Isle of Wight Festival promoter 'sorry' for chaos

 

The promoter of the Isle of Wight Festival has apologised for the chaos caused by heavy rains at the start of the event and promised that lessons would be learned for future years.

But John Giddings said that he had been amazed by the resilience of the 55,000-strong crowd which overcame the mud to enjoy the concerts headlined by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

The festival was affected by a deluge which saw gridlocked drivers forced to sleep in their cars as the car parks at Seaclose Park, Newport, had become flooded and inaccessible with mud.

The queues caused ferry companies to suspend their services and about 600 people were stranded on ferries on the Solent as the cars could not disembark because of backed-up traffic on the island.

But after emergency car parks were opened off-site on Friday the backlog was cleared and sunshine even broke through for the rest of the day.

The rain returned yesterday but failed to dampen the spirits of the crowds as they watched Biffy Clyro and Pearl Jam with the downpour carrying on through the night.

Mr Giddings said that he was working with the police and the local council to create a plan to help people get away from the festival as easily as possible after Springsteen closes the event this evening.

This involves more than 100 4x4 vehicles being on duty in the car parks to help tow stuck vehicles out as well as up to 50 extra police officers being drafted in to help the 100 police staff on duty during the weekend.

Mr Giddings said: "I am really sorry to everyone who had problems as they arrived at the festival but I hope that I have made up for it by providing one of the best weekends of music ever.

"I have to look at it very closely with the police and the council so that it doesn't happen again.

"We knew it was going to happen, we were prepared, we knew there would be adverse weather conditions, it was just slow and we caused a great traffic jam and I am sorry to all those who got stuck in it."

Mr Giddings said that despite the difficult start and occasional rain during the event, the crowd seemed to be having a good time.

He said: "There is something about adverse conditions that make people enjoy themselves.

"It's a British spirit, there's something about British people - they are going to have a good time whatever and I love them for it."

He added that Madness performing in the sunshine on Saturday had been his highlight of the weekend.

He said: "They told me they had never performed in the rain and the sun did shine and there were 50,000 people in the crowd loving it."

Police have warned festival-goers and local residents to expect delays after the event finishes.

The traffic plan being put into place will control traffic leaving the site during tomorrow's rush hour to enable commuters to reach their workplace and schools as freely as possible.

Transport operators have already reported an increased flow in people leaving the festival early to avoid the expected slow exit.

Ferry companies Wightlink and Red Funnel are both operating extra sailings to help people leave the island more easily.

Stuart Love, Isle of Wight Council director of economy and the environment, said: "This is a constantly evolving situation but I can assure residents and festival-goers that all agencies are working together to implement arrangements designed to keep disruption to minimum.

"Regulating movement from the car parks should mean that the situation today and Monday will be very different to that on Thursday and Friday when the congestion was unacceptable."

Chief Inspector Nick Heelan, of Hampshire and Isle of Wight police, said: "Getting people home safely and returning the local roads and community to normality as quickly as we can is our priority.

"We have extra officers drafted in from the mainland today to work with marshals to keep traffic moving.

"We are working very closely with the organisers, the council and other agencies to minimise disruption, and have every resource available doing everything possible to keep people safe and moving."

Festival-goers whose tents have fallen foul of the extreme conditions are being urged not to abandon it but to place it at the site exit where it can be recycled.

Rick Storey, spokesman for the festival's sustainability consultants Eco Action Partnership, said: "If your tent is beyond repair, rather than leave it in the field where it will be gathered and ultimately land-filled, please can we ask you to tidy it up, bundle it up, pick it up and leave it at the exit of the campsite when you leave.

"This will cut down on man-hours and the destruction of the environment on the campsite - if they are all in one place, anything potentially recyclable can be sorted and saved."

PA

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