The Isle of Wight Festival is a music festival which takes place every year on the Isle of Wight in the UK. It was originally held from 1968 to 1970. These original events were promoted and organised by the Foulk brothers (Ron, Ray and Bill Foulk) under the banner of their company Fiery Creations Limited. The venues were Ford Farm (near Godshill), Wootton and Afton Down (near Freshwater) respectively. The 1969 event was notable for the appearance of Bob Dylan and the Band.
This was Dylan’s first paid performance since his motor cycle accident some two years earlier, and was held at a time when many still wondered if he would ever perform again. Followers from across the world trecked to the Isle of Wight for what seemed like a ‘second coming’. Estimates of 150,000–250,000 attended. The 1969 festival opened on Friday 29 August—eleven days after the close of Woodstock. Dylan was living in Woodstock, New York, at the time and it was widely believed that he would perform there, after the event had been “put in his own backyard”. As it happened, Dylan left for the Isle of Wight on 15 August—the day the Woodstock festival began.
The 1970 event was by far the largest and most famous of these early festivals; indeed it was said at the time to be one of the largest human gatherings in the world, with estimates of over 600,000, surpassing the attendance at Woodstock. Included in the line-up of over fifty performers were The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, The Doors, Ten Years After,Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Joni Mitchell, The Moody Blues, Melanie, Donovan, Free, Chicago, Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Leonard Cohen, Jethro Tull, Taste and Tiny Tim. The unexpectedly high attendance levels led, in 1971, to Parliament passing the “Isle of Wight Act” preventing gatherings of more than 5,000 people on the island without a special licence.
The 1970 festival was filmed by a 35mm film crew under the direction of future Academy Award-winning director Murray Lerner who at that point had just directed the Academy Award-nominated documentary Festival of the Newport Folk Festival. The footage passed to Lerner in settlement of legal fees after a dispute with the Foulk brothers in which the two sides claimed against each for breach of contract. Lerner distilled material from the festival into the film A Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Rock Festival released theatrically in 1996 and subsequently on DVD. In addition to this film, Lerner has created full-length films focused on performances by individual artists at the 1970 festival. To date there have been individual films of The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Moody Blues, Free, Leonard Cohen and Jethro Tull.
The event was revived in 2002 at Seaclose Park, a recreation ground on the outskirts of Newport. It has been held annually since that year, progressively extending itself northwards beyond Seaclose Park along the fields of the eastern Medina valley. Many notable artists have performed since its revival including
The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Muse, Stereophonics, Donovan, Ray Davies, Robert Plant, David Bowie, Manic Street Preachers, The Who, R.E.M., Coldplay, The Proclaimers, Bryan Adamsand The Police. It was sponsored by Nokia from 2004 to 2006. The promoters of the event now are Solo Music Agency and promotions. Apart from being held on the Isle of Wight, and featuring the now customary artwork of Dave Roe, there is no connection with the festivals of 1968–1970.