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Isle of Wight Festival
Member Name: dkm1981
Isle of Wight Festival
Advantages: Great line ups, lots to do, good value, well organised
Disadvantages: Expensive, not easy to get to, weather dependent
So, armed with wellies, poncho, sunglasses, shorts and a camping chair (this is the problem with the UK, you have to pack for all eventualities and so can't go lightly), I headed off across the Solent on the Red Funnel for my first ever festival and I have to say I enjoyed it. I'll only talk about this year's line up briefly because that will obviously change, but I'll use this review to tell you all the things you need to know about festivalling from the point of view of a total novice!
A Bit of History
The Isle of Wight festival has been going in its present form since 2002, but it gained worldwide fame during 1968, 1969 and 1970 when huge headline acts and even huger crowds caused unprecedented notoriety. It was the unexpected estimated 600,000 attendees in 1970 that caused parliament to pass the Isle of Wight act. The act banned gatherings of more than 5000 people on the island and effectively ended the Isle of Wight festival.
After much organisation and change, the festival was restarted in 2002 with an attendance of just 8000 people who enjoyed watching The Charlatans and Robert Plant. Since then the attendance has steadily increased, thanks to crowd pullers like The Who, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Jay-Z, Kasabian, REM, Snow Patrol, Prodigy and many more and the Isle of Wight Festival has once again cemented its place as a great festival - the start of the festival season in fact.
Location and Getting There
The festival is located at Seaclose Park, which is just outside the main town of Newport, in the centre of the island. It is actually a very convenient location. The obvious way to get to the island - unless you are rich enough to land there in a fancy pants helicopter - is by ferry. The Red Funnel goes from Southampton to East Cowes, which is about a 15 minute drive from the festival site. The ferry isn't cheap and it gets considerably more expensive around festival time so you'll need to bear this additional cost in mind when planning a trip to this festival. There is a shuttle that runs from the ferry to the camp site which is really well organised and easy to use. There were a lot of problems last year (mainly thanks to the rain in the preceding days) that meant that there were huge queues getting to the campsites from the ferry but they have quite clearly learnt from their mistakes and the whole thing was very smooth this year. They actually make the roads around the site a huge one way system and there were very few queues this year, even right after the ferries landed.
Like I said I am not going into too much detail because the acts will obviously change from year to year. There are three stages; Main Stage, Big Top and Dance Tent. To give you an idea here is the line up from this year (2013):
Friday - Palma Violets, Everything Everything, Jake Bugg, Emeli Sande, Paul Weller and The Stone Roses.
Saturday - Tank Trap, Willy Mason, Ian Hunter and the Rant Band, Laura Mvula, Bonnie Raitt, Bastille, Ben Howard, The Macacabees, Bloc Party and The Killers.
Sunday - The Bear Social, Little Angels, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, Newton Faulker, The Boomtown Rats, Paloma Faith, The Script and Bon Jovi.
Friday - T'Pau, Levellers, Lianne La Havas, Fun., Delilah, Ellie Goulding and Rizzle Kicks
Saturday - Crystal Seagulls, Willy Moon, Lawson, Little Mix, Devlin, Monsta, Friction, Modestep, Zane Lowe, Sub Focus
Sunday - Resonate, Tracer, Republica, Kodaline, Imagine Dragons, Kids in Glass Houses, Young Guns, Imperial Teen, I Am Kloot, Blondie
Friday - DJ Future, Secondcity, Faith SFX, Russ Chimes, Mistajam, Youngman, Benga, Madeon, Example
Saturday - Thick As Theives, Star One, Nikki Beatnik, Beats and Swing, Mt. Woolf, Night Works, Ghostpoet, Alex Metric
Sunday - Luca Pilato, Alexis Raphael, Waifs and Strays, Gorgon City, Roses Gabor, MK, Mosca, Huxley, Miguel Campbell, Derrick Carter, Less Foss, Damian Lazarus
If you are camping, the Big Top is also open on Thursday night with a few extra acts. The acts this year were The Blockheads, The Farm and The Happy Mondays all of whom I thought were brilliant. Even if you are not actually camping, you can pay the extra for a camping ticket so you can get in to see these bonus acts and since it is only about £15 per person extra, I think it is a no brainer and it is absolutely worth paying the extra money.
The Killers put on a fantastic show but I am biased because I love Brandon Flowers! The Stone Roses were exactly as I'd imagined they would be, which was brilliant. I was surprised at how lack lustre Bon Jovi were to be honest; I thought they would be really good but they were a little disappointing. The same goes for Paul Weller as he insisted playing a lot of songs that even his biggest fans would find tiresome, the crowd went wild when he finished with A Town Called Malice though! I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of acts that I didn't think were my kind of thing as well; Newton Faulkner did a fantastic one man cover of Bohemian Rhapsody, The Script put on a good show, culminating in Danny O'Donoghue jumping into the crowd, Paloma Faith chatted to the crowd between songs and Blondie did an absolutely awesome job of closing the festival on Sunday night. I really could wax lyrical for hours, but I won't!
The thing I loved most about the line-up is that there was plenty to appeal to everyone and there wasn't too much of the same thing. To be honest I didn't actually go in the dance tent because that kind of music just isn't my thing, but my 21 year old cousin spent quite a lot of time in there and loved it. Our group's ages ranged from 16 years to 53 years and everyone enjoyed plenty of acts throughout the weekend. The sheer number of people that sat in front of the main stage, especially for the bigger acts meant that the atmosphere was fantastic and even if you don't like who is playing, the crowd makes it pretty special. I personally preferred the atmosphere in the Big Top because it was inside and so held a lot fewer people. It is also away from the main stage so you have to make a little bit more of an effort to go there so the people who do are obviously fans of whoever is playing, which all add to the great feel.
Other Things to Entertain
Having never been to a festival, I was surprised at just how much other stuff there was to see and do other than the music. There are lots of little side shows as it were and the whole place is like a little (well not so little actually) village. There is an area called '''Strawberry Fields''' that has a fair like feel to it with jaw dropping rides, a big wheel that offers great views and lots of stalls selling all manner of souvenirs. Everything is extra to the price of your entry ticket and it isn't cheap but there is a lot to do. The official merchandise stands are surprisingly reasonably priced actually - you can get a t-shirt for £20 and a sweatshirt for £40.
There are a number of other tents offering different types of music too. New this year was the River Island Sing in Style''' tent where you can get up and strut your stuff, kitted out in River Island clothes. We wandered through one day and there were some pretty good people doing karaoke - they vet people before they go on so you don't get rubbish singers. '''The Hipshaker Tent''' was a favourite of ours as they had some cracking tribute artists on including The Smyths, Noasis and Blurred, who were all very good. In between sets that have a DJ who plays great crowd pleasers. '''Bohemian Woods''' is fun to wander round and is like a little forest hideaway where they have folksy type music playing. '''Octopus Garden''' has a few funky food stalls surrounding it and it is filled with sofas so it is a great place to have a relax. '''The Carling Tent is a great place to see up and coming artists; many of the acts on the main stage started out their careers here so it is worth a visit.
Tips to Get the Best Out of the Weekend
Downloading the app is a great idea because it full of really useful information. It has maps of the whole site so you can see where everything is and it also has a little bit about each artist so you can see if you recognise them all and play one of their songs. They also send updates directly to your phone throughout the weekend advising of any schedule changes and things that are going on next which is really handy. Getting a programme is well worth the money too. It isn't cheap at £10, but you get a pretty funky book full of information about the back story of the artists and it is great for music buffs. The most useful thing about the programme is that you get a lanyard for round your neck that has little cards on with all the timetables on for the weekend so you can plan your days as you go along. We found it was a god send and we just got one between all of us to cut costs.
Keeping some toilet roll with you at all times is a really good idea. The toilets were actually a lot better than I thought they were going to be - I'd heard all he horror stories and had decided that I wasn't going to drink a drop all weekend so that I could avoid using them. There are plenty of them and they all have flush as well as hand sanitiser and toilet rolls in them. There were super attendants who were restocking the toilets and trying to keep the queues moving, but they do get overworked and having some toilet roll in your pocket won't go a miss! I'd also recommend avoiding going to the loo between acts as the queues are considerably longer. There was a new thing this year where you could get luxury toilet access by paying £30 for a wrist band. To be honest I wouldn't recommend this because there is only one set of these toilets and it is miles away from the stages so would be a real pain to get to during the day.
Food and alcohol is not allowed into the festival main area. You can take it into the camp sites but nowhere else. You can take unopened bottles of non-alcoholic drinks in and I'd recommend doing so because you'll be paying upwards of £2 for a bottle of water inside. To get alcohol, you need to first buy tokens from one place which you can then exchange for drinks at any bar. Tokens are £4.30 each, which will get you either a pint of Carling or Strongbow, a 187ml bottle of wine or alcopop (Bacardi Breezer) or a spirit and mixer. Get tickets first thing in the morning to avoid queues and try and work out how many you'll need for the weekend and buy them at the beginning of the weekend so you don't have to keep going back. Buying a half pint is the same price as a full pint which is obviously absolutely scandalous and so you should avoid doing that! Food wise, we managed to sneak a few bars of chocolate and bags of crisps in but they will take it off you if they spot it, so don't bother attempting to take full packed lunches in!
Take a camping chair or blanket to sit on because it is a long time to be stood up when you think that things kick off in the early afternoon and carry on until past midnight. You also need to seriously study the weather and consider the fact that you'll need appropriate clothing. It was actually (fortunately) sunny for the four days that we were there and so it was warm enough for shorts and teeshirts. It got very cold once the sun went down though and so, even though it may seem like stating the obvious, you need to take a coat or something even if it is sunny during the day. There is also a reason why wellies are synonymous with festivals and even though it wasn't raining, the ground was a little bit muddy because of the sheer numbers of people walking over it. They have done everything they can by putting paths and piles of bark down to help, but 'getting a comfortable pair of wellies is a very good idea.
Food isn't cheap but there is a lot of choice available and it doesn't have to cost the earth. There is every nationality of food on offer and you can choose from the weird and whacky (kangaroo burgers) to good home cooking (pies and toasties). There are so many different foodstalls that you won't ever have to queue for long but they are quieter when acts are on. As a rough guide, a normal burger will cost about £4, sweet and sour chicken with fried rice £7, pie mash and gravy £6 and a 12 inch pizza about £7. If you do run out of money whilst you are there, there are cash machines, but they do charge.
Ask the staff if you need anything. There are literally thousands of staff everywhere around the site and they are ridiculously happy and helpful especially considering the hours they put in. We didn't see a grumpy staff face anywhere.
Price and Is It Worth It?
We paid £190 each for our camping tickets, which included four days of music. It is very expensive but there has been research done into the value of tickets compared to how much you would pay to see the individual artists and the Isle of Wight came out on top for value for money in all of this years' top festivals.
I loved my first festival and I know I have nothing to compare it with, but I think The Isle of Wight Festival is a great option for people who like a bit of everything. There is a lot going on aside from the music and it really does offer a party atmosphere. Alright it isn't cheap and it isn't easy to get to, but I would definitely recommend it - I'm a convert!
Summary: A really good festival!