Isle of Wight Festival 1969

Three days of music on the Isle of Wight

Friday 29th August

Having bought tickets in Southampton on 09 August, Pete Cory and myself left work on the Friday evening heading for the Red Funnel terminal in Southampton for the Isle of Wight ferry to East Cowes.
We took a bus to Wootton Bridge and a short walk followed and we were at No 2 Gate on the festival site. Five minutes later we were inside the arena. Unfortunately while putting his ticket away Pete discovered he had lost his travel warrant covering a return home to Bristol when we got back.

Friday evening acts (from my notes*)

  • Eclection
  • Bonzo Dog Do-dah Band
  • The Nice

*These act lists are from the pages in my pocket diary - but they may not be the full act list(s).
Complete lists (and some set lists) can be found in the references below.

It slightly shocks me now but I can't recall us taking anything with us. We had no tent, no sleeping bag, no mattress or groundsheet - nothing. I guess we had some basic food - probably biscuits for the evening. So when the Nice had finished, along with several (it seemed like many) others, we followed the track towards the sea and slept in the woods. I am not sure there was much sleep - but we survived the night.

Saturday 30th August

Into Wootton village to buy some provisions. An island of 100,000 takes on 100,000 people attending the festival - how could it cope? Well, pretty well from a users ppint of view! - we managed to get enough food in the village without any serous difficulty.

You had to arrive early to get good pitches in the arena. When we got back we were about half the field back from the stage but had plenty of space. Within an hour or two all the space around us had been eaten up and almoust every piece of grass had someone on it. People sat throughout the event - any standing, as you might see today, was around the edge of the arena. Several afternoon sessions were not too exciting but there was ad-hoc entertainment like the woman who stripped off and started dancing naked in the middle of the sea of heads - though Pete had gone to the toilets and it was all over when he got back.

Saturday acts from early afternoon (again from my notes)

  • Gypsy
  • Edgar Broughton Band
  • Blonde on Blonde
  • Blodwyn Pig
  • Aynsley Dunbar
  • Marsha Hunt
  • Pretty Things
  • The Who
  • Joe Cocker
  • Free
  • Family
  • Fat Matress
  • Moody Blues

The first half of this eleven minute French film captures the spirit of the event quite well - lots of people travelling to the site (via Ryde here) but in good spirits - if slightly understated. There are clips of the Who and Dylan as well.

Sunday 31st August

Sunday acts (from my notes)

Again another foray into the village for provisions after another night in the woods - fortunately the weather was very good for late August.

  • 3rd ear band
  • Indo Jazz
  • Liverpool Scene
  • Gary Farr
  • Julie Felix
  • Pentangle
  • Tom Paxton
  • Richie Havens
  • The Band
  • Bob Dylan (and The Band)

The final evening stuttered slightly with Richie Havens keeping everyone going - then a lull and finally The Band delivered a solid session before another long wait. The headliner session was Bob Dylan of course. He was making a comeback after some time off the road following a motorcycle accident in July 1966. Here he was in yet another incarnation - this time as folk/country singer having recorded and released "John Wesley Harding" and "Nashville Skyline" while recovering 1967-69. This was his first big step in returning to performing. Nervous and a little low key, possibly the "Judas" reception at one of his last pre-accident performances Manchester in May 1966, was still a painful memory? From our pitch on the grass he was a small figure on the stage picked out in a white suite.

The Dylan setlist can be viewed here

Five of the live recordings from this event are available as tracks on albums:

On Self Portrait:

  • "Like a Rolling Stone" [where there is no "Judas" - just cheers from the IoW audience]
  • "Mightly Quinn"
  • "Minstrel Boy"
  • "She Belongs to me"

and "Highway 61 Revisited" on "Another Self Portrait" released in August 2013.


Monday 1st September

After his encore the event closed around midnight and there was no debate "woods vs ferry"? - we started the dark trek along the main road to East Cowes along with many others. No buses passed us and fortunately we managed to get near the front of the queue for the first ferry which was around dawn. Back to the digs in Bitterne for a wash and a long sleep. Pete went home to Bristol, paying his own way.

The site in 2012

During 2012 I walked the Isle of Wight Coastal Path and the leg from East Cowes to Ryde goes through Wootton Bridge. I could not resist a short detour to the site. I had just about worked out the layout from the site map and local tracks/fields when two local ladies came down the lane - one of whom had also attended the event. The event clearly still resonates in the local village. See their page "a report by the local Wootton Community"

%Gate 2 today%%the arena today%
The above photos, taken on 21 March 2012, show (left to right):

No 2 Gate location [west] looking into the arena and the No 1 Gate [east] location looking into the arena.
See the site map here.

Updated KJM 23 August 2013


Location

Wootton Bridge, Isle of Wight


Period

Start: 29 August 1969
End: 31 August 1969


References

1969 Isle of Wight Festival: a report by the local Wootton Community
1969 Isle of Wight Festival: Wikipedia Summary
1969 Isle of Wight Festival: Fesival site map
1969 Isle of Wight Festival: UK Rock Festivals pages