Me, Myself & I: Isle of Wight Festival’s John Giddings

With the Isle of Wight festival occurring this weekend (9-13 June), we revisit our full interview with Isle of Wight Festival operations director John Giddings – which originally feature in the February relaunch edition.

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MY BUGBEAR… Why is secondary ticketing banned in football but not music? That really harms promoters of events when people are buying four tickets in order to fund two more. Government don’t seem to be interested in doing anything, as it obviously doesn’t benefit them.

ACTING UP… There is an Isle of Wight Act, and everything we do has to fit into its remit. It has an ability to call anything we do into question at any time.

AIF MEMBERSHIP… I didn’t understand why I hadn’t joined the AIF sooner. I seemed like the last person to own a festival and not be in it. There’s nothing better than sharing information. Issues like policing, health and safety etc, all benefit from having open discussion. I see Rob Da Bank on a regular basis and we’ve attended AIF meetings which he’s been at.

SEX APPEAL… Seeing the Sex Pistols at The Nashville Rooms, West Kensington is a career highlight. They were playing in a backroom in 1976 and were completely unknown. People at the front were jumping up and down – a dance move I later found out was called ‘pogo-ing’. John Lydon was stubbing cigarettes out on his arms and wore a t-shirt saying ‘I Hate Pink Floyd’, which was sacrilege to me as they were my favourite band.

EARLY MISTAKES… When starting out, I worked at the Hammersmith Odeon, and when showing (late 1970’s punk group) X-Ray Spex the dressing room I accidentally opened the door to the broom cupboard, a sign of how clueless I was at the time.

SOS… I agree with the critics of Soho’s cultural demise in your recent feature (February p.29). Tim Arnold has asked me to write to David Bowie to sing a line in the song they’re doing to save Soho. It’s a sad situation, and the way of the world. Soho has a great heart and energy and what’s happening is like 1984 except you can’t call it that as that year has gone.

LOCAL TALENT… My ambition is to get a group from the Isle of Wight who are successful internationally but you can only do what you believe in. All the urban centres in the UK generate great music.

FUTURE HEADLINERS… In 20 years time the Foo Fighters, Coldplay and Muse will still be headlining. Ed Sheeran will soon headline a major event. The Black Keys and Royal Blood are great and can project to a large audience. Is there another Arctic Monkeys? Not that I’ve seen yet.

SENSE OF SCALE… When putting on the Isle of Wight Festival, you have to change the site about, move the attractions about. Everyone thought it was bigger in 2014, but it just had more attractions.

BY DEFINITION… I never understand why they call Hyde Park a festival as you watch a gig then go home afterwards. People don’t want to stand in front of the Main Stage all day, We had an Intoxicated Tearooms experience last year, with air raid wardens and Vera Lynn singing. I love that so It creates that whole festival experience and it’s the difference between a gig and a festival.

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT… We really have a responsibility to help the kids. We had more than 200 musicians performing on the Isle of Wight stages last year and we built a recording studio in a local school. I’ve helped out local bands like The Bear Social and I try and help them get bands support slots on the mainland with big acts.

INDUSTRY HEROES… I’ve spent forty years going to other people’s festivals. There always room for improvements. Rob and Michael Eavis have great ideas. Latitude curates a ‘wider than music’ scene, which I love.

EURO MATCH… The Isle of Wight Festival is as good as any European festival and I tempt anyone of the critics in the Access Dec/Jan issue (P.5) to come and see it for themselves.

FLEETING CHANCE… Getting Fleetwood Mac is great, but you can never one-up Glastonbury. Our festival has a rich history with Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, and it fitted Fleetwood Mac’s schedule. They also know Kings of Leon, who recommended they play. We’re very happy they are coming.

DREAM HEADLINERS… Oasis would make a great headliner. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin – both physically impossible – Blur and Foo Fighters are on the list too. We’ve had the Stones (2007) and they’re still as good as they were then. AC/DC I wouldn’t mind. U2 I would love to play as they’re one of my favourite groups ever. I would like The Who too. I saw them in Abu Dhabi before Christmas. Incredible. I’d like Eminem too.

GREEN SCENE… There’s still tons of room for green improvements at festivals. Every year we give more space to Love Your Tent camping where people look after themselves and it’s developing in that direction. The likes of Leeds and Reading are made up of 16 year olds who have done their GCSEs. We are a 15-50 age bracket and people go off with their parents and on their own.

UPCOMING… This year I have projects including Usher on the road, Sting, Lady Gaga with Tony Bennett.

ETHICAL ATTENTION… I admire Rob Da Bank and Michael Eavis – a man who has created a worldwide brand. I think Melvin Benn cares and Rob Da Bank has a great ethos for respecting an audience. We pay the groups, the audience pays us. Therefore we must always respect them.

(Interview by Tom Hall)

THIS INTERVIEW WAS PUBLISHED FIRST IN FEBRUARY’S RELAUNCH EDITION OF ACCESS ALL AREAS

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