I went to the Isle of Wight Festival at the weekend, with my housemate. The headliners? Rod Stewart, Arcade Fire and Run DMC, although, I only went for Saturday and Sunday so missed Run DMC, David Guetta and the rest of the Friday crew.
It was the first time I’d been to the Isle of Wight Festival. I’ve had my eye on it for a few years, thanks to the fact it’s right at the start of the festival season in the UK. I’ve seen years of mud, years of glorious sunshine, but this year, the sun was out. And with my new home in Southsea if I go as a foot passenger to the Isle of Wight, it’s just a ten minute journey on the Southsea to Ryde HoverTravel hovercraft, after a ten minute walk from my house. Brilliant!
Why not hey?
We got a bus from Ryde Pier to the centre, Newport, which took about 30 minutes and £3.50, to pick up our wheels for the weekend. Co-wheels Car Club is a new thing on the Isle of Wight, and blummin brilliant. Sign up and you get sent a membership card which means you can go to the car’s location, in the centre of Newport, and tap the special spot on the windscreen to open sesame. The key was in the glovebox and then the little Toyota Aygo was ready to drive.
We had the car because we weren’t camping at the Isle of Wight Festival. No, this festival experience was going to be enjoyed with a proper night’s sleep at Tom’s Eco Lodges up at Tapnell Park Farm. Unfortunately this means I don’t have any camping tips for you, or advice on camping out in the Isle of Wight wilderness for four days, but I can tell you a little about the festival. And that review of the eco lodge will come some time in July, once the craziness of Glastonbury is over.
My Isle of Wight Festival Experience
We had VIP tickets – plush I know. They can be yours for an extra £60 a day and basically get you better toilets, exclusive food and drink, and a chilled out spot to watch the Main Stage from just to the right. The tickets also gave us a separate entrance and easy access into the festival. Dreamy, especially when I saw the size of the toilet queues for everyone else. Always a bug bear for me when I go to festivals, surely hiring another portable loo or two won’t kill the profits too much?
The Isle of Wight Festival is one of the originals, and was once home to the biggest festival of all time. The best year to be there, that will most likely never be topped was 1970, when Jimi Hendrix, Chicago, The Doors, The Who, Miles Davis, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Jethro Tull et al, all played.
There were over half a million people in attendance, mostly for free. Back then it was actually on the site of where we stayed up at Tapnell Farm – see the connection?
After getting shut down in 1972, it started up again in 2002, in the format as it is today.
Music at the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight Festival is all about the music. Where other festivals have moved to more multi-dimensional entertainment, this one is straight up, straight down the line, music. Well with an emphasis on food and drink, and a little circus thrown in too.
There’s the Main Stage, the Big Top, the 80s Electro Love tent, and then the Jack Rocks and Hard Rock Cafe stages. There’s also the Kashmir Lounge, one of the most interesting, which is run by the local Quay Arts Centre, and featured local talent.
I watched the headliners, of course I did. In my opinion Arcade Fire were lacklustre on this occasion. I’ve seen them twice before and was amazed, but not so much this time, as confirmed by this Telegraph article. We left during Rod Stewart when we realised we didn’t really know any of his songs except D’ya Think I’m Sexy and Sailing and couldn’t wait another hour to hear them. Too cold and I was the wrong crowd. I’m not even the slightest fan, but I could see that he still had it, and the ‘people of his age’ around me were testing their knee joints bopping away.
Mel C was my music highlight of the Isle of Wight Festival. Bless her. She just looked like she was having a lovely time up on stage and when she started belting out Spice Girls’ Say You’ll Be There, I was absolutely loving it.
We also saw Zars Larsson, Bastille, George Ezra, The Shires, The Kooks, and I thought Imelda May was brilliant too. Never even heard of her before…
Isle of Wight Food Options
There were a lot of food options at the Isle of Wight Festival. I actually only ended up eating one meal there, which was this veggie plate. I thought it was a pretty good price at £9, it was festival food after all. I had halloumi, onion bhajis, coleslaw, salad, oh and sweet potato fries.
Why so healthy you may wonder?
Well Friday night = big fat burger at The Cow Co. Saturday lunch = huge pizza at the Alpaca Farm. Sunday breakfast = egg, cheese, bacon and bread mash up. I needed to repent at some point.
The clear winner at Isle of Wight Festival was the Meating Place though. The queues stretched out into the main stage crowd. Sorry if you find the pic above a bit grim with all the dead meat, but just wanted to show you how they smoked it. Smelt incredible.
I saw a few food stands at the Isle of Wight Festival that I never have before. Mainly cake shops – I ended up buying a cupcake from ‘Coffee and Cake’, but I’d recommend you track down ‘Tea Cake’. The cakes here looked amazing and there was a lot more choice too. That cupcake was a little on the dry side.
I did spot this epic milkshake stand, called Shake Lab. I didn’t indulge, given what I’d already devoured that weekend, but if I see it at Glastonbury, I’m getting well in there.
Drink at the Isle of Wight Festival
There seemed to be more closed off sponsored areas for drink at the Isle of Wight Festival, although I have a feeling that’ll just be at festivals in general this summer. There was the Mout Cider section, which I’d had fun in at Festival No 6 last year. We went in for a few minutes on the Sunday and ended up seeing Ricky from Kaiser Chiefs singing Ruby on Rockaoke, after headlining the main stage on Friday. Lucky timing, although as you can see from the pic above, it was more hearing that actually watching, but we got the vibe.
There was a huge Strongbow area – the cider of the festival – and a Black Tower wine section too. The general bars were selling Prosecco for £30, Moet for £85 (the VIP section was littered with empty bottles of this) and pints of Fosters and Strongbow for £4.50.
Other stuff at the Isle of Wight Festival
I think this is where I felt the festival could’ve done more, or maybe I’ve just been spoilt with the quirkiness of the likes of Festival No 6, Latitude and Wilderness. There were no decorations or cool little areas to try out, or things to discover. It’s not a particularly pretty festival, especially strange considering the beauty and quirkiness of the Isle of Wight.
There were so many fairground rides they kind of took over once you were away from the Main Stage. The obligatory festival big wheel added to the effect and the skyline, but the rest of the rides just made the festival seem like a big fairground.
There was this little area above, where I watched some slam poetry, although the kids going by just shouted abuse at the poor guy doing it. And then this dude came out with his tiny guitar. Apart from that, all the action was on the stages.
Isle of Wight Festival vibe
The Isle of Wight Festival vibe was definitely a family friendly one. There were all ages there, usually with a whole entourage of items from camping chairs to those inflatable sofa things and picnic mats. It was inoffensive and straight down the line, a ‘flatpack festival’ as my housemate called it.
It had all the ingredients, families looked like they were having fun in all their glitter and sunflowers, the line up appealed to the mainstream, and I had a good time, but I just felt like it needed that little bit extra to really give it some personality.
I’d definitely go again, but seeing as it’s all about the music, I’d check the line up first.
More on the Isle of Wight