Isle of Wight Festival… yesterday, today and tomorrow

Festival dell'Isola di Wight

On August 31, 1968, the first edition of the WIght Island Festival was held, still alive today. Let’s find out its history.

Do you know what the Isle of Wight Festival is? Actually, do you know what the Isle of Wight is? For Dik-Dik it was “the island of those who / have the blue of youth in their eyes / of those who sing hippy, hippy hippy” (translated from Italian).

Probably those who are more than a certain age will also be humming these verses. I am not humming them, I think I have already revealed my age previously, but at the moment I want to say nothing, even if it was the secret of Fatima!

Anyway, back to the Isle of Wight and Dik Dik, did you know this song is not original? And, above all, that the Isle of Wight really exists and that for over 50 years (more or less …) it has been a wicked festival? Speaking of wickedness, don’t be afraid, we’ll tell you everything!

Isle of Wight Festival – 1968 and 1969

The Isle of Wight Festival saw its birth in 1968, a year before the Woodstock one. This island is the largest in England and is located in the south of the country, precisely here. Reaching it is not difficult, there are numerous ferries, and therefore it represents an ideal place to camp, isolate yourself a bit with drugs of all kinds and have a festival. And if we talk about camping, drugs, great ideals, and the late 60s, imagine a horde (a little less so) of hippies, perhaps riding their motorcycles. 

It was precisely August 31, 1968, when the first edition of the Isle of Wight Festival was held. To be even more precise, it was held at the Ford Farm near Godshill and about 10,000 people attended. Jefferson Airplane were the stars of this two-day festival. Along with them, other icons of rock music and psychedelia: Arthur Brown, The Move, Smile, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, Plastic Penny, Fairport Convention, and The Pretty Things.

The following year’s edition, 1969, was held from 29 to 31 August in the city of Wootton. This time around 150,000 people went there. It was organized by Rikki Farr and the brothers Ronnie and Ray Foulk and it became a legendary event, largely thanks to the participation of Bob Dylan, who had spent the previous three years hiding from the spotlight after a motorcycle accident. In addition to Dylan, the line up included other incredible names, such as The Who, The Moody Blues, and Joe Cocker.

1970

The 1970 edition of the Isle of Wight Festival was held between 26 and 31 August in Afton Down, an area on the western side of the island. This edition has been widely recognized as the greatest musical event of its time, with even more attendance than Woodstock. Although estimates vary, the Guinness Book of World Records estimates 600,000, possibly 700,000 people in attendance. Everything was organized again by the Foulk brothers and Rikki Farr, with different tasks to manage the venue in the best possible way.

The 1970 version, after the previous year’s Woodstock, was set out to do even better and so enlisted therefore  Jimi Hendrix (in his last concert). With Hendrix confirmed, artists like The Doors, The Moody Blues, The Who, Miles Davis, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake & Palmer were recruited without problems. Can you imagine being there and enjoying the lineup … we put it in the next paragraph, just to drool a little.

The lineup of the 1970 edition

No comments … just drool! I took this photo of the original poster myself at the MET in New York. Take a look at all manifestos, most are small Art Nouveau works of art.

Festival stops

The event had many problems due to the strong wind that “carried away” the sound and because of the logistics since it was not easy to manage 600 thousand people on an island that had only 100 thousand inhabitants. At the same time, the island’s transportation services were already being strained by the annual influx of summer vacationers (many of whom were wealthy, members of the island’s various yacht clubs who frowned upon hippies and freaks). In addition, some groups of knife-wielding French anarchists were already creating problems during the ferry crossing from the mainland to the island.

The economic bloodbath (the organizers realized the commercial failure) was accompanied by the intervention of the British authorities, who drafted a special law (the Isle of Wight Council Act) which prohibited the holding of events with over 5,000 people on the ‘island.

A move that put an end to the Festival for 32 years. However, several recordings remain a documentary from 1996,  Message to Love, directed by Murray Lerner and two famous songs: Wight Is Wight sung by Michel Delpech (which, however, was mainly dedicated to the 1969 edition of the festival as Bob Dylan, present only in that year, was mentioned) and his Italian “cover” sung precisely by the aforementioned Dik Dik. Millions of copies of the records were sold but the funny thing is that the group, on the Isle of Wight, never set foot there!

Year 2000 and beyond

The first Isle of Wight Festival after that of 1970 was held after 32 years, therefore in 2002. The Festival had, for this year alone, another name, Rock Island. It was held on a single day, June 3 and, even if the maximum expected capacity was 22 thousand people, in reality, there were a maximum of 10 thousand. The festival was opened by a local band, Neglected Youth, who won the right to open the concert thanks to a talent show, a tradition that continues today. This edition featured Robert Plant, Starsailor, and Ash, to name a few.

From 2002 a new tradition was inaugurated, that of holding the concert in June. The artists who have performed on the Isle of Wight stage since then have been amazing. To name a few:  The Rolling Stones, The Who, David Bowie, Muse, Foo Fighters, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam, Kasabian, Amy Winehouse, Kings of Leon, Jay-Z, The Strokes, Coldplay, The Sex Pistols, Fleetwood Mac, The Police, Blondie, and Biffy Clyro.

And today? Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the 2020 edition has been canceled but postponed with the same artists to 2021. Here is the program, maybe next year we will write the report of the event directly from there! Just 2 hours from London, the Festival is truly reachable!

We hope that things will go better in our future and that we will be able to enjoy numerous concerts in 2021. As the official website of the Isle of Wight Festival says:

“Real music is our heritage and one we’re constantly building on. Like life, music constantly evolves and changes, and so do we. “.

Isle-of-Wight-Festival-2021-LineUp
Isle-of-Wight-Festival-2021-LineUp https://isleofwightfestival.com/

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