Bob Dylan, who headlined the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival at Woodside Bay, is the subject of the latest exhibition at Dimbola Museum & Galleries at Freshwater Bay.
This mixed media show has been curated by Ray Foulk, 1 of the 3 brothers behind Fiery Creations, the organisation that mounted that momentous event which attracted 150,000 people.
At the launch of the exhibition, Dr Brian Hinton MBE introduced Ray who spoke on his experiences leading up to the 1969 event. Ray was with his daughter, Caroline, who has researched and co-written books with her father. She read excerpts of Dylan’s press conference held at the Halland Hotel, Seaview before his appearance at Wootton.
Ray related how the story started at Christmas 1968 when his older brother Ronnie had floated the idea of a festival featuring Dylan after being given Dylan’s album ‘John Wesley Harding’. Dylan’s manager Albert Lee Grossman was approached and rather than giving a straight no he encouraged the brothers to try again.
Grossman then had a fall-out – overperforming at Woodstock which was due to take place 15th-17th August 1969 – with Dylan so Ray Foulk then spoke with Grossman’s partner Bert Block, who was still on cordial terms with Bob and persisted until early July when things began to happen.
Details of the Foulk brothers plan was required by Dylan’s management plus super8 film footage of the festival site. Negotiations continued apace and when a New York meeting was arranged a fee of £35,000 (£250,000 in today’s value) was requested. After the Foulks had undertaken the immense task of raising the requisite finance, Ray flew to New York and negotiated the contracts and signed Bob Dylan. Upon Ray’s return there was little over a month to confirm a fabulous bill of supporting artistes and build a festival at Woodside Bay.
Come the 15th August – the opening of Woodstock – Bob Dylan and his family were boarding the QE2 bound for Southampton. However, soon after boarding, Bob’s son had an accident and the family disembarked before the ship sailed. Later Bob and his wife Sara flew to the UK.
On stage at Woodside, Bob’s performance featured 17 songs and was well received by the music press but slated by the tabloid newspapers, perhaps because he came on stage 2 hours late. Interestingly, Michael Lang, one of the Woodstock promoters, travelled to the Island to see Bob’s appearance here. 3 of the Beatles (not Paul) plus Yoko Ono were in the audience, along with Jane Fonda and cricketer Bob Willis.
Obviously, Bob Dylan features heavily in the photographs on display along with Joe Cocker and The Who. There is one shot of Ray and the other Foulk brothers enjoying tea at Farringford House. Press cuttings of the 1969 Festival also feature as does a sculpture of handprints by Guy Portelli. These hands represent those who have performed at Isle of Wight Festivals and include Arthur Brown, Donovan and Joan Baez.
Ray will also be talking at the upcoming Million Dollar Bash at the County Showground, Northwood on Saturday 31st August.
This exhibition, entitled ‘Ray Foulk: Stealing Dylan’, continues until 23rd October.
Report by Alan & Suzanne Whitewood
Featured photo: Graham Reading Photography