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The Isle of Wight Festival, Woodside August 1969

Extracts from the publication of the same name, by Brian Hinton.

The great pop festivals of the late 1960s were very much a product of their times – youthful rebellion, music as popular art, a derangement of all the senses – but their underlying search for shared freedom and community had deep cultural roots. They contained within themselves the notions of a religious coming together, of a grown up boy-scouts camp making do in the open air – of a bohemian escape to a land of free love and illegal substances, of a waking dream, even of medieval pilgrimage.

Journeying to the Isle of Wight was itself part of the experience, so that queuing for the ferry, crossing the water, and the proximity of the sea to all sites – even the long trek to the site itself, all became an unforgettable adventure. Even the discomforts were special; the long queues for an overpriced hamburger or an overcrowded loo, or the struggle to get a good vantage point all made the music and sense of togetherness more worthwhile.

The organisers of the event were the three Foulk brothers – Ray, Ron and Bill. Along with rock promoter Rikki Farr, all four were still only in their early twenties, and under the name of Fiery Creations set about putting on a second festival.

In January 1969 an advertisement was placed in the Isle of Wight County Press with a small form on which to reply the question asked was who would people like to see at the next festival. The response from the newspaper was very small. Surprisingly, it didn’t produce many big names. We had thought about Elvis, the Beatles, and Rolling Stones etc. and even Bob Dylan at that time. I don’t think anybody else had, we put it down to the fact that it was beyond people’s expectations as to just who would appear at a concert on the Isle of Wight.

The search went on to find someone who would headline. Various names continued to be tossed about. Ray Foulk is quoted as saying: -
‘Both Ronnie and I were not terribly well up on the music scene to be honest and I used to take advice of my younger brother Bill, who had come up with a lot of the acts for the ’68 Festival. It was Ronnie’s department booking acts and he kept throwing names about and kept saying, “What about Bob Dylan? he’s a big name, he’ll pack them in.”’

Nevertheless, Ray Foulk warmed to the idea and after visiting and filming various sites around the Island in order to make a presentation, the group were prepared to offer Dylan $50,000.

Fiery Creations, however were going through the usual problems of getting planning permission from the Council, since the Island population in those days was just over 100,000 and the thought of doubling the island population overnight was a daunting one The site that had chosen was overlooking Woodside Bay, on the north east side of the Island. There were stunning views across the Solent to the mainland with Portsmouth in the distance. Access to the site was via two residential roads and a private road, skirting the tree lined shore of Wootton Creek. Along this road there were two holiday camps {Little Canada and Warner’s} and one has to wonder how many of the visitors to the festival stayed at the camps. The event was given official go ahead. The event was dubbed ‘Help Dylan sink the Isle of Wight’. With an expected attendance of at least 100,000.

Ticket sales were set at £2 for the Sunday concert, with 25 shillings (£1.25) for an all-day concert on the Saturday, or only 10 shillings (50 pence) extra for the whole weekend. Top line acts to appear were The Who, Moody Blues, Joe Cocker, and nine others.

On the 29th the village became very colourful with the festival visitors in their various forms of dress; the High Street was a mass of people. There was a continual stream of buses bringing people from Ryde and Cowes, the sheer scale of people asking for food and drink overwhelmed the small super market at the top of the high street. Extra tables were erected outside and manned by ladies of the village; the police arranged for the food wholesaler in Newport, “Upwards and Rich”, to keep the shop supplied. Church Road and Palmers Road was a mass of people making their way to the site; luckily the weather was kind during the festival. In Woodside Bay itself there was an armada of boats of all kinds anchored there we assume belonging to people visiting the festival. During the evening there was no need for villagers to visit the site; you could site outside or in some cases sit indoors and listen.

The Acts.

Friday 29 August

In the morning and afternoon there were film shows, provincial groups and folk singers from all over Britain.

The evening, however, was devoted to more popular acts of the day, starting with Marsupilami, to be followed by Eclection with a fine mixture of folk, blues and gospel. Then came Bonzo Dog Doo-dah and finally Nice.

Saturday 30 August

The afternoon started at 2 p.m. with Gypsy, to be followed by Blodwyn Pig, Edgar Broughton Band, Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, Marsha Hunt, Disco, Pretty Things, Family, The Who, Fat Mattress, Joe Cocker and the Grease Band, Moody Blues.

Sunday 31 August

The day started with a bugle call from Gypsy and Good Morning Campers. At noon the first of the acts to appear were Liverpool Scene, a mix of pop and poetry, then came Third Ear Band. At 3 p.m. Indo-Jazz Fusions took to the stage, followed by Gary Farr, Tom Paxton, Pentangle, Julie Felix, Richie Havens who finally left the sage at 8.19 p.m., daylight having already gone.

The pilgrims waited, listening to records, including the ‘Hare Krishna’, which echoed across the Bay and over the Solent. Finally at 10.20 the curtains drew back to reveal The Band minus Dylan.

Rikki Farr returned.
‘People – do you want the sound to be perfect?’
‘Then cool it, people. You’ve waited three days. Be cool and wait another five minutes and you’ll have the sound a hundred per cent. In fact you’ll have it two hundred per cent perfect.’

Finally at 11.08 p.m. Dylan strolled on stage to the largest live audience even he had ever faced in his life. ‘You sure look big out there,’ he said. After many numbers and an encore, he left the stage tired and exhausted.

The festival was finished and silence once more settled over the village.

The most memorable thing villagers remembers after the festival finished was the mass of people stretching across the roads making their way back to the ferries, the only noise being the shuffle of thousands of feet.

When the event was over there were many complaints from residents, not about behaviour, but the lack of facilities provided by the organisers and the sheer volume of people in a small village, there was no more Wootton Pop Festivals.

Today cows and horses graze where once the cream of pop played and a 100,000 enjoyed an experience of a lifetime, The Norman Church of St Edmunds sleeps soundly on.

Footnote to Wootton Pop Festival.

The first Isle of Wight Pop festival was held 31st August – 1st Sept 1968 at Hell Field, Ford Farm, Godshill, with 14 groups advertised. Around 9000 people attended the event but were disappointed at the non-appearance of the Beatles. The leading artist’s were the American group Jefferson Airplane supported by Crazy World of Arthur Brown and two island bands Cherokees and Helcyon.

For further reading on this festival see:
Melody Maker 26 July 1969.
Daily Mirror 9 August 1969.
Sunday People, Daily Sketch, and Record Mirror.
1969 Festival Programme.
Charles Laurence: ‘Ticket to Ryde’, Telegraph Weekend Magazine, 16 August 1989, pp 10-17.
Fourth Time Around 3 – Special Dylan on the Isle of Wight.
Local coverage Isle of Wight County Press 6 September, 13 September.

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This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:44

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