The Isle of Wight group promoting the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Island’s iconic 1968-70 rock festivals is now calling for the creation of a permanent visitor centre to honour the legacy of those events.
The All Wight Now legacy group of festival devotees staged a celebratory gig last September to mark the anniversary of the 1968 inaugural festival and is staging the Million Dollar Bash festival on Saturday 31st August – 50 years to the day since Bob Dylan headlined an all-star 1969 IW bill at Woodside Bay, Wootton.
Although those events shine a light for a day on the original festivals that have gone down in rock history, there is no permanent site to mark the cultural impact of those historic gatherings.
This is in sharp contrast to the centre created on the 1969 Woodstock Festival site in New York State, honouring the legacy of the one-off Woodstock event. The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is described as an amphitheatre, performing arts center and museum. The $150 million facility was first planned 25 years after Woodstock and eventually opened in 2006 and has since become a vibrant cultural hub and visitor attraction.
Something similar on the Island is well overdue, according to the man largely responsible for creating the legendary first 3 Isle of Wight festivals.
Ray Foulk, co-promoter of the 1968, 69 and 70 Island festivals, says:
“We had three festivals that left a major imprint on the wider festival movement and on cultural life in Britain. There was only one Woodstock, and frankly it was a bit of a mess.
“We had three events, including the 1969 festival when we attracted Bob Dylan – who at the time lived not far from the Bethel Woods site, in New York, but chose the Island over Woodstock – and the 1970 festival, which attracted even more fans than Woodstock. A permanent visitor centre would be a fantastic goal for the Island and it has my support.”
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The new chair of the legacy group, Jonathan Bacon, said:
“It is somehow ridiculous that the Island has no permanent centre to do what we set out in our mission statement as a group: to educate, inspire and entertain the widest possible audience and preserves the musical and cultural legacy of the historic 1968, 1969 and 1970 Isle of Wight festivals.
“We have had preliminary discussions about what might be possible and we now want to engage with all interested parties to make this long-term goal a reality.”
Another member, Peter Harrigan, was PR director for the 1969 and 70 festivals. As director of Medina Publishing, he has helped produce three books on the IW Festivals and he also has international contacts and experience in delivering major visitor centres. He said:
“Those original festivals may have been controversial back in the day but they are now regarded as cultural jewels. They are jewels worth celebrating and showcasing. A visitor centre and performing arts centre will add a new dimension to the Island, provide a valuable and much needed world-class cultural space and add to the Island’s tourism and cultural infrastructure.”
The upcoming Million Dollar Bash, on Saturday, August 31, will feature an all-star bill at The County Showground, including folk-rock legends Ashley Hutchings and Richard Thompson – both founder members of Fairport Convention; rockers Wishbone Ash; 1969 IW veterans Julie Felix, Jacqui McShee’;s Pentangle and Phil May and Dick Taylor from The Pretty Things. There will be poetry from Roger McGough and Brian Patten and several exhibitions featuring original festival material.
Tickets are available online at allwightnow.com at £44 with concessions for under-18s and children under-10s go free. Island sales are discounted at £40 from That 60s Place, Cowes, and at Dimbola Galleries and Museum, Freshwater.