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Reports of gridlocked traffic and mud bound chaos at this weekend's festival on the Isle of Wight invoke happy childhood memories for me. My mother's family came from Newport Isle of Wight, and we spent all our childhood summer holidays there with our extended family and grandparents back in the 1960s.

The Isle of Wight is a tiny rhombus shaped patch of land just 23 miles wide and 12 miles deep located off the south coast of England. It has always been the very first port of call for any sea-borne invaders of our shores, including the Romans who called it Vectis, yet it has also ever been a traditional sleepy hollow. They say that the clocks go back twenty years when you step off the ferry at Cowes.

Between 1968 and 1970 the Isle of Wight improbably played host to three of the most famous rock music festivals ever held in England, and I watched all of them unfurling at a distance from the perspective of a local child, rather than as an invading 'grockle'. Many people think there were only two big rock festivals on the island at that period, but there were in fact three. The first one was held at Godshill, a small hamlet in the very centre of the Island in August 1968. It was famous because both Jimi Hendrix and the Jefferson Airplane played there. The Airplane were making their very first visit to Britain that summer and had just played their first ever concerts in England in tandem with The Doors at the Chalk Farm London Roundhouse building. They were less happy with the wind blown field in Godshill because the dust kept spoiling the projection lenses used in their famous psychedelic film and light show.

A year later in July 1969 when our family arrived once more in the Island for our traditional summer holiday, I noticed large green posters for a second music festival in a few weeks time. The headliner ? Well it was Bob Dylan and the Band. Bob Dylan at that time was a famous recluse who hadn't been seen in public since 1966 when he had spun off a motorcycle and broken his neck up in New York State. Dylan had only recently rejected numerous offers to play at a large music festival planned for the Fall of 1969 at Woodstock where he was living at the time. So how on earth had he been tempted out of hiding to play at the Isle of Wight of all places ? The answer apparently was that brothers Ronald and Raymond Foulk, the owners of Fiery Creations, the IOW festival organisers had cleverly played on the fact that the island had been a favourite resort in the 19th century for poets such as Lord Alfred Tennyson and Algernon Charles Swinburne. Bob Dylan was a soft touch for poetic history, and the idea of walking the same Downs that Tennyson had once paced became the deal maker.

The festival site of the 1969 bash was at a place called Wotton Creek on the north east coast, to the west of the seaside resort town of Ryde. It was also engagingly near the Benedictine monastery at Quarr Abbey. We passed the festival site every day in our cars as we drove to our seaside beach tents in Seagrove bay a few miles further down the road. Bob Dylan and the band were lodged in a rented manor farm house at Bembridge, just beyond, and they used to drop into the local bars and hotels there to the delight of the locals. It was a fine summer and everyone had a great time.

The third and final Isle of Wight Festival of that era was held in August 1970 in the vicinity of Freshwater Bay on the western point of the Island. This was the one that provoked the island authorities into imposing an indefinite ban on any such free-wheeling events for the foreseeable future. It was epic, and it was also in hindsight deeply poignant because it marked the final major performances of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison of the Doors, and Janis Joplin. Within a few weeks of their performances on the Island Hendrix and Joplin would be dead. (Morrison died a year later in Paris.) People surged towards the Island from all directions, not just England but from all over Europe too. I was actually travelling back to the Isle of Wight from France that summer to rejoin my family, and the ferries were jammed solid with French and German music fans heading for the festival site. They lost count of quite how many people landed on the island that summer, but conservative estimates suggest that the population of the island doubled that week. The entire transport infrastructure of the island ground to a halt that weekend, but at least the weather remained peerless, and the flower clad festival-goers and the local police both went paddling together in Freshwater Bay.

I do hope that fans heading for this year's rain sodden Isle of Wight festival manage to get there, eventually. It is being held this time at Seaclose Park, just outside the main town of Newport, in a field on the North East side of the river Medina. Have a good one !

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