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Last Updated: Monday, 12 June 2006, 03:39 GMT 04:39 UK
Island revels in festival revival
By Ian Youngs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Fans at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival
The 1970 Isle of Wight festival went down in hippy history

The Isle of Wight music festival is back on the festival A-list more than 35 years after artists like Jimi Hendrix and The Doors drew hundreds of thousands of fans.

When some 600,000 hippies travelled to the Isle of Wight festival in 1970, crowds tore down the fences in protest at the "capitalist pigs" who were charging 3 a ticket.

It is slightly different these days. Almost 60,000 were at the festival's modern incarnation this weekend, with tickets costing 105 a pop, the fence intact and scarcely a hippy in sight.

So would veterans of the original recognise the modern festival?

I would like to say that the 50,000 people at the festival bring this Island to life. They are fun, good natured, largely polite, spend loads in the town and are great to see
Lisa, Isle of Wight

Both had just one stage at the end of a big field, but the sound quality has improved and big screens invented since the class of '70, who were lucky to see or hear the musicians.

The site did not run out of food and drink this time, with no shortage of stands selling global cuisine.

Some of this year's attendees may not believe it, but festival toilet facilities have also advanced in the last few decades.

But a visitor from 1970 might have been aghast at the prominence of brands like Carling, Nokia and Virgin.

Families join festival-goers on the Isle of Wight.

Even Marks & Spencer had a stall, selling take-away food and festival supplies.

And the cashpoints, bag searches and fields of shiny cars may also be alien to someone stepping out of the hippy era.

But the most obvious difference is probably the crowd itself.

People are still trying to escape the daily grind - but the hippies' war against the capitalist pigs has long been lost and this year's crowd is resigned to being back at work on Monday morning.

Boozers and bruisers

M&S promotional material
Sign of the times at modern festivals?
Music festivals are now at the heart of mainstream culture and the variety of tribes at events like Isle of Wight has widened to cover most corners of society.

England-shirted boozers and bruisers sit next to fat-bottomed couples, while teen party animals rub shoulders with young children, middle-youth mates and ageing rockers.

But bohemian beatniks are on the verge of extinction - or have at least evolved out of all recognition.

"Everybody was feeling very free and anything could go," says Procol Harum singer Gary Brooker of the original event. He is the only person to have played at both the 1970 and 2006 festivals.

"It was a breakaway from years and years of following an establishment pattern," he says.

"We were part of that then and so were the audience. Now it's a different world."

Utopian atmosphere

The utopian atmosphere of the hippy days may be remembered fondly, but that event was so chaotic that an Act of Parliament was passed to ban further festivals on the island.

Festival stall
Flower power with a more modern twist

So the festival lay dormant until the law was repealed and the first modern event took place in 2002.

Organiser John Giddings says he has deliberately tried to make the 21st century Isle of Wight Festival a descendant of the earlier event.

"I was there in 1970," he says. "That was the defining moment of a generation, wasn't it?

"You came together with these other people of a like mind. I'm not sure people think like that any more."

He has used a hippy face as this year's festival logo, psychedelic imagery adorned its stage and T-shirts and Hendrix lyrics hung from fences on site.

"The Isle of Wight festival is iconic so you can market the heritage of Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Bob Dylan - you're not starting from scratch," Mr Giddings says.

"They had some of the best acts in the world ever, so you can utilise that as a marketing angle."

Rose-tinted comparisons

This year's headliners Coldplay were attracted by the fact that Bob Dylan played there in 1969, Mr Giddings says. Dylan himself was drawn by the island's connection with poet Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Chilled out festivalgoer
For some the excitement all got too much

But the hippy legend is more than just a marketing tool, according to Mr Giddings.

"We try and instil a hippy ethic throughout the whole thing because we think that protects the image of the event. I think that's really important."

In practice, the hippy logo is the most obvious example of that ethic.

But rose-tinted comparisons are not really fair on the modern event. It is, indeed, a different world - and by any standard, this year's festival was a success.

The non-stop sunshine helped, as did the musical line-up, which straddled mainstream and alternative tastes, with most acts chosen for their live prowess.

Asked for their highlights, most fans mentioned two names - Friday's headliners The Prodigy and Saturday's stars the Foo Fighters, while Coldplay also went down a storm with Sunday's closing set.

It is hard to compete with the legend of Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and Bob Dylan. But the Isle of Wight Festival has become a hit in the post-hippy world.


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