Isle of Wight festival finally gets an encore after disharmony of 1970

Louise Jury Media Correspondent
Thursday 03 January 2002 01:00 GMT

When the Isle of Wight hosted a rock festival, it was the biggest Britain had seen. The 1970 event, attended by an estimated 600,000 fans, was graced by the final UK performance of Jimi Hendrix. But it ended in disorganisation and acrimony and turned out to be the last of its kind.

Now, 32 years later, the island is to revive its musical heritage with plans to organise an open-air concert in Seaclose Park, Newport, followed by two weeks of events, including performances of jazz, blues, samba, folk and world music. The Solo Agency, which has managed world tours for U2 and Madonna, has been appointed to promote the event. Pulp, the Charlatans and Placebo are all being mooted as possible headline acts.

"We believe the island has one of the strongest musical heritages of anywhere in the UK and, whilst we intend to play on this reputation to maximise the brand name, we have no ambitions to repeat 1970," said the agency's John Giddings.

Numbers for the opening concert will be restricted to between 20,000 and 25,000 on a site that could take 60,000.

More than 600,000 people are believed to have attended the event in 1970, a figure that has not been topped by Live Aid or festivals at Knebworth and Reading. But it was an event marred by ill-feeling. Hells Angels were disgruntled at being denied their traditional role as security guards and residents were furious at a perceived invasion by hippies. A smattering of European anarchists did their bit to foment dissatisfaction.

The laid-back optimism that had infused gigs in the 1960s had turned sour. The promoters, Fiery Creations, never organised another festival. And within a month, Jimi Hendrix, who had not appeared on stage until 3am, such was the chaos, was dead from a drugs overdose in London.

Annie Horne, the managing director of the Isle of Wight council's leisure services, said: "There is absolutely no comparison between what we propose and the gatherings of the hundreds of thousands of people on one site."

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