Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Isle of Wight Festival 1969

By Tom Sangers

The 1969 opening of the Isle of Wight Festival was held at Wootton on August 30th and 31. It was extremely popular, having attracted approximately 150,000 people. They flocked to the festival in order to see Bob Dylan, The Who and Free. This was the second of three legendary festivals held on this island and they were all held between the years of 1968 and 1970.

The 1969 festival was considered to be well managed and comparatively trouble free, the 1970 event was anything but. Jimi Hendrix, Chicago, The Doors, The Who, Joan Baez and Free played to a crowd of up to 800,000 people that year. In 1970, the opposition to the festival was much better organized than they had been in previous years.

The Isle of Wight has always been a favorite retirement destination for those that were well to do. It has been a paradise for the yachting set. These well heeled, more traditional minded residents resented the invasion of the hippies and freaks. Renting a few acres in order to hold the music festival had been easy in the earlier years, however in 1970, the festival location was subject to a council/committee approval and the residents lobbied hard against it. This resulted in the festival not gaining entry to their preferred location and setting for East Afton Farm, Afton Down. It seemed that this location was deliberately selected for its inadequacy for the purpose.

One thing that happened was that the location made it possible for a large number of people to camp out on a hill that overlooked the festival, they got to view the whole thing for free. The Isle of Wight Festivals had already amassed a strong reputation in 1968 and 1969, greats such as Jefferson Airplane, T. Rex, The Move, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan and Pretty Things had already performed there. The Who was in their foundation phase when they took the stage at the festival.

The organizers of the festival, Fiery Creations, were determined that the 1970 event would be legendary and even under adversity, the festival definitely reached epic proportions. If you consider the fact that the island resident population is approximately 100,000, it's quite a feat to pull in over a 150,000 in 1969 and then up to 800,000 in 1970. The 1970 festival marked the end of the life span of the festival on the Isle of Wight for thirty-two years.

The artists that performed at this festival were astounding, they were very popular, very 'in demand' artists and they drew crowds strongly. With Bob Dylan at the microphone for the 1969 festival, there were members of the audience that were as notable as the performers on the stage. Among the 150,000 people were John Lennon with Yoko Ono. Ringo Star, and George Harrison were also present. The Rolling Stones were in the audience along with Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, Eric Clapton, Elton John and Jane Fonda. With the legends of music on stage and off, who wouldn't want to have attended such an event?

This article was written by Tom Sangers for Garden Isle, a provider of Isle of Wight Holidays and accommodation in the Isle of Wight.

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1 comment:

  1. There are so much stories around this Isle of Wight happening.

    It was the return of Bob Dylan and my altime hero George Harrison was there, and found out that Bob had forgotten his harmonica so George sent a message to his Miss O'Dell secretary at the office who brought it in in time via a helicopter flight lol.