Isle of Wight's fragile road network folds on Thursday leaving many wanting to Primal Scream

Isle Of Wight Festival 2012 review

published: Tue 26th Jun 2012

Primal Scream

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

Unless you've been living in a cave for the last 24 hours, you'll probably have heard the news that the Isle of Wight festival has variously sunk into the ground; been cancelled; washed and/or blown away; destroyed by anti terrorist groups in a controlled explosion; and several other stories almost as fanciful. But what was the first night of the festival really like? Certainly there have been problems, the combination of a rain storm that achieved biblical levels of intensity on the Wednesday night – overwhelming the weather-proofing arranged by the organisers, combined with a lot of people choosing to take advantage of the cheaper off-peak ferry tickets and arriving earlier than usual, caused massive queues which very quickly gridlocked the Isle of Wight's fragile road network.

Unfortunately by the time the police, festival organisers and the council realised the extent of the problem, the damage was done, and tailbacks – although only a fraction of the length of those seen at Glastonbury each year – meant the Isle of Wight quickly ran out of room and the queues connected up with the ferry ports, leaving the boats nowhere to unload new traffic. This resulted in Portsmouth City Council implementing emergency traffic schemes to deal with the cars backing up on the mainland. Suddenly the story was going global and, while the organisers must surely hope that the Isle of Wight Festival gets noticed, this is certainly not the way they wanted it to happen.

around the festival site (Thursday)
As I write this, there is still trouble with the traffic queuing, but it is moving, albeit slowly, holding car parks have now been set up to manage the new traffic, and requests that if you can leave your car and come on foot are getting out to those still to come. Speaking to festival organisers earlier, they were confident that the backlog would be largely cleared before the festival started later today, and that they have a plan in place to get people back out without more chaos on Monday. It's a shame that the festival has got off to such a bad start this year, as in previous years the traffic management is usually exemplary, and queues are minimal, even at peak times. Although slow to get off the mark, the authorities and organisers have actually done a fairly good job of sorting it out, and even gone as far as providing food and drink to those unfortunate enough to be stranded in their cars overnight.

For those who did manage to get into the festival, reports came back to us that the campsite is pretty muddy and waterlogged in areas, but when we arrived on site about 9pm, the main arenas still looked fairly good and, although muddy, not particularly deep or sticky. As if the rain wasn't enough, by this time the wind decided it was going to have a go too, and the big top closed for an hour or so while one of the pylons was checked for stability in the gale that passed through.

The Stranglers
Fortunately this meant that we were just in time to see The Stranglers taking to the stage, later than billed. The Stranglers are pretty much a Ronseal band, not delivering any great surprises from their performance for anyone who's seen them before, but playing through a back catalogue of solid punk and pop that had the crowd singing and dancing – forgetting for a while the mud, wind, rain and whether they will still have a tent to go back to at the end of the night. Some clever lyric changes by Jean-Jacques Burnel on a few of the songs got cheers from the crowd as he worked in references to being stuck on the ferry, as well as in the mud.

Primal Scream
Special mention must be made to the roadies for what has to be the fastest changeover ever on a stage as they managed to clear The Stranglers kit and get headliners Primal Scream's gear on and set up in a blisteringly fast 10 minutes – so quick that eFestivals' photographer only just managed to get back to the pit in time. Primal Scream are always a bit of a mystery as to how they'll be when they perform, having seen them a few times they seem to be only very average or brilliant – usually related to the quantity of drugs front-man Bobby Gillespe has ingested, although there is still some debate as to whether more or less is required to produce the better performances. Tonight, though he seemed to be on pretty good form, favouring the popular end of their output, such as 'Rocks' and 'Jailbird', giving the crowd another excuse to sing along and forget the worsening weather outside, whilst many of those out there stuck in queues for the night rather wished they were able to watch the band.

Heading off before the end of the set in search of a drink and to see what else was on offer we stumbled across the Hipshaker tent, a staple of the festival for a number of years now, and caught the tail end of Ska'd for Life, a covers band who are known locally for their mix of ska, roots and two-tone. Elsewhere though, most of the bars and venues were closing early this year, so we decided to call it a day at about half 11, the lure of a warm bed being just too strong – you may have guessed we are not braving the campsite this year!

Despite the bad start to the weekend, this still has the potential to be a very strong year for the festival. Hopefully the organisers will learn from what has happened – maybe an offsite park and ride to ease the number of cars heading to one site, or perhaps following Glastonbury's lead and opening the car parks the night before to ease traffic would be a good start. It will be interesting to see how the site handles its first truly wet year as the weekend continues.

around the festival site (Thursday)
review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Steve Collins

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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