Photographer Jamie Cooney and I, did not plan ahead for the journey. Due to leaving it a little last minute we were unable to get a ticket for a vehicle on the ferry, forcing us to go by foot. We managed to get space on the 8:20am ferry over to IOW.
The Wightlink Ferry costing £13.40 each way was an absolute breeze and took less than twenty five minutes. Once getting off the ferry on the other side, the crowds headed down the long pier whilst racing for taxi’s and shuttle busses. Jamie and I instead set up camp chairs with the sun shinning down on us and called for a taxi to pick us up from the end of the pier. This taxi was less than £20 and took us to staff accreditation on the far end of the site.
Although we had to wait an hour for it to open, we had a separate line for media accreditation which was easy as pie. A couple of friends paid to go and said their wristband/ticket exchange was easy, streamlined, only slightly slowing down when having the wristband put on their wrists.
Due to the layout of the site and a friend having a lot of equipment needed to work during the weekend, we opted to camp in the Guest camping area. This was situated right next to the arena with an easy walk in and out, meaning it was easy to pop back to the tents if we’d forgotten anything (or wanted a few drinks). The Guest Camping area was a well organised and reassuringly well secured area with a mix match of tents either side complimented by nice clean hot showers and toilet units at the end.
General camping was almost identical to Reading Festival although it had a few nicer tents, a lot more sober people and a generally safer feel to it. The carpark for festival standards isn’t far at all, as the most you’d be walking is around half an hour. On entering the festival there were large trollies for hire of which would have made the process that much easier.
Once set up, Jamie and I went on a wander across the site to get our bearings, take in the scenery and meet up with a few friends Jess, Meg and Mac from Reading Festival. We then (regrettably) gave them a hand with their stuff to staff camp, not realising it was the furthest they could have camped.
Once at their campsite and after having a quick catch up Jamie and I headed off back to the Guest area. We had a few drinks, a bite to eat and regrouped later that evening to see Sophie Ellis-Bextor, It Must Be Madness (a Madness tribute act) and Scouting For Girls.
It Must Be Madness… This six piece Madness cover band kicked off Isle of Wight Festival with a bang in the little Hip Shakers tent. Once going through the entrance I was met with hoards of middle aged men and women clinging onto every lyric and even starting the odd mosh pit!
Mid show a wise looking older gentleman sporting long whiting hair and a red blazer was having a dance off with a very intoxicated guy in his younger twenties of which drew a crowd and entertained the masses. I made a point of meeting said guy… his name is Graham, he is a volunteer for Oxfam, he had a forearm covered in wristbands and did not know the younger guy. This went on to show me that atmosphere of this festival. Two people from completely different walks of life, coming together for the love of the festival.
Scouting for Girls – Honestly, I was really disappointed with the experience for a mixture of The Big Top setup and the act. They were a huge act when I was growing up and I’ve never been able to see them. The Big Top did not have great access, no outside speakers nor screens which made the sound and atmosphere (unlike Elvis) dead outside the tent. Mainly playing other people’s songs Scouting For Girls were a big disappointment for me.
Friday morning I woke up after having a little bit of a lay in. Headed off in high spirits, I had a beautiful coffee in the guest area with Jamie and soon went separate ways for the day. The days adventures took me to see such great acts as Becky Hill, James and Tom Jones.
I snuck off to the Barclaycard Tower which was a well-dressed multilevel viewing platform sporting a bar on the top to experience the festival from a different view. From here I watched Becky Hills performance whilst sipping on a Dark Fruits.
Kashmir Cafe is completely new to me. After speaking to one of the staff, it was revealed that the venue is run by volunteers, profits are split between a local charity Quay Arts and supporting the local businesses of which provide the refreshments. This includes a local brewery which enables the venue to serve real ales (this is rare at major festivals). Through the back of the café there was a nice fenced off area with people chatting and relaxing with a drink, giving the festival goers a momentary sanctuary to enjoy a drink.
Tom Jones has never been my cup of tea, however when you’re in a field with both friends and tens of thousands of people living their best life, its hard to not have the infectious atmosphere rub off on you too. He and the band put on a great show and singing all of his well known classics. At the ripe old age of 81, he’s doing amazing. I noticed that everyone would sing the chorus of songs and then go silent during the rest of the song.
We stuck round for a bit of Liam Gallagher before heading off to the Silent Disco as we had already seen him a few times this year already. The silent disco was surprisingly empty as we arrived. Within two songs it was suddenly packed full of people screeching the lyrics to mainly pop and soft rock songs.
On Saturday Jamie and I headed down the hill on the 15 minute walk into the town centre. We grabbed a quick breakfast and a few supplies before heading back in. Once back we lounged about in the Old Mout Cider bar for an hour or so. This white picket fenced off area had a lots of Instagram worthy photo opportunities, a DJ booth, a bar spanning the back wall selling you guessed it…Old Mout Cider. From mid-afternoon onwards there always seemed to have a cue to get in.
Saturday afternoon I met the inspiring Liz Cooke running the Kid Zone area. Liz showed me the different areas including an arts and crafts area, a fun fair, a small intimate stage and lots of other activities. Liz explained that her aims for the space was to be a tranquil place where families could come and have fun without having to reach into their pockets for every activity. Once walking through the Kid Zone arched entrance nothing costs a penny, including the funfair and great performances such as that of Wolly The Clown of whom had all the children engaged without saying a word.
Note: Liz hand made all of the flags with just solar power not only for the Kid Zone but for the whole festival.
For the rest of the after-noon I bobbed from venue to venue taking it all in. I saw a bit of All Saints, Ella Henderson, James Arthur and Sam Fender before meeting up with friends to then see Snow Patrol, David Guetta and a bit of Kaiser Chiefs.
David Guetta – The crowd were packed in like sardines as everyone tried to get close to the stage. The atmosphere was like that of a rave. I’d turn and see the lights shine over an ocean of people bobbing along to the sound of the music completely in sync with one another. At the end long toilet roll lengths of confetti were shot out over the crowd. Leaving the crowd resembling an army of mummies. Some people took this to the next level and spun around in it causing them to really look like mummies such as a friend meg.
Note: During David Guetta a noticed a group of guys creating a circle. Once looking a little closed I noticed they were creating a safe zone for a group of 9-12 year olds to have their own mosh pit. I’ve attended well over a hundred festivals and this is a first for me. Parent Goals.
Sunday was an easy going day. Around midday I strolled up to the onsite co op to grab a few bits and pieces before heading on the major voyage to meet up with friends in the staff camp. After an hour or two relaxing with them I ran (literally) down to the main stage to catch Seasick Steve.
Seasick Steve – What can I say? With just Steve, his drummer Dan Magnusson and a mix match of different quirky home made guitars made of things such as a Mississippi license plate and “a hub cap piece of sh*t”, their sound and skill was on another level. Playing songs such as Roy’s Gang and You Cant Teach An Old Dog New Tricks, the duo had the crowd captivated. At the end of their set Steve smashed his guitar off the drum kit before Magnusson lifts a cymbal by the stand with both hands and smashes it off the stage. To follow this rock and roll style exit like the truest of all gentlemen they both take a bow and even a curtsy.
Shortly after this I caught a bit of Imelda May on the main stage before going to meet friends at Intoxici Tea. This quaint little cocktail bar was dressed as a 1940’s war error British tea room and was hosted by Isle of Wight Cocktail Company (with just a weeks notice). They were serving WW2 error themed cocktails out of teapots whilst the dancefloor was packed full of people dancing to swing music. Suddenly, our conversation was interrupted by an evacuation siren. Actors playing soldiers guided everyone out the back door to a bomb shelter which would play host to swing style singers and dancers whilst turning into a flash mob style party for twenty minutes or so.
Circus of Horrors – a show that you’d never expect to see at a festival. Ring Master Dr Haze coordinates a mix match of sword swallowers, jugglers and many forms of acts into one great show. I would love to write about it, however I feel that it could spoil the show. It is a must see though!
Fuelled by more cocktails we all headed down for The Script who put on a great show. Front man Danny O’Donoghue gave a heart felt speech about his struggle with mental health and alcohol throughout the lockdown period.
Razorlight – We got to The Big Top early and sat down to the front right of the stage to decompress and just relax. After half an hour or so the tent soon filled before the start of the show. Although I strongly disliked the experience of The Big Top from outside of the tent, it was a whole different experience once inside with thousands of others screeching “only in America”.
We simply packed our tents and got a taxi a hundred yards from where we were pitched, getting to the ferry terminal three hours early. We blagged our way onto the an early ferry of which the majority of the ride back to mainland was entertained by a guy on the tannoy giving a talk about the history of the festival before going onto a five minute long comedy sketch with lots of business related puns.
That is it for this year! Thank you all again for a great summer and hopefully see you next year!
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