IOW boss John Giddings speaks exclusively to eFestivals

site changes, contactless wristbands, Bruce Springsteen, and more

published: Mon 28th Nov 2011

John Giddings

Friday 10th to Sunday 12th June 2011
Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 2DN, England MAP
£175 weekend with camping - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 60000
last updated: Wed 8th Jun 2011

eFestivals got the chance to speak exclusively with John Giddings, festival organiser of the Isle Of Wight Festival about last week's announcement of Bruce Springsteen, and his plans for next summer's festival.

John Giddings
Hi John. How are you?
Very happy, the sun is shining what else do we need? ... We need sixty other groups!

Were you pleased with how many tickets were bought in the early bird period?
Yes, I think it's phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal I'm really pleased that people have shown so much support for the event without knowing who is going to be on it. It speaks for the event doesn't it?

How many were sold in total?
Just under 20,000.

Is the capacity increasing next year with the bigger license?
No, we got a bigger license but it's for staff and guest, and stuff. I don't want to increase the capacity until what I've done this (next) year. I'm opening up the site, opening up the entrances and taking some concessions out. I want to make sure there's enough space for everybody, that's the priority.

What changes are you planning on making to the site next year?
I'm going to move the Garden Stage into what's known as Penny Lane, and give it a bigger arena to play to. I'm going to have a screen in the campsite to broadcast the football, the quarter finals, which are on every night, and I'm moving what's called 'posh camping' over the road to give more space on the campsite.

I'm not going to sell any more camping tickets, but I am going to move some of the camping over the road, to give everybody more space. It's all about creating space, people being comfortable and the audience experience, because if you make the audience happy they will come back, not just for who the headliner is, but for the experience of being there for the weekend.

Any plans to increase the number of stages?
What I'm going to do is programme the Garden Stage with higher profile acts and make it more indie. So, between the Main Stage, The Big Top, The Garden Stage, and having a screen I think there's enough there with loads of other things for people to do.

The Beach was success last year that I'm going to make it three times as big this year.

I was about to ask if that would be making a return next year.
It's making a big return. I figured on a holiday island you should bring the beach to the festival, as opposed to the other way around. We are also going to have an Eco-Playground where you can ride on a roundabout, or seesaw, or swing and it will be powering the Silent Disco, next to the beach. I love the way people say it's a Silent Disco, and yet you hear a thousand people singing out of tune, at the tops of their voices.

Are you planning any other surprises as well?
I haven't thought about it, let's book the rest of the bands and get on with it.

Will the Isle Of Wight be in 3D again next year?
I'm hoping for it to be, I haven't completed the process, but that's what we are aiming for, that was very successful. Sky were very pleased, and they perceived us as the jewel in their crown, so it's great.

You moved the festival into the Glastonbury slot to avoid the half term traffic, does that mean you won't be in half term weekends in future years?
That's right, we'll move (to our normal weekend) next time, it was just for one year only because the ferry companies told me they couldn't handle the traffic. Half term has moved back by a week next year, but it won't be there the week after next.

Will Bruce Springsteen be having a two and a half hour headlining slot?
Yes, with every hit he's ever recorded.

You've also said you'd like to book two American rock bands as the headliners.
Well I've made offers to them, so let's not tempt fate, but I'm aiming for the 'American Trilogy', what that means is that in the Big Top I'm going to have more dance and urban acts than I've ever had before.

Still a few Eighties acts?
Probably a few Eighties acts, but I don't know I haven't booked that one yet.

How do you plan to do the bookings? Will you concentrate on the Main Stage first?
I make it up as I go along, depending on who's available, what I think is right. You have to programme the other stages depending on who the headliner is, because if you had a Dance headliner on the Friday you don't want a Dance headliner in the Big Top on the same night. So, you can't confirm anything until you know who is going to be the headliner. The major consideration for headliners on the Main Stage is that you don't want the same genre of act to conflict with them.

Do you have any idea when you might hear back from the other headline acts?
Christmas (laughs), before Christmas, I hope to announce another headliner before Christmas.

Is there anybody you've never had at the Isle Of Wight that you'd love to book?
The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Stone Roses, Pearl Jam, Aerosmith...

None of those are likely to be this year's headliners, in relation to the American acts?
No, Pink Floyd, ...

What would you do if your headliner had to pull out the day before they were due to play the stage?
I'd phone every single famous person I knew, and say please bring your group tomorrow to play for me. But, until it happens, who knows, you have to deal with it with the tools available to you.

You trialed the RFID Wristbands at the Isle Of Wight this summer...
Yes, we're definitely going to do that again it was very successful.

Would that just be for hospitality again?
No, we're looking to expand it to the main gates. We're hoping to do it, it's not finalised yet, but that's what we're looking at?

How do they work, do people put money on them before they go to the festival?
It's all to do with clicking on them on the way in, and you can put money on them if you want. We've not finalised it yet, so talking about that now is a bit of a mistake.

Did you this year send the wristbands out beforehand?
Yes, we always do that. We've done that for years. We were the first person to do that. I thought, 'Why do we send everyone a ticket, then they turn up and we wristband them? Why don't we send them a wristband first?' It's the most stupid idea in the world sending everyone a ticket and then spending hours wristbanding them. It delays them getting in by half an hour.

Last time we spoke we had a conversation about ticket touts, have you brought in any measures to combat that? ... I've just realised if you're using RFID wristbands this question is redundant because you don't have tickets you will have coded wristbands.
It's impossible, well unless they buy the wristband. There's no law against selling a wristband, as long as they're not selling hundreds.

Presumably if you're suing Radio-frequency identification (RFID) wristbands, you are able to track them?
Exactly, there are secret ways.

Some people are saying festivals are booming and some are saying they are in decline, what's your take on the current status of the industry?
I can only speak about my one, and we seem to be doing okay, touch wood. I think the market is definitely overrun with festivals, but I think like anything the big ones survive, the mid-range ones are a different kind of environment, a different kind of experience, but it's at the low end, you need to watch it, because your costs and margins are much tighter.

Nobody knows what's going to happen with the Olympics either. Half the people I know think it's going to mane there will be more people to buy tickets, and the other half think nobody will buy tickets. I don't know the answer I'm just glad my event is over before the Olympics.

Finally, you've taken very well to Twitter, can you remember what life was like before it?
I can't actually. There was such an incredible reaction to Bruce Springsteen. I was saying to somebody this morning 'Is this the best reaction we have ever had, or is it because social networking has come on so much in the last year?' Between Facebook and Twitter it's hard to do your job isn't it?

What did they say when you posed the question?
They thought that it was a combination of both. It's just that everything is so immeadiate now, you can talk to an audience within ten seconds, and also you can start a rumour and everybody believes it.

Don't forget eFestivals is on Twitter - @efestivals

Tickets are on sale for next summer's Isle of Wight Festival and the chance to see Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band headlining the Sunday. Last year tickets for the festival sold out.

The headline performance will be Bruce Springsteen's first visit to the Island and only his 3rd festival performance in the UK to date. Bruce Springsteen will appear with the E Street Band to deliver songs like 'Born in the U.S.A.' and 'Born to Run'. There are no other acts confirmed yet for 2012, expect an 'American Trilogy' of headliners, and a line-up of around 80 top rock, dance and indie names, legendary acts, and rising stars in a relaxed festival atmosphere.

The festival has moved into the fallow Glastonbury Festival weekend for one year only. The dates for the eleventh Isle of Wight Festival have been announced as from Friday 22nd until Sunday 24th June 2012 at Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight.

Tickets are priced at £190 for adult camping, and £95 for a child ticket (aged 7 to 12 years). The price of an adult ticket without camping will be £160 and £80 for children (aged 7 to 12 years). All children 6 years old and under on 22nd June 2012 can go for free but must still have a ticket. A campervan permit will be priced at £100 (all occupiers must also have a valid Camping ticket). Every person attending the festival must purchase a ticket. This includes babes in arms.

To buy tickets from Seetickets, click here.

To buy tickets from Gigantic, click here.

To buy tickets from Ticketline, click here.

To buy tickets from Ticketmaster click here.

All Special Needs customers should call Ticket Zone on 0844 499 9955 to purchase tickets. If you are registered disabled your carer is entitled to a free ticket, you need to make Ticket Zone aware of this when you make your purchase.
interview by: Scott Williams

Friday 10th to Sunday 12th June 2011
Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 2DN, England MAP
£175 weekend with camping - SOLD OUT
daily capacity: 60000
last updated: Wed 8th Jun 2011

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