Jackie Leishman reports from the Isle of Wight pop festival
WEDNESDAY, Thursday and Friday morning had not just been days of preperation for the main performers and the maximum crowds at the Isle of Wight music festival; they were days when divisions in the audience threatened to put the rest of the festival in jeopardy. but an amazing performance by Tiny Tim, on Friday evening, billed as a humorous act, proved to be just what was needed.
Before Tiny Tim, Miss Joni Mitchell - the gentle American folk rock singer - was harassed by a restless crowd. She had been interrupted by one young man on a bad LSD trip in front of the arena, and then by another man who wanted to speak to the fans on the public address system. These were incidents which told the mood of the crowd.
It took Tiny Tim, last heard of at his much-publicised wedding, to get them all singing "There'll Always Be An England" and "Land of Hope and Glory." You could feel the tension break. A large balloon appeared on the horizon and floated slowly overhead; the crowd beneath rose to its feet and the aggression subsided. From then on it was "togetherness" for all but a malingering minority and Ricki Farr, the compere, said simply "It's beautiful. It's OK now."
The trouble had begun when thousands of fans realised the potential of East Afton downs - a natural grandstand overlooking the site - from where they could see and hear for nothing. By last night that area was packed and Fiery Creations were talking of the possibility of the National Trust, the owners of the land, taking legal action when it was all over.
For Fiery Creations the gatecrashers represented valuable lost revenue, but there appeared no way to persuade the fans on the hill to pay for their music. The downs - renamed Devastation Hill - were also the source of the "bad vibration." From the beginning groups of mostly French fans had huddled around fires talking of how they could interrupt the show. They broke down fences, shouted for free music and clashed among themselves.
The private security force employed by Fiery Creations was used to cool them. The police, who were rarely seen in uniform on the site, did not intervene. Inspector George Cutliffe said, "Security on the site is not our business. If the organisers want our help we will be called in."
What profits or loss Fiery Creations finally makes will not be known for some time. But talk of financial disaster at this stage seems premature. Of the crowd of 200,000 people or more by far the greatest majority have paid for tickets. Fiery Creations claim to have invested £500,000 in the festival and the bands are said to be costing £200,000.
The exact ticket sales figures are not yet available but on Friday they had reached 90,000. A three day ticket costs each fan £3. But apart from revenue from tickets the organisers can expect a substantial amount from the catering concessions and the film and recording rights.
In many ways the festival seems to have been just an extended session of the event last year. There are few signs that organisers or the fans have progressed sufficiently far to be able to say "This is the direction we are moving in" or "This is where we want to go." There are indications that both the fans and the organisers have had enough.
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Added to Library on February 11, 2009. (5058)
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