After a year of trying to survive COVID, the Island’s roller disco rink owner has spoken about the troubles it faced when the festival rolled into town.
Based in a building at Newport Harbour, ‘Skates’ took a hit when the Isle of Wight Festival staged the delayed event in September.
Skates was only 4 months old when the pandemic hit and halted everything — including postponing the iconic Seaclose event.
At a difficult time where ‘every penny counted’, Mark Rooney, owner of Skates, said they were trying to build up customer confidence but a lack of communication from the festival has left him dreading the festival’s return. He said:
“The festival is a behemoth freight train version of what I am, my little business, but we have the same problems.”
Mark said he tried to contact the festival to sort out the issues, including going to help from the Isle of Wight Council’s harbour master Jonathan Brand, but he had no festival contact to turn to.
However, a festival spokesperson said they wanted to work with Mark to ensure better communication next year. They had tighter security this year due to COVID restrictions.
One morning, Mark found nearly 15 containers parked in front of the building. When he went up to the festival site office but says he was sent away and told someone would come and see him, but they never did.
Mark said he was fully expecting to be open over the majority of the festival but was told at the last minute people would not be able to access the building so had to cancel sessions and stop staff coming in. Those that did manage to get through, however, were coming in frustrated as security guards were holding them up and questioning them. If there had been dialogue beforehand, Mark said this could have been avoided.
An Isle of Wight Festival spokesperson said they spoke to Mark about the affected classes and offered to let patrons enter the area on foot. It was agreed at the time but a decision was later made to close.
“It is a difficult situation. In previous years there have only been small firms here, it was never going to be a problem. Now it is a little bit more demanding but if we had a conversation we could have sorted this.
Article continues below this advertisement
“I have to find a certain amount a month to pay the bills but that was taken away from me. It made it difficult. Another year I might have been able to brunt it but it was tough.
“I am aware it is going to come next year, but what do I do? Do I write business off for that period?”
The festival spokesperson said they are keen to work with Skates to allow access and the management team would be in touch to work things out for 2022 and beyond.
The security has also been criticised by Isle of Wight councillors, with Matt Price saying, at a harbour committee meeting, the way they restricted residents was not acceptable.
Cllr Price said a lot of things had changed from the way the harbour was controlled in previous years and things needed to go back to the way they were.
The festival spokesperson also said the health, safety and security operation was more robust than previous years due to strict COVID management plans.
Don’t miss another story! Get the Island’s latest news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up to our daily newsletter here.