IOW Interview John Giddings

Isle Of Wight 2009 interview

published: Wed 17th Jun 2009

John Giddings

Friday 12th to Sunday 14th June 2009
Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 2DN, England MAP
£120 adult no camping, £60 child (12 and under), £140 with camping - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 50000
last updated: Mon 8th Jun 2009

As the sun beat down on the final day of the IOW festival 2009, event organiser John Giddings took time out to speak to eFestivals about how he thinks this year’s festival went down, just what makes the IOW festival so different to any other, and bands he would love to book for 2010. Just time for a few quick photos outside Fearne Cotton's amazing campervan before the interview kicked off...

John Giddings
Why does the sun always shine on the IOW festival?
People think that I have done a deal with the devil for it not to rain in eight years. Michael Eavis phones me every year and says you bas**ard!

Have you enjoyed the Isle of Wight (IOW) Festival?
I always enjoy myself. I think it's fantastic to see the bands that you love. The Stereophonics were phenomenal last night. Kelly Jones can just project so well. He can control an audience. He can perform to an audience. The thing about the bands we book is its not about how many records they have sold this year, or what position they are in the chart, it's about whether your capable of projecting and entertaining an audience.

Do you like to get out and about during the festival?
Yes I love it! To get the feeling for it. Punters come up to you and tell you about their good and bad experiences.

What sort of feedback have you had this year?
People have loved it more than ever because there has been more to see. It's been more entertaining.

Thursday night went well didn't it!?
That was brilliant – I couldn't believe it - what a reaction. By 6 o'clock Thursday there were 30,00 people on campsite, that's 10,000 more than the year before. It's great to get people in that early. They loved The Human League!

Who were you most pleased to get this year?
Neil Young. I've tried him every year! Only, I couldn't work out who to play with him and suddenly someone reminded me that The Pixies played Reading a few years ago and I found out my mate manages them, so I phoned him up. They said they don't really want to do anything, but because it's Neil Young they would get on a plane tomorrow! Neil Young and The Pixies is a bill to die for. I am very proud. I think it will be awesome.

If you could get a headliner back who would it be?
I'd get The Who back and I'd get REM back, I'd get Muse back, Coldplay, Foo Fighters; they're all brilliant.

What about acts for future years? How about Meatloaf - is he too dear?
Not too dear. I don't think meatloaf is the right kind of act to put on at the festival . I think he would be good at Osbourne House. Genesis, I would love Genesis. I have asked them every year.

Is Fleetwood Mac realistic?
I'd put Fleetwood Mac on the Sunday I think. I offered it to them this year but they are not touring until the Autumn.

Do you have a continuing commitment to opening Saturday and Sunday with a local Isle of Wight band?
Yes of course. I go to Platform One and see them. I truly believe that having the festival on this island has made island kids want to play music more. That's just an impression I get – that's not arrogance that's just a fact of life, from what I hear and see around the island. When I first came here everybody said "oh I went there as a kid", meaning I came here as a beach holiday, and now I think we are making it a destination for young people to enjoy themselves. What I think we need to do now is upgrade the island and get some better hotels, facilities. For the first year ever last year, the IOW festival was more newsworthy than Cowes Week, which in seven years of running it I thought was a great thing to achieve.

Does it get harder each year to top the acts For example- it's hard to top the Rolling Stones!
You can never top acts like the Rolling Stones. You just can't. This year I have made it a much wider field, so I haven't just had rock acts but pop acts, I've had dance acts, I've had indie acts, so there's something for everyone all over the site. What I haven't booked is a blues band so I must book a blues band.

What I also want to do is expand the site into the extra field between the camp sites and Strawberry Fields, where you walk through. I still want to do that idea of having the biggest inland beach ever made. Have deckchairs on it, sand castles, competitions; it's going to be fun.

Would you increase the numbers then if you were going to increase the space?
I wouldn't increase the capacity. I think we are too close to civilisation to bring more people into the community. I think it works well as it is. Everybody knows what it is. Everyone's happy with what it is. The only reason for having more people is greed and it's not about making money. It's about having a good time and everybody enjoying themselves. I spend all year round obsessing about how I can enhance audience enjoyment, coming up with stupid ideas – like coming up with the acoustic stage.

The acoustic stage was a real surprise this year wasn't it?
Yes that was the element of surprise for this year. Why tell everyone – what's the point in that!

Have you started planning next year?
As soon as you complete the bill for one year you start thinking about who you could have for next year. It's still wild ideas at the moment, but I'd like to have The Killers, Oasis, Kings of Leon; there are loads of groups I'd like to have. Bob Dylan is a target, definitely, because of the heritage and history.

Next year is a big year isn't it as it's the 40th anniversary of the festival?
For 32 years the festival lay dormant. What happened is that Michael Eavis wandered through the fields of the IOW festival [it was actually Bath Blue Festival - Editor] and thought "oh I'll have a go at that", so single handedly the Isle of Wight gave Michael Eavis the idea of the ability to create the biggest festival in the UK. I think the IOW festival can never rival Glastonbury – it will always be a warm up for it. I don't ever want to achieve those kind of numbers. I think Glastonbury is a great event that's very different to ours. You know, you've got 150 groups and you'll never get to see all of them. I like to think that you can get round the site at the IOW and see different things. It's nice that you can pop over and see The Charlatans after you've seen Neil Young. They are not a million miles away.

How do you think you can develop the Eco side of things?
I've got no idea until I talk to my Eco people but I will do as much as physically possible. I think we should be responsible for the environment. If you bring this many people to an island you should attempt to do something about it. Unfortunately, I went and booked the Red Arrows, so how does that figure!

I forgot to tell Paulo Nutini that they were coming. He nearly wet himself! It was absolutely classic. I suddenly remembered when I saw them coming I thought oh sh*t! He had literally just finished when they came over. Twenty four minutes they did. It was incredible.

How do you think this year compares to other years? Are things getting better every year?
There seems to be a different vibe this year. I can never work out where the vibe comes from. It just seems to grow. People seem to be more enthusiastic. At some festivals you feel very tense, or feel alienated because people are getting out of it late at night and think where am I and you can get disorientated. IOW festival is not too big that you don't know where your tent is.

Is there anything you wouldn't do again?
It's a learning process. I am obsessed about how to try and make the busses work – segregating the campers from the non campers and bringing buses along Fairlee Road and making it easier for everyone. We have a meeting for a morning every hour to discuss the technicalities. It’s all about trying to make it better.

What makes the IOW festival different to other festivals?
I think it's the location, the heritage and because I’m old I book acts from different decades. So, I love Neil Young, but I love Razorlight, so I bung them all together and it attracts a demographic from 15-50. It’s not all twenty five year old kids and it's not ten indie bands in a row, so that gives it a different flavour.

Is that what makes it more relaxed because of the diverse range of people?
Probably yes. You also get to listen to such a diverse range of music too. Everyone has said to me – I have never heard of The Zombies, but they were brilliant! They used to rehearse in my Dad's cricket pavilion!

What do you think are the main things that people will take away from the event this year?
I think they are going to remember the sun, the headliners performances and how good certain acts were in the in the Big Top – like Will Young, 15,000 people watching Will Young. McFly were incredible! And the other thing is the element of surprise – you just walk past the acoustic stage and someone comes on. Also, people enjoy coming here because it's known as the friendly festival.

Thank you for your time.
You're welcome. Thank you for coming and I hope you enjoy the remainder of the festival!
interview by: Tricia Owen-Williams

Friday 12th to Sunday 14th June 2009
Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 2DN, England MAP
£120 adult no camping, £60 child (12 and under), £140 with camping - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 50000
last updated: Mon 8th Jun 2009

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