Medina College students interview members of The Script
WIGHT LIVING THE dust had hardly settled on Bestival than tourism bosses began their review of the Island’s festival year.
The main holiday season, which they want to extend further, is now defined by the IW Festival at the start and Bestival at its end.
But it was not just Island eyes that were focused on the multi-million pound festival industry. There were envious observers from beyond the water too.
An article in the Jersey Evening Post, in the wake of Bestival, told readers the Channel Island could learn from the IW in the way it has embraced festivals as part of a kit for economic survival.
The newspaper pointed to the lucrative spin-offs of the festivals to local shops, ferries, taxi firms, concessionaires, the raft of local people who work at the events and to the profile of the IW.
It answered the question "What do festivals do for us?" from across the sea, when many people here are still debating it.
It’s not just the big two festivals — there’s world music at Rhythmtree sandwiched in between, the scooter rally, classic cars, smaller events like Postfest as well as walking, cycling, literary and arts festivals and garlic and sweetcorn along the way.
Music historian, Dr Brian Hinton, said: "It took a long time but festivals have been detoxified.
"Island MP Mark Woodnutt’s IW Act followed the 1970 festival at Afton and it took three decades to recover from that hangover," he added.
Brian is chairman of the Dimbola Museum and Gallery, which has a new display of the 1970 festival, and he has been a festival fan since he was at Afton 43 years ago.
"We are so lucky to have two festivals known on the world stage and which now run like Rolls Royces. They are so different in character and content, both marvellous in their own ways.
"What they have in common is they ran so smoothly. The rest of the Island hardly knew they were happening, due to the improvements put in place after last year (after heavy rain caused the IW Festival many problems).
"There’s been a great sea change in the attitude towards the festivals, too. People used to complain about everything, whereas now, I think, there is a general acceptance they are part of the fabric of Island life, woven into it.
"It was so nice to see a young Bestival audience arriving this year. They could be grandsons and daughters of those at the 1970 event. They, like their grandparents, will undoubtedly return to this lovely Island later on in life."
Visit IW chief executive, David Thornton, points out to holidaymakers the Island is not completely taken over by revellers during festivals.
"My message is people can still come to Seaview, Ventnor, or wherever and they probably won’t know there’s a festival happening."
Back in 1970, it was difficult to find a beer and a burger, whereas modern festivals are run with complete efficiency.
An assessment by the Association of Independent Festivals, which represents 44 events in the UK, puts the average spend of 557,000 festival goers at £382.49.
The association was founded by Bestival curator, Rob da Bank, who puts the Bestival spend at £22.8 million — quite a chunk of the Island’s £630 million plus annual income from tourism.
At Bestival, in addition to the jobs for hundreds of Islanders, 73 local businesses, organisations and charities are involved, from scaffolders to farmers, printers to the WI and local entertainers.
The IW Youth Trust, which offers counselling and information to young people, has had long-term support from Bestival and will benefit from recording sales of this year’s headliners, Fatboy Slim and Sir Elton John, plus donations from ticket sales.
During the ten years Rob has curated Bestival, his ethos has been to make the event a real part of the IW and give something back.
The Radio 1 DJ lives here and takes the trouble to organise free music workshops for 14 to 18 year olds, at Quay Arts.
Post Bestival, The Independent quoted him, saying: "Islanders are a mixture of ultra-conservatives and some very hedonistic ex-hippies. It definitely took a few years for them to get their heads around Bestival. But it is very good for the economy."
One aspect he highlighted is Bestival’s relationship with the Island WI: "They absolutely love it. They started with us ten years ago and now do thousands and thousands of cuppas and cakes."
St Catherine’s School is one of the charities supported by Bestival and the IW Festival, and festival boss, John Giddings, and his wife, Caroline, know how important "brand IW" is to the event.
John said: "The Island is so important to the IW Festival and we try to include Islanders wherever possible.
"Whether it is a local band or local business, we find something.
"Working with Medina College, St Catherine’s, Dimbola and Platform One has been incredibly rewarding too.
"The people are so friendly and helpful, it makes the whole event worthwhile and satisfying."
A positive educational result for Medina College, next door, is a new music suite and a 100 per cent GCSE and BTEC music pass rate to show for it.
There are seemingly little things too but they have the power to change lives.
Jake Hitchcock was given a press pass to take pictures at the event and his photographs were so good they were used by the festival PR company.
Year 10 did a newsletter, featuring interviews with Big Top bands, while the college radio team interviewed band members from The Script, Molly McQueen, James Walsh and Willy Moon.
St Catherine’s students raised £3,000 for their school and increased awareness of its work in speech and language.
Examples of how the economy benefits are many and various.
Southern Vectis drafts in 30 more buses to meet demand and drivers earn overtime.
For several years, Arreton Sweetcorn has supplied thousands of cobs to Bestival and Vintage Vacations’ caravans are rented to those staying off-site.
Ryde Taxis is extremely busy during both events, said operations manager, Danny Partridge: "Bestival, I think, in particular, is fantastic for the Island.
"The biggest problem is keeping our regular customers happy because we always give them priority."
Coast and Country Marquees do the IW Festival and Bestival, taking on extra staff, said director Paul Cooper: "It’s all hands to the pump. Our warehouse, which is stacked with tents of all sizes, is nearly empty at the end of it.
"It benefits the Island in that because we can bank on the festival and Bestival business, so we have more tents to supply to other Island events."
Unsurprisingly, the ferry companies are behind both events and promote packages, saying the revenue props up loss-making services.