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Bob Aylott's Isle of Wight Festival mystery girl photo
By Dominic Blake
BBC Radio Solent reporter

Picture of girl in campsite at Isle of Wight Festival
The image of the girl in the campsite has been seen all over the world

Forty years ago this summer, a young press photographer was on his "dream assignment" - working at the third Isle of Wight Festival.

Bob Aylott was 21 and relishing snapping bands like the Doors, the Who, as well as some of the 600,000 fans.

Among them was a heavily pregnant 'hippy' girl, whose image has since become iconic of the festival, but her identity has remained unknown.

Now Bob would dearly like to put a name to girl in the photograph.

A life in photography

Bob Aylott
Bob Aylott worked for the Daily Sketch newspaper.

These days Bob can be found back in his home town of Fareham working out of his studio in West Street, where his white walls are hung with images from a remarkable career.

Alongside the photos of rock stars and Isle of Wight festival revellers are some of the famous people he has known, and photographed during more than four decades as a press photographer in Britain and the US.

They include Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra and George Best. During a spell in the US, Bob won a World Press Award for photographs of serial killer Charles Manson.

Dream assignment

Bob was sent to the Isle of Wight Festival by his editors at the Daily Sketch newspaper. Over half a million people had also crossed the Solent for the event at Afton Down on the Isle of Wight.

But he recollects his bosses were not particularly interested in the giant rock festival. He explained: "It was still not a big deal at the time, even if there was 600,000 people there, there were other stories going on."

Isle of Wight Festival 1970
600,000 people are thought to have attended the 1970 festival

He continued: "I was in my element, seeing all the bands whose records I had - The Who, Free, the Doors - it was an incredible assignment - sleeping under the stage, having a fantastic time and getting paid for it."

As a photographer at a festival, in the days before every arm had a mobile phone camera attached to it, Bob was central in documenting the event which he remembers being a real farewell to the 1960s.

He explained: "It was like a massive graduation party before we all have to go off and become adults - the last big fling for us kids of the 60s. There were a lot of students, ready to go to work - this was the last big party before we took life seriously.

"As a press photographer you are looking for one image to tell the story of the day. It was a case of going out searching for pictures - hippies at the dole queue, naked hippies in freshwater bay, undercover cops on Ryde Pier."

Mystery girl

The image which has been associated with the Isle of Wight Festival ever since was one of a heavily pregnant girl among the tents.

Film crew
The festival was the 'last big fling' of the 1960s.

"At the time we had our fingers crossed she was going to give birth - she said she was ready at any moment and that would have been a better story - 'love child born at festival'."

Although the photograph was filed to London, it was never published and the negatives were stored. Somehow the caption details with the girl's name and details got lost.

When Bob came to use it in an exhibition in 1972, the girl's name was unknown, but that did not stop the image becoming iconic with posters printed and seen all over the world.

Four decades on, Bob is no closer to discovering the identity of the mother-to-be. But has often wondered what happened to her and the 'bump' - who would now be approaching their 40th birthday.

He said: "I would like her to look exactly as she did then - she could be a silver-haired granny with grandchildren. It would be fascinating to see what she has developed into - at the time she was stunning, a real Marianne Faithful lookalike who turned heads at that festival.

"Maybe she has seen the picture and doesn't want to remember that time, maybe something happened to the child, maybe she wants to forget it - who knows?, that all adds to the mystery."

If you know the identity of the mystery girl at the 1970 Isle of Wight festival, email hampshire@bbc.co.uk.

More of Bob's Isle of Wight Festival Pictures can be seen in Six Days that Rocked the World published in 2009, as well as at a new exhibition - Six Days That Rocked The World, Celebrating the 40th Annivesary of the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival at West Bury Manor Museum, Fareham - from 5 June -28 August 2010.

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