I’ve been holding back from having a bit of a rant, since I know that very few people would consider “listening to rants” as one of their hobbies.
It concerns the Isle of Wight Festival, which recently announced headliners and ticket prices.
For those, who missed it, the lineup – so far – looks like this:
Some were delighted...
...some were already opening a can of beer...
whilst others expressed their general horror...
Honestly, the reaction from some people online made me wonder if the organisers had pushed over their grannies or left dog turds on their doorsteps.
Take note of the fact that Fatboy Slim will actually be playing last on Saturday night so the headline acts will be: half of Oasis (who had 8 number one UK albums), a dance act that even my mum has heard of and a rock band with two UK number one albums (Biffy Clyro).
And that's 'terrible'?
If anything, I think we've been terribly spoilt over the years.
OK, it's undeniable that Sir Paul McCartney (2010) is a bigger name than Noel Gallagher and there aren't yet many 'surprises' on the lineup, but I can’t help feeling that some people have got short memories and no real grasp of quite how difficult it is to put on a profitable world-class music festival in 2019.
As I’ve said before, when I was growing up on the Isle of Wight the best chance of live music without a ferry trip was a husband and wife folk duo in a bar in Shanklin. And then, in 2002, the Isle of Wight Festival returned (well, Rock Island specifically) with Robert Plant, The Charlatans, Ash and others playing at a one day festival.
As the years passed, the Festival grew to three or four days and many of the world’s biggest acts turned up at Seaclose Park including The Rolling Stones, Jay-Z, Paul McCartney, REM, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Bruce Springsteen, The Killers, Florence + The Machine, Pink, Kings of Leon and so on (see our Isle of Wight Festival History page or our 10 unforgettable moments)
The concept of these acts playing on the Isle of Wight would have been utterly bonkers to me as a teenager in Carisbrooke. Yet, here we are complaining that Noel Gallagher, Fatboy Slim and Biffy Clyro are 'disappointing'?
As the Isle of Wight Festival grew in the early 2000s, others decided to have a go and the Island became a much richer place for music and culture. Bestival gave us a few great years of Elton John, Stevie Wonder and inflatable churches. And then there’s Eklectika, Jack Up The Summer, Rhythmtree, V Dub Isle, the Fairweather Festival and probably others I’ve forgotten.
Sure, some have been and gone but I don’t think many of them would have given it a go if John Giddings and Solo hadn’t first (well, second really including the remarkable 1968 to 1970 festivals).
And then there’s the overlooked matter of the Isle of Wight Festival's shrinking ticket price.
Back in 2002, the one day festival was £35. By 2007 it was £125 for a 3 day weekend ticket.
In 2019, Islanders were able to get early bird tickets for £110. The standard Islander rate is £145, whilst the mainlanders' price is £175 (plus booking fees). In case you're curious, Reading/Leeds 2019 is £205, Download 2019 is £210 (plus fees).
So, if you got in early and bought an early bird Islander ticket, the Isle of Wight Festival price is actually lower than the standard price 12 years ago. Try comparing that to what's happened to the price of your weekly shop in the last 12 years.
It’s also fair to assume that the costs of putting on the festival haven’t gone down in the last 12 years. This Guardian article from 2016 paints a bleak picture of the finances of putting on a festival and reckons that policing at the Isle of Wight Festival costs £1 million (I think it's actually the cost of security in general rather than just policing).
Let's not forget that it wasn’t that long ago that Bestival went into administration. The Big Chill gave up altogether in 2012. Fairweather Festival won’t be returning in 2019 due to finances. And then there's the Fyre Festival…
The reality is that there are many more festivals in the UK than there used to be. Weekend festivals now need to compete with a whole heap of one day 'festivals', which don’t have the same overheads since they don’t offer camping.
It's also worth remembering that the Isle of Wight Festival has gradually transformed from a single stage festival to a weekend of fun and games over several stages. I’m sure some of the extras are good moneymakers (fairground rides, more food stalls etc.) but most just add to the overall cost.
Organisers have realised that a good festival isn’t just about the acts on the main stage. One of the best afternoons I've had at the festival was spent in the kids' field (with one of my children, I should add).
So please, if you want the Isle of Wight Festival to return in 2020, buy a ticket and enjoy the party. Embrace the lineup for what it is, rather than comparing it to a time when you were younger, better looking and only had one chin.
Otherwise, don't complain when we're back to watching husband and wife duos at a pub in Shanklin.
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