On our page about the history of the Isle of Wight festival I always like to add in a little section about what made that year memorable.
Sometimes it is a big-name headliner, such as The Rolling Stones singing with Amy Winehouse in 2007. Or Jay Z bringing out Kanye West in 2010.
Sometimes it is something less positive, such as the year of mud in 2012 or Morrissey's cancellation in 2005.
Sometimes it becomes more significant much later, such as when David Bowie performed his last UK concert in 2004.
2021's entry was written weeks ago, at least in my head. It's the year after the cancelled/postponed festival of 2020. Back in Spring 2020 I had hoped to call it the 'year after Covid' but it gradually became clear that was never going to be the case.
As a result, I approached Seaclose Park with a mix of emotions.
Firstly, I was delighted that the Isle of Wight Festival still exists at all. Many festivals had failed before Covid and I did wonder if a year or two without a festival might spell the end of the party. I've gassed on before about the positive cultural impact of the Isle of Wight festival and would hate to see it go the way of Bestival at Robin Hill (Rest In Peace).
Another emotion was the combination of delight and trepidation at being amongst lots of people again. I've been less adventurous than most people and this was my first live music since late 2019. Last week I questioned whether I really needed to go to B&Q to get a shower hose or whether I'd be better buying it online. A crowd of 50,000 was a bit of a step up.
I carried out my own risk assessment and decided to go for it. Everyone had to follow the Covid entry requirements and the Isle of Wight Festival certainly isn't as squashed and claustrophobic as some other competing festivals.
I decided I would wear my mask when in a queue and would avoid squeezing in amongst the masses by racing to the front.
We didn't need to weigh up the risks of festival camping thanks to familial accommodation provided nearby. This adds a welcome level of comfort to a festival. I am still haunted by the night when someone had a wee on my tent at Leeds 2002. Or the occasion when someone threw poo at our tent at T in the Park in 2003. Or the occasion when... (Ed: I think we get the idea).
Once inside the arena, everything felt remarkably familiar and nostalgic.
The main stage, the big top, the big wheel and the kidzone were all in the exact same locations. Even the helter skelter and the giant Isle of Wight Festival sign were in their usual locations. I was able to give a tour to friends as if I was proudly showing them round a house I'd just bought.
The music (for us at least) began with You Me At Six followed by Becky Hill. Those arriving on Thursday watched the Red Arrows, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Scouting for Girls and others.
I am no longer a cool kid who knows every song by every main stage act. However, I was encouraged that I knew a fair few songs by You Me At Six.
We watched Becky Hill pumping out the hits from the top of the big wheel. It's a festival essential for us and is a couple of pounds cheaper if you do it earlier in the day.
Of course, this festival was pushed back from June to September, meaning that it was dark for the final three acts rather than just the headliner. The downside is that wearing shorts is much colder at midnight in September than it is in June.
The plus side is that the darkness added a welcome bit of ambience to James' set which was a mix of old and new songs.
Personally I'd have liked a few more of the older stuff from James but it's not their fault that my music collection hasn't grown since 2009.
Fish and Chips followed. That's not a new band that you haven't heard of, I just thought I'd make this a more detailed report than those which just focus on the music. They cost me £10 and I gave it a 9/10.
My fellow festival goers went for a gluten free paella (£9), chicken and noodles (£10) and a Ginsters peppered steak pasty (£1.50) which had been in his pocket since before we arrived onsite.
Anyway, back to the main event.
Tom Jones appeared at 9pm. I was too far back to report whether or not knickers were thrown but he worked his way through the hits (What's New Pussycat?, Delilah etc). He also performed an accompanied poetry reading about the power of television, which I am still processing.
I'd also like to mention that we found ourselves with plenty of space to spread out. We certainly wouldn't have had that at the front of the crowd but from a distance we felt very safe. My risk assessment certainly didn't need reappraising.
By this point I was getting into the festival mood and had my eye on the Sky Swing.
I don't mind heights too much but I do get nauseous on a roundabout. I also don't enjoy falling to my death. It was far taller than the big wheel and involved sitting on a two seater bench which spins round at the top of the tower.
In the end, I decided to steel myself and paid a contactless-£10 to climb on board.
I enjoyed it greatly, although the legs were a little wobbly upon exiting the ride. My fellow traveller found it a little more terrifying, at least for the first half of the ride. I would like to apologise to the young children in front of us who may have learnt some new words from him.
After this, we walked over to the big top for 20 minutes of Shed Seven. This is one of the things I like about the Isle of Wight Festival - the two main stages are close enough that you can hop between them.
My (distant) memory of Glastonbury is that the stages are so spread out and that the site is so busy that you end up spending a lot of time walking between acts. After a couple of days at Glastonbury I gave up on my preferred band-schedule and just stuck to two stages.
Finally, Liam Gallagher appeared. The Gallaghers have rather dominated the Isle of Wight Festival in recent years. Liam performed at Seaclose Park in 2018 and Noel performed in 2019. Thankfully both of them have the sense to pack the set with Oasis songs, as well as a few newer ones.
His set was probably the highlight of the day for me, particularly when he began changing lyrics to incorporate the words 'Isle of Wight'.
We then faced the choice of whether we should a) go home as it was midnight and well past our usual bedtime or b) catch the end of Primal Scream in the Big Top.
After some dithering we chose option B. Unfortunately, most of Liam Gallagher's audience had the same idea, so after a couple of songs we decided it was too busy for us and reverted to option A.
We made our way towards the exit and congratulated ourselves on lasting the whole evening.
Welcome back Isle of Wight Festival, we've missed you.
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