delays|
|The Upper Room||Cathead|
|Friday 8 June||Saturday 9 June||Sunday 10 June|
|Snow Patrol||Muse||The Rolling Stones|
|The Feeling||Ash||The Fratellis|
|Echo & the Bunnymen||Wolfmother||Paolo Nutini|
|Koopa||Amy Winehouse||James Morrison|
|Arno Carstens||Country Joe McDonald|
|Carbon Silicon||The Hedrons|
|Friday 13 June||Saturday 14 June||Sunday 15 June|
|Kaiser Chiefs||Sex Pistols||The Police|
|N.E.R.D||Ian Brown||The Kooks|
|KT Tunstall||Iggy & the Stooges||James|
|The Hoosiers||The Zutons||Starsailor|
|The Wombats||The Enemy||Scouting For Girls|
|Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong||Kate Nash||Newton Faulkner|
|The Answer||The Cribs||Delays|
|Amy Macdonald||We See Lights|
|One Night Only||Proximity Effect|
|Black Stone Cherry|
|Friday 13 June||Saturday 14 June||Sunday 15 June|
|The Stranglers||The Sugababes||Feeder|
|Curved Air||The Australian Pink Floyd Show||New Young Pony Club|
|The Duke Spirit||Arno Carstens||The Music|
|Arno Carstens||Stone Gods||Arno Carstens|
|Friday 12 June||Saturday 13 June||Sunday 14 June|
|The Prodigy||Stereophonics||Neil Young|
|Pendulum||Maxïmo Park||Simple Minds|
|The Ting Tings||White Lies||The Pigeon Detectives|
|Iglu & Hartly||Paolo Nutini||The Script|
|Sneaky Sound System||The View||Goldie Lookin Chain|
|Sharon Corr||Judy Collins|
|The Rifles||Arno Carstens|
|The Zombies||Papa Do Plenty|
|The Yeah You's|
|Friday 12 June||Saturday 13 June||Sunday 14 June|
|Bananarama||Australian Pink Floyd||The Charlatans|
|Alesha Dixon||Calvin Harris||The Horrors|
|The Noisettes||McFly||Black Lips|
|Beverley Knight||Will Young||The Rumble Strips|
|Eddi Reader||Mercury Rev||The Pains of Being Pure at Heart|
|Pixie Lott||The Rakes||Hatcham Social|
|Jessie Evans||Poppy & the Jezebels|
|The Operators||We Could Be Giants|
|The Arcadian Kicks||Dance for Burgess|
|Friday 11 June||Saturday 12 June||Sunday 13 June|
|Jay-Z||The Strokes||Paul McCartney|
|Florence and the Machine||Blondie||Pink|
|Calvin Harris||Biffy Clyro||Editors|
|Doves||Vampire Weekend||Spandau Ballet|
|Ian Broudie & 'Three Lions' Sing Along||Crowded House||Friendly Fires|
|Mr Hudson||Paloma Faith||The Courteeners|
|Hockey||The Hold Steady||Suzanne Vega|
|Juliette Lewis||Detroit Social Club|
|Juliette Lewis||La Roux||Ocean Colour Scene|
|Marina and the Diamonds||N Dubz||Local Natives|
|Shakespears Sister||The Saturdays||Reef|
|Wonderland||Noah And The Whale||Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel|
|Woman||Devendra Banhart||The Big Pink|
|Daisy Dares You||Bombay Bicycle Club||OAR|
|I Blame Coco||Semi Precious Weapons||The Alarm|
|Arno Carstens||Saint Jude|
So far, 34 acts have performed at the Isle of Wight Festival more than once. Two acts have appeared at four festivals:
- Arno Carstens - 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010
- Starsailor - 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2008
Six acts have appeared at three festivals:
- The Charlatans - 2002, 2004 and 2009
- Countermine - 2003, 2004 and 2005
- Delays - 2004, 2006 and 2008
- Snow Patrol - 2004, 2005 and 2007
- Suzanne Vega - 2004, 2006 and 2010
- The Who - 1969, 1970 and 2004
Twenty-six acts have appeared twice. The biggest gap between the first and second appearance held by Melanie, who returned to the Isle of Wight Festival after a wait of 40 years.
- Ash - 2002 and 2007
- Australian Pink Floyd Show - 2008 and 2009
- Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation - 1968 and 1969
- Calvin Harris - 2009 and 2010
- Donovan - 1970 and 2007
- Duke Spirit - 2004 and 2008
- Editors - 2006 and 2010
- Family - 1969 and 1970
- Feeder - 2005 and 2008
- Goldie Lookin Chain - 2005 and 2009
- Groove Armada - 2004 and 2007
- James - 2008 and 20010
- The Kooks - 2006 and 2008
- Maxïmo Park - 2006 and 2009
- Melanie - 1970 and 2010
- The Moody Blues - 1969 and 1970
- Paolo Nutini - 2007 and 2009
- Pentangle - 1969 and 1970
- Pretty Things - 1968 and 1969
- Procol Harum - 1970 and 2006
- Prodigy - 2006 and 2009
- The Rakes - 2006 and 2009
- Razorlight - 2005 and 2009
- Richie Havens - 1969 and 1970
- Stereophonics - 2004 and 2009
- Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel - 2004 and 2010
Curiously, the most common word in the name of acts performing at the Isle of Wight Festival9 is 'black'. Bands have performed with the names of:
- Black Widow - 1970
- Black Velvets - 2005
- Black Stone Cherry - 2008
- Black Lips - 2009
Since 2004 the Isle of Wight has also hosted a second, smaller, annual music festival. This, called the Bestival, has been held in Robin Hill, a nearby country park in the heart of the Island's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The acts that have performed at the Bestival include:
- Amy Winehouse
- Basement Jaxx
- Beastie Boys
- The Bees
- Calvin Harris
- The Chemical Brothers
- The Coral
- Fatboy Slim
- Fleet Foxes
- Florence and the Machine
- Friendly Fires
- Grace Jones
- The Human League
- Kate Nash
- Lily Allen
- The Magic Numbers
- Massive Attack
- Pet Shop Boys
- Primal Scream
- Scissor Sisters
- Super Furry Animals
- Will Young
Since 2004, outdoor music events have also been held in the grounds of Osborne House.