Having moved the festival from June to September, Isle of Wight Festival chief John Giddings has told Access that the artist line-up will primarily be made up of UK acts and it will run with the audience capacity reduced by 5,000 to 50,000.
Giddings said tickets sales have been extremely strong since the announcement yesterday, 2 March, that it was to be rescheduled to 16-19 September: “When we heard the announcement that Step 4 of the reopening plan started on June 21, with our event finishing on June 20, I thought ‘we’re screwed’. We took the executive decision to move it to the end of September, to give us as long as possible to make it as safe as possible, and the response has been fantastic.”
The Solo Agency MD said tens of thousands of ticket holders from the cancelled 2020 event have retained their tickets and he is confident it will sell out: “If we postponed to next year it would have meant some people holding on to their tickets for two-and-a-half years.
“I wanted it three months later because I didn’t want to be the guinea pig – the first show out. We’ve always been the first show of the season, we are now going to be the last show of the season.”
“We spent a couple of weeks dealing with authorities, including Public Health England, to see if we can make it happen later in the year. I wanted it three months later because I didn’t want to be the guinea pig – the first show out. We’ve always been the first show of the season, we are now going to be the last show of the season. All the government instructions will be in place to make it as safe as possible for people, and by then the whole of the UK will have been vaccinated.”
The event, originally scheduled to take place on 17-20 June, had a line up including Snow Patrol, Duran Duran, Lionel Ritchie, Primal Scream and Jess Glynne. Giddings said the line-up is likely to change: “We will refresh the line-up. We’re talking to everybody concerned because they’re not necessarily all available in September but if anybody can’t make it we will re invite them to perform at the event in June next year.
“The good news is that there are British bands out there desperate to play and entertain people. It is going to be the great British music festival.”
The veteran agent and promoter said that the safety of staff, artists and audience is the paramount consideration in the events planning: “We are going to have a really robust Covid plan in place. We have experts dealing with those issues. I don’t want to be responsible for a fourth wave.”
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 revived the event, after a 32 year hiatus, in 2002. The festival is understood to contribute more than £10m per year to the local economy.