One of the industry’s most influential figures, John Giddings has more than 40 years experience at the highest level in the live music business that has involved him working with a vast array of iconic acts including David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, The Ramones, Iggy Pop and U2.
So when the MD of the Solo Agency and the founder of the reprised 90,000-capacity Isle of Wight Festival took to Twitter earlier this week, 6 January, to call for the Government to engage the event industry in the mass vaccination effort, it gained major traction.
He Tweeted, “We are the music business – we have thousands of skilled people capable of running events, and empty theatres, clubs and arenas. Give us the vaccines and we will work 24 hours a day to sort it.”
His post has since been widely reported across the media and been liked by more than 3,000 people, many of them high-profile artists and sports celebrities such as Peter Crouch.
He tells Access, “It is straight forward, we’ve got so many people who are trained and skilled at crowd control, and health & safety, and they are all sitting on their bums doing nothing and wanting to be working. We’ve also got a load of empty venues.
“We want to help make it happen for the summer and the way to do it is to get more people vaccinated. We should be doing it 24 hours a day, we’re fighting an invisible enemy.”
Giddings says that not only does the event industry have the expertise and infrastructure to significantly benefit the mass vaccination initiative, it is also used to working on huge projects to remarkably tight timelines: “We can do things at short notice; we’ve proven that a million times. With Live Aid it took three weeks to put it together.
“We can do things at short notice; we’ve proven that a million times. With Live Aid it took three weeks to put it together.”
“With all due respect to the British Army, they don’t know all these venues inside out. We do. They are also not used to handling members of the public.
“I just want to help, I don’t want to hinder, and I want to do it 24-hours-a-day on shift work and make vaccinations as widely available as possible. I understand that if you’re 85 years old you should be going to a local vaccination centre and not The O2 arena or Hammersmith Apollo but I’m trying to widen its sphere and make the whole process quicker.”
The Isle of Wight is one of the few major UK festivals to have already gone on sale, and while the festival industry has largely united behind an urgent call for a Government-backed cancellation insurance scheme, Giddings is pressing ahead without insurance.
We are not insured because no one will insure festivals at this moment in time but we have sold more than 40,000 tickets. I’m trying to make it happen, and that’s why I’m trying to make the vaccine as widespread as possible. You have got to take the gamble and go for it. It’s what promoting concerts has always been about.”
“You have got to take the gamble and go for it. It’s what promoting concerts has always been about.”
The festival is scheduled to take place on 17-20 June, with a line up including Snow Patrol, Duran Duran, Lionel Ritchie, Primal Scream and Jess Glynne. Tickets are priced £185.
The first incarnation of the Isle of Wight Festival debuted in 1968 and ran until 1970. In August 1970, a 17 year old Giddings along with nearly 600,000 other people attended the event to watch performances by acts including Jimi Hendrix, The Who and The Doors.
Giddings rived the event, after a 32 year hiatus, in 2002. The festival is understood to generate more than £10m per year to the local economy.