IOW boss John Giddings speaks exclusively to eFestivals

ahead of this weekend's event

published: Mon 18th Jun 2012

John Giddings

Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th June 2012
Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 2DN, England MAP
£160 weekend no camping, with camping sold out
daily capacity: 90000
last updated: Tue 12th Jun 2012

eFestivals got the chance to speak exclusively with John Giddings, festival organiser of the Isle Of Wight Festival ahead of the festival happening this weekend.

John Giddings
Camping wristbands have sold out, how close are you to a complete sell out?
There's a couple of thousand left of non-camping tickets, and I'm thinking of keeping a few back to beat the touts on the door, but we're very, very happy at this moment in time. Considering the economic recession that's out there we've done very well, and we're very pleased that we've moved the weekend, by two weeks because of the weather of the last few weeks. There were 80 mile an hour winds on the Isle Of Wight last Friday, so it might have been quite problematic getting there. And, with the Jubilee, and the half term weekend, which were the reasons we moved because once Glastonbury decided not to run there was a free weekend in the calendar. We've been lucky so far, let's see what happens next, it can only get better surely?

It can't get much worse, the summer weather has to arrive sooner or later.
Exactly, We're waiting for summer and we hope it arrives on Thursday.

The wristbands are RFID ones this year can you explain how they work?
We have some security measures in place, which I don't want to go into in detail, but certainly, we know who you are and whether you're in or not and whether you're wearing a real wristband, and we also have some cashless things whereby you can buy money on the wristband. It's not for all concerned it's whether you want to join in or not, because we're expanding the system from last year.

So, what will going through the gates be like this year?
Very easy., we scan your wristband as you come in, and we want to get people in as quickly and as easily as possible. I've been to festivals myself as a punter for many years and I like to know that I'm going to get looked after. As somebody said to me earlier "an audience pays you to come, and you pay the groups to come, look after the audience first and foremost."

What we'll do is start letting people in slowly but surely when they start queuing up for the campsite on Thursday morning. People will come into different areas, so that they are not queuing up at the same place at once, and there's not a huge queue.

Do you have a back-up plan if the system fails?
It won't fail. It will be perfect, we have three or four main entrances, don't worry.

The wristbands have cashless systems on them I didn't realise that.
Yes you can top them up in the VIP areas, or in the Octopus' Garden, for the first time, which is why we created a new eating and drinking area, and we're testing it there as well, and I'm sure in years to come it will be the future of UK festivals. This is the normal wristbands, you can join on the website, you can put money on them, and pay for things that way. You can also join the scheme once there.

Are there any new surprises on site this year?
Yes, there's lots of surprises. I've moved the main stage forward to open up the size of the arena, I've moved the Garden Stage from the Arboretum to Penny Lane, because I've programmed it 'heavier' with The Pierces headlining the Sunday night, Crystal Castles, Best Coast, and The Charlatans playing 'Telling Stories' on the Saturday.

We've got the Field Of Dreams where you can watch movies, where you can watch Euro 2012. The Beach is three times the size it was last year because it is so popular, and we've got a kinetic playground, and Spiegeltent with lots of things going on in there. We've got roaming Ninjas, magicians, stilt walkers and all the fun of the fair.

You've expanded year on year on what the festival offers, do you think that's necessary in order to survive in the current climate festivals find themselves in?
Yes, I think you need to develop the entertainment, and I wander around and I see what people like, and don't like, and you learn from experience, and you learn from your website, and you want to stay ahead of the game, not behind the game. It's like a Formula One car if you don't keep developing it, then you're standing still, and people overtake you.

Talking of Formula One are you still co-ordinating the live music shows around Formula One?
Yes, the last one we had was last year, and we've got some planned for next year. They haven't been announced yet, so I can't really talk about it.

Speaking of not yet announcing line-ups, this festival hasn't even started yet, but are you already considering next year's headliners?
In March this year somebody called me up and asked me if I was interested in booking their headline act for next year, and I said yes and pencilled in the date. But, let's see after we get this one done and over, and the summer out the way, let's see what happens, because people often change their plans, their line-ups, whatever. So, never tempt fate.

How do you foresee festivals faring over the next few years?
I think they are going to find a level, I think there's a serious recession and live ticket sales are down 20-50%. This year you've got the Jubilee, Euro 2012, and the Olympics taking away from it all, and I think the market place is saturated. But I do think it's going to find it's own level and sort the men from the boys. I think that's already started, without naming names.

You've got a very strong line-up...
We're very pleased and proud of it. I mean we've got the greatest American rock talent ever, we've got the best of British with Noel Gallagher, Elbow, and Biffy Clyro. We've got Lana Del Ray, Tinie Tempah, Jessie J, and we've got all the rock bands The Darkness, Ash, Pulled Apart By Horses, and people to discover, and people to look forward to. It makes me laugh when people say who's that, and then a year later they say, "Oh Mumford & Sons played last year."

Are there any hot up and coming acts like that were at the time, that you'd recommend the Isle Of Wight audience go and see?
Yes Zulu Winter, Spector, The Milk, and my favourites are The Vaccines, and I love Band Of Skulls. I recommend them all.

Do you get a chance to check out other festivals and what they're doing?
I go to other festivals all the time. My real job is that I book groups around the world and they've all played festivals, the whole of their careers. I try to learn something from everybody else's and build upon it.

Who did you see last year at festivals that really stood out for you?
Kasabian at our event where incredible, I saw U2 at Glastonbury who were amazing, I go to festivals around the world so it's hard to pin down who plays where, the Foo Fighters anywhere are incredible.

How do festivals overseas differ from UK ones?
Every festival has a unique brand to it, it depends on how much you want to spend on entertaining an audience when they don't want to watch a group. Some festivals are just about making the money off hot dogs and hamburgers, other festivals care more about looking after the audience and entertaining them when they're not watching a group. Look at the success of the Secret Garden Party, I couldn't even tell you who is playing there, and they've already sold out. People want different things.

What advice would you offer Isle Of Wight festival goers coming to the festival for the first time, so that they get the most out of their visit?
I would suggest they bring different clothes for different weather, it's all about layers, you need protection if it's wet, you need protection if it's hot. I'd bring your own toilet roll, people always want that somewhere along the line, no matter how many loos you provide, people always say there's never enough. Something good to protect your money or your wallet in, and I want everybody to be safe and have a seriously good experience and go away very, very happy.

Do you think as Isle Of Wight has achieved what you wanted it to over the years?
It would be cocky to say that but I like to think we're one of the top four in the country, and I think we want to keep our brand alive and well, so that people recognise it, enjoy it, and keep coming year in and year out.

Thanks for your time John, have a good festival.
Thank you very much, and fingers crossed for the weather, bye bye.

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 were priced at £190 for adult camping, and £95 for a child ticket (aged 7 to 12 years). Tickets without camping are available to collect at the box office, an adult ticket is priced at £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.
interview by: Scott Williams

Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th June 2012
Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 2DN, England MAP
£160 weekend no camping, with camping sold out
daily capacity: 90000
last updated: Tue 12th Jun 2012

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