despite challenging weather, Jack up the 80s still shines as a great little festival

Jack Up The 80s 2018 review

By Steve Collins / Marie Magowan | Published: Tue 14th Aug 2018

Jack Up The 80s 2018 - around the site
Photo credit: Steve Collins

Jack Up The 80s 2018

Saturday 11th to Sunday 12th August 2018
Smallbrook Stadium, Ashey Road, Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33 4BH, England MAP
currently £55
Daily capacity: 4,999

The last couple of months has seen the hottest weather in several decades, and with it we seem to have become blasé assuming that the warm dry conditions are a given. However it had to break some time, and unfortunately it was Jack up the 80s weekend that the gods decided to break out the more traditional British summer. During the day on Friday the festival site was beset by high winds, which delayed the build and almost derailed the entire evening – with permission from health and safety officials only coming minutes before the site was due to open. 

After a few last-minute finishes, they managed to get the show going only marginally later than advertised. The Magic of Motown is a whistle-stop tour through the history of the record label’s phenomenal output. Fronted by a group of singers and performers who perform all the biggest hits, starting with the early days, finishing up with songs from the Jackson Five – the singers and their quick-changes are impressive, but the real stars of the evening are the backing band; while the singers perform in small groups and get breaks, the band have no such chance – the show is a non-stop medley, and they are stuck on stage without a break for the whole two and a half hour show. That they do this without flagging is a testament to the tightness of the group.

The Magic of Motown

With the weekend forecast changing almost as often as the costumes on Friday night, Saturday promised to be the best of the weekend, and at least dry meant that the Saturday showed off the best of the costumes and fancy-dress that the festival attracts - retro music festivals seem to bring out the dress-up boxes, and Jack is no exception, whether its just decking yourself out in neon or dressing up as your favourite band, there were plenty of colour on display across the site.

After several years now Jack up the 80s has followed a similar formula, but one that works well – and Saturday was no exception as the almost traditional Ska band kicked things off, this time with Orange Street, who performed a typically high energy and professional set, really getting the crowd warmed up - with even those in the chairs at the back being coaxed out of their seat for an early afternoon dance. As the afternoon continued we were treated to performances from festival-favourites Nathan Moore (of boy-band Brother Beyond) and 80s TV legend Pat Sharp. The former’s engaging crowd-centred performance saw him in the crowd as much as on stage, culminating in an almost traditional attempt to get the entire site to do the floor dance from ‘Oops upside your head’. While the latter’s DJ set kept the crowd happy with a set that included something for everyone - covering not just the 80s but all eras - ensuring that bored kids dragged along by their parents perked up for Bruno Mars and The Killers.


Despite referencing the 80s, the festival is in fact willing to go to all eras, and so Saturday also saw performance form 90s band 5ive (although 3hree is a more accurate name these days). Never really a fan of boy bands, I am always surprised by the number of tracks I know, even if a lot of them are covers. The remaining members gave a pretty good performance and given the reaction of the crowd had a fair number of fans in it.

There was a disappointing set from Chesney Hawkes, who we’re willing to give a let to, as he performed despite having been advised not to by a doctor. His voice was good - running through a mix of his own music, and covers – including a surprisingly good cover of Prince’s 'When Doves Cry’, but he clearly wasn’t that focussed – fluffing the intro several times for one of his songs before giving up on it.

Chesney Hawkes

Unfolding throughout the day had been the festivals own drama around provision of toilets, not through a lack of them, but the trek that was required. What seemed on paper as a straightforward decision – the festival is held in the middle of a speedway track, and so rather than having them in the middle, they were tucked neatly out of the way behind the grandstand, in practice this meant walking the length of the arena, then doubling back down again to reach them, and plenty had been taking to social media to express their annoyance. Between acts there were plenty of apologies and eventually they promised to move half of them into the main arena for Sunday - it’s always good to see a festival correcting an issue, but quite rare for them to make changes half-way through, so definite kudos to the organisers for this.


Taking to the stage, T’Pau’s Carol Decker felt the need to join in with toilet-gate, joking that the backstage toilets “…didn’t f***ing flush!” Having got that off her chest, she then launched into a set drawn from the bands back catalogue, finishing with the classic ‘China in your Hand’ (somehow appropriate with all the toilet chat). Time has not diminished her strength of voice, and she and the band delivered one of the highlights of the weekend.

The headliner for the evening was Leo Sayer, who, although a return performer from two years ago has such a wide catalogue he could probably return for the next decade without repeating himself too much. As with his last performance he could have carried off a much longer set and is an artist who never seems to get the full recognition for his talent. This brought the main show to a close although the party carries on in the form of a disco in the bar.

With the forecast promising a lot of rain for Sunday, so we geared up for a wet day, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the early rain clear away as TRextasy took to the stage (and as we arrived on site). Despite the forecast foretelling doom, it actually barely bothers us, and apart from a heavy downpour late afternoon, the rest of the day was reasonably clear - with the sun even managing to struggle out from behind the clouds at some points. Sadly the bad forecast had meant that a lot of people decided not to go, and the crowd was noticeably thinner this day.


Those who did turn up were rewarded with a DJ set from Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp, a laid back jazz-funk set from Shakatak, and a fantastic show from returning artist Jaki Graham. Her deep and powerful soul voice can master any stage and she was undoubtedly the best act of the day so far, her slightly dizzy and brash manner make her an even bigger hit with the crowd who couldn’t get enough.

Jaki Graham

Another returning act was Toyah. While her set didn’t lack enthusiasm and she can still belt the songs out, the set seemed to seemed to lack some of the substance that would have elevated it.

Closing out the weekend second day were American soul band Shalamar, and although I remembered the band I'm sure I wasn't the only one who couldn't remember the majority of the songs. Nonetheless they made for a good show, but for me, the lack of familiarity with much of their work beyond ‘A Night to Remember’ meant that it lacked the big ending for me.

It is all very easy when invited to review an event to sometimes fall into the ‘what was good and bad’ style, and not look at the whole event. Jack up the 80’s is small event and this makes it difficult to hide anything that is not right. The one area that really didn't work again is the second field - billed this time as the ‘Quiet field’. Despite improving access from last year, it’s still way too remote from the festival for people to go to, the stage has performances by acts from local music school Platform One, but for the majority of the crowd who are there for the old bands it just isn’t enough to encourage them to decamp. There are a few fairground rides which no doubt mean the families head over at some point for the kids, but it’s not somewhere you’d want to spend a lot of time in. I’m not sure what the answer is, but it’s clear that it’s just not working as a two-field festival - maybe they would do better to put some of the Platform one bands on early as a warm-up for the main bands.

In all it has been yet another fantastic weekend, although, as can sometimes happen at festivals, the stronger bands on Saturday made the Sunday line-up feel weaker. We will again look forward to catching up with everyone next year. This is a festival that has all the ingredients to continue to improve year on year.


review by: Steve Collins / Marie Magowan

photos by: Steve Collins

Latest Updates

Jack Up Summer Party 2023
festival details
last updated: Sat 30th Sep 2023
Jack Up The Summer 2023
photo galleries
last updated: Mon 11th Sep 2023
Jack Up The Summer
festival home page
last updated: Fri 17th Mar 2023