The Isle Of Wight: just a hop, a skip, a train, a ferry, a bus ride and a short country amble away. And although many punters couldn’t point to it on one, the Isle Of Wight Festival has certainly put this beautiful island on the map. Each year over a weekend in June, it hauls in enough dads, hippies and girls in short shorts to increase the Isle's population by a third.
Pull into Ryde Pier Head on the ferry and you’ll feel like the clock has turned back a decade; walk through the arches of the festival and it’s a whole other time. Because this really is the theme of the weekend. The coastline’s chocolate-box shell and reasonably priced brews pave the way for a line-up comprised largely of musicians past: Paul Weller, The Boomtown Rats, The Stone Roses, Blondie, Bon Jovi, The Happy Mondays – and this festival would be nothing without its history.
Originally held from 1968 to 1970 (my dad wasn’t allowed to go, but his older brother was), high attendance levels put a stop to the festival until it reopened in 2002. Dylan played. The Who and Jimi Hendrix played. It outsold Woodstock. It’s the stuff of festival legend.
IOW can have all the psychedelic merch and prehistoric bands it wants, but it’s never going to be the 1960s again. Yet its modern twist on living in the past more than makes up for this.
When it comes to festival extras, you won’t find yourself forking out for another go on the questionably safe waltzer to kill time before the music starts. The Beach Bar stage has real sand (real sand!) and deckchairs to sit in, the Hipshaker tent (always packed) provides such uncanny cover bands that you have to take a peek just to check it actually is The Smyths. The Bohemian Woods provide hammocks and a chilled-out vibe, and the River Island Karaoke stage is good for a laugh (although everyone’s now heard enough Reef to last a lifetime).
Main Stage highlights include Bastille, playing their biggest gig yet. It's their second time at the festival after playing the tiny Strongbow tent two years ago, and they go down a treat. There are lots of screaming girls and, really, their beauty can be very distracting, but Bastille's version of ‘Rhythm Of The Night’ is utterly feel-good as the sun beats down. Yes, really, the sun.
More screaming girls appear for Ben Howard, whose mellow guitar, picked by plastered hands (surely the lovely young man couldn’t have been in a ruckus?) is expertly accompanied by a single female drummer-cellist-bassist.
Paloma Faith brings a bit of glamour to the stage with her gold mic and ridiculous dress, describing IOW as her “first non-gutteral experience” while lying on a piano. Her voice is belting but she sings with such ease, and her good-natured inclusion of crowd participation wins all over.
Bon Jovi’s headlining of the festival was a fun choice: a fist-pumping, show-stopping end to a cracking festival. But to not mention the Kashmir Café would be a musical sin indeed: a tranquil refuge housing the smallest stage and arguably the most talented acts of the event, listeners sit crossed-legged on wicker rugs with bottles of wine from the cash bar (why do festivals persist with faffy beer tokens?), summing up the blissful atmosphere of the weekend. Special mention goes to The Bear Social and Floella Grace, who also make fudge.
Words: Mia Bleach
Photos: Anna Kroeger
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Elsewhere at the Isle Of Wight Festival, across from Tim Burgess' 'Tim Peaks' tea room, lies a bubbling hangout that walks the line between mayhem and party from start to finish. And if you stand exactly between the two on Saturday night, you can see The Charlatans' singer finish a solo set at one, then dash to the other to kick off a raucous DJ set. This is Channel Carling, a static flurry of non-stop entertainment, ranging from chaotic hip-hop karaokes to the bombastic raves of tribute night, 'Ultimate Guitar'. It's unashamedly infectious, and doesn't stop here. You can catch Channel Carling at V-Festival for its final jaunt of the summer.
You can track Channel Carling using the #channelcarling hashtag
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