Isle of Wight Festival 2021 – An interview with John Giddings
I loved your quote about cancelling the Isle of Wight Festival over your dead body..
“And I don’t intend to die in the near future, fingers crossed.”
Is this going to be the first concert you put on this year?
“Um yes, because my wife has been doing the Covid testing at the event research programme at Sefton Park and Download, and she’s at Latitude at the moment, but they are not run by me.
The Isle of Wight festival team are helping the Government produce those events on the basis that we get the knowledge to be able to run the Isle of Wight Festival properly. But I reckon by mid-September 75% of the audience will be double vaccinated.
Day to Day
In your day job, which is running Solo music agency in London, how difficult have things been for your artists?
“Well, they find it horrendous They live by performing and all of that streaming and doing Zoom calls and concerts on the Internet I mean it’s boring you know when you see whole show it’s two dimensional. The whole thing about music is live in a field and you can talk to the person next to you have never met in the whole of your life and have the best time, have a few drinks.
“Sitting on your sofa at home, watching with your inner family, it’s a lot easier to spot on television or on the Internet when artists are making mistakes. It just doesn’t sound as good, it’s not such a great vibe you’re not in it you not in the moment, you’re distanced from it.”
IW Festival Vibes
(Points at white linen jacket) This jacket is my festival jacket. It’s getting quite threadbare. Do you have a festival jacket?
“I am so boring. I have 13 leather jackets and they’re all the same. I buy the same clothes over and over again. I have to physically stop myself buying them. My wife bought me this new one…”
Who are you most looking forward to seeing?
“The audience, you can tell how good an artist is by the reaction of the audience.
“When Jay Z played, and Kanye West walked on with him – I didn’t think the audience could get any higher, but it kind of lifted. I was stood next to Beyonce. It wasn’t a bad night.” (laughs)
Who should we look out for?
“There’s a group from Manchester, called the K’s, who are brilliant. Up and coming bands tend to play in This Feeling tent or the Big Top. There’s two girls called Wet Leg (from the island) – their single is really good.”
You usually open with an Island band?
“Yes, we have a Platform One band and a school one. The more successful you are, the more humble you should be. You should be grateful that others have afforded you that success. But sadly, in the music business, people don’t treat it the same way. I’m sure all businesses are like that.
You always keep the festival fresh by introducing new areas – are there some new things to look out for this year?
We’re bring back Hipshaker and I’m looking at a couple of extra things. With 50,000 people you want them moving about the site.
“Like Megan McKenna, from the X Factor, playing on the main stage. You want people to move around, experience different things. The River Stage, nee Hard Rock Stage, is where we are going to open up the garden behind, which goes down to the river. It’s one of the most beautiful areas on the site. I thought we could call it the Secret Garden or Hong Kong garden, as in Siouxie and the Banshees. Or Garden of Eden…”
It’s good that you’re bringing back Hipshaker…people on the Island especially like that..
“Some people spend the whole weekend there. Some people stay on the campsite the whole weekend! But that’s okay.”
Is there a nod to the 1970 festival, which you attended, for the 50th anniversary this year?
“I just remember walking over that hill and seeing 600k people who liked the same music at me. Because before that moment I just used to buy albums and listen to them in my bedroom. I would never have restarted the festival if I hadn’t been there. And I only restarted it because it was the IW Festival. It’s iconic. Jimi Hendrix played there!”
I think it influenced you to get into music, yourself?
“I attempted to be a musician. But I was better at booking it, than being in it, which was a good realisation.
But you do occasionally play – You do play at the festival
“’Course I do. It’s my festival! (laughs). My old school band. It’s different people from different bands in the year above me and my year.”
Where did you go to school?
“I was at St Albans School in St Albans. It was what was called a public school but is now called a private school. We used to go to the Abbey on Saturdays for morning service. It was built in 948 AD – and there was a pope there – Nicholas Breakspeare was there. I’m lazy and St Albans made me work a bit.
“Medina School say that having the festival in their back yard has been really helpful with the education of kids because it’s given them a vibe. And I’ve given them money for a studio. I like to enhance their experience…”
Having the festival on the island has changed people’s lives. Kids on the island now grow up believing that they have a chance to become musicians…
“I’m proud of it, It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
For more details about this year’s Isle of Wight Festival, click here