Missing Glastonbury? Isle of Wight festival keeps the spirit alive


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The Independent Online

When Glastonbury decided to take a year off in 2012, it must have seemed like a golden opportunity to the organisers of the Isle of Wight festival to temporarily take its place as the first big event of the summer music season.

What they perhaps overlooked as they moved their event back into the late June weekend left vacant by Michael Eavis' sabbatical, is that the weather at Glastonbury is, to put it charitably, often somewhat damp.

The rain clouds, however, had not forgotten the time of year. Inevitably, as would-be revellers made their way to the south coast to board ferries to the festival, the deluge came.

Heavy rain early on Thursday morning followed a spate of bad weather, and as many of the expected 55,000 attendees began to arrive on the island there was soon utter chaos.

Event car parks at Newport were water logged by Thursday night, churning up with mud, while roads leading to the festival became grid-locked. Such were the jams that ferries coming from the mainland were unable to disembark and ferry companies were forced to suspend services. About 600 were stranded on boats on the Solent overnight, while others had to sleep in their cars on the island.

Yesterday, some said they spent up to 10 hours travelling the short remaining distance to the festival, where they were met with yet more mud. Those still on the mainland were advised to abandon their cars and catch ferries as foot passengers, although by last night things were looking up.

Those at the Isle of Wight Festival will not be the only revellers who will need to pack a cautionary pair of wellies along with their sunglasses this summer as more inclement weather is forecast for the coming months. But that did not stop them from being less than pleased by what they said was a lack of preparation on the part of the organisers.

"Admittedly, they cannot control the weather, but they can have a plan for it," said Ashley Scrace, who said he would be seeking a refund on his ticket.

Linda Dawson, from Ashurst, said she was stranded while on her way to the festival with her partner and three daughters. "We weren't told the full story in Portsmouth and could have turned back if we had known we would be in the car all night," she told the BBC.

"Why did they let us get on the ferry when they knew there was nowhere for us to go?" Festival promoter John Giddings apologised and asked those who did not make it to the site to send their tickets back. "If someone has suffered, that's outrageous, I don't think I should keep their money," he said, promising there were plans in place to help people leave more smoothly on Sunday.

Those intending to go to the BBC's Hackney Weekend in east London today and tomorrow could be the next to face a battle with the weather in the name of listening to music outdoors, as forecasters predicted more rain this weekend. Large parts of north western England and south western Scotland are under flood warnings.

It was even too wet to go for a swim in Lake Windermere yesterday. The annual Great North Swim was postponed until tomorrow, due to safety fears as people struggled to get to the venue.