IW Festival – 20 year anniversary

May 17, 2022

By Jo Macaulay

It was 20 years ago today…

That John Giddings restarted the Isle of Wight Festival, and what a fabulous opening to the Island’s summer it has been for the past two decades. John says that it’s the best thing that he’s done in his career, and make no bones about it, his career is something else, as he’s agent and manager to a huge number of top music artists, many of whom he has brought over for us to enjoy.

After a hiatus of 32 years, the IW Festival restarted as a one-day event in 2002, called ‘Rock Island’, and Robert Plant and The Charlatans topped the bill, playing to an audience of around 8,000. By 2003 the festival had grown to encompass Saturday and Sunday, starred Paul Weller and Bryan Adams, Starsailor and Counting Crows and the audience had almost doubled to 15,000.




In 2004 David Bowie headlined on the Sunday, with The Who on Saturday and Stereophonics on Friday – the three-day festival was born and 35,000 people attended. David Bowie played a stunning set – the last UK gig he ever played.



Michael Stipe menaced the crowds with blue striped face, as the sun went down behind the stage on Sunday 2005. REM were supported by Snow Patrol, Travis and Roxy Music headlined on Saturday and Faithless and Razorlight on Friday, and around 50,000 people attended. Kidzone with loads of free kids’ activities appeared this year, run by Islander Liz Cooke, who also makes the colourful flags around the festival site.



Lou Reed refused to play Perfect Day on Sunday 2006 – an act that was later rectified by headliners Coldplay, joined by the entire crowd. Richard Ashcroft supported them, Foo Fighters and Primal Scream headlined Saturday and Prodigy and Placebo on Friday.



Buses ferried festival-goers to see the statue of Jimi Hendrix at Dimbola in Freshwater, commissioned by John Giddings to commemorate Jimi’s performance at the 1970 IW Festival held nearby. The Bandstand debuted, run by local music college Platform One, who now have their own stage every year and a contest called ‘Wight Noize’ – the winner gets to open the main stage on Sunday.



The Rolling Stones headlined on 2007 and over 60,000 people came to see Mick strutting down into the crowd on their ‘B Stage’ (which cost an extra £100k) and duetting with both Amy Winehouse and Paolo Nutini, both of whom played over the weekend. Keane supported the Stones, Muse and Kasabian headlined on Saturday and Snow Patrol and Groove Armada on Friday. The IW Festival deservedly won the ‘Outstanding Contribution to UK Festivals’ award for this year.



It seemed to be punk year in 2008, with The Police and The Kooks on Sunday, The Sex Pistols and Ian Brown on Saturday and The Kaiser Chiefs and N.E.R.D. on Friday and this was the first year that The Big Top hosted music for campers on the Thursday night. The Kashmir Café made its debut, with local bands and beers, raising much needed funds for Quay Arts (Wet Leg played their first gig here).



Veteran rocker and superlative songwriter, Neil Young headlined on Sunday in 2009, supported by Pixies; Stereophonics and Razorlight played Saturday and Prodigy and Basement Jaxx on Friday.



P!nk twirled above the crowd on a trapeze strung across the auditorium before a blinding final set by Paul McCartney on Sunday 2010. On Friday the crowd went wild when Jay-Z was joined on stage by surprise guest Kanye West,

and The Strokes and Blondie headlined Saturday.



Kasabian and Beady Eye headlined Sunday in 2011, Foo Fighters and Pulp on Saturday and Kings of Leon and Kaiser Chiefs on Friday. Then in 2012 Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers headlined on Friday with Elbow, Pearl Jam and Biffy Clyro on Saturday; and on Sunday after Noel Gallaghers’ High Flying Birds, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band rocked out Seaclose to close the festival.



The amazing Bon Jovi headlined Sunday 2013 following The Script; on Saturday it was The Killers and Bloc Party and on Friday Paul Weller followed by The Stone Roses. In 2014 The Red Hot Chili Peppers headlined on the Saturday following The Specials, Friday it was Calvin Harris and Biffy Clyro and Sunday was Kings of Leon and Suede.



John Giddings said that he cried when Fleetwood Mac confirmed as headliners for Sunday 2015, who turned down Glastonbury to play the Isle of Wight. They followed Paolo Nutini; Blur and Pharrell Williams went down a storm on Saturday and The Prodigy and The Black Keys headlined on Friday.



Status Quo played the Big Top on the Thursday night of 2016, Faithless and Stereophonics the main stage on Friday, with The Who and Richard Ashcroft on Saturday, and an outstanding performance from Queen and Adam Lambert closed the festival.


Apparently, John Giddings asked Rod Stewart why he’d never played the IW Festival and Rod said, “Nobody’s asked me.” “They have now,” replied John for the 2017 Festival. Razorlight played the Big Top on Thursday, David Guetta and Run-D.M.C Friday’s main stage, Arcade Fire and Catfish and the Bottlemen on Saturday, with Bastille on before Rod, who gave a stellar performance.



The Killers and the Manic Street Preachers headlined on Sunday 2018, Depeche Mode and Liam Gallagher on Saturday and Kasabian and The Script on Friday, with the Wombats in the Big Top on Thursday. Wet, Wet, Wet played the Big Top on the Thursday of 2019, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds headlined the main stage on Friday, George Ezra and Fatboy Slim on Saturday and Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro last thing Sunday.



It was pandemic year in 2020, so no festival, and it was touch and go in 2021, but the team worked very hard behind the scenes to ensure that the festival went ahead in September. Many of the acts booked for 2020 played, with Scouting for Girls and Sophie Ellis-Bextor in the Big Top on Thursday, Liam Gallagher and Tom Jones on the main stage Friday, Snow Patrol and David Guetta on Saturday. Sunday was The Script, then headliners Duran Duran rounded off the night firing confetti canons and releasing huge beachballs into the crowd to ‘Rio’.


For 2022 the Happy Mondays entertain campers on Thursday in the Big Top, (and local band Wet Leg play there on Sunday), Lewis Capaldi and Madness headline Friday’s main stage, Kasabian and Pete Tong provide party beats on Saturday and Rudimental and Muse will close the Festival on Sunday.

Be there, or be square, as they said in 1970…