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THOSE DARING YOUNG MEN FROM THE ISLE OF WIGHT.
Tired remnants of the audience leave the festival enclosure 1969 Isle of Wight festival .
Photo courtesy Repfoto© 1969.
You can view many great photos of the I969 festival here at Repfoto
Experienced gamblers have been known to break into a cold sweat and furtively finger the trigger of a gun at the throw of a dice or spin of a roulette wheel. But these are men who regularly play the long odds. Men who know the rewards and penalties to expect.
much more hazardous it is to plan a music festival headed by such an immortal
and - let it be said -controversial figure as Bob Dylan involving a total
outlay of £120,000 on the basis of one comparatively minor event held
just 15 months beforehand?
For that was all the experience of festivals the brothers Ronald, Raymond and Bill Foulk had before they went for the jackpot with Dylan. Ten thousand people had attended their Isle of Wight Festival starring the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Jefferson Airplane. But far more experienced promoters might have baulked at the massive problem of trying to stage the most famous folk singer in the world.
But over a year's unremitting hard work paid off. Like the ardent prospective bridegroom who refuses to take no for an answer, the three brothers approached the Dylan menage again and again. They even followed up their hard sell with a colour film of the Isle of
Wight. This, and a personal trip to Dylan in New York, finally tipped the scales. And the outcome was a Festival that has made the closing months of 1969 a landmark in the world of "popular" music.
Happily Now, the brothers Ronald, Raymond and Bill have balanced their books and, happily for themselves and future Festival fans, come up with a nice balance.
"Our profit is not all that big," says Ronald. "But we have achieved what we set out to do. The biggest satisfaction when we looked out on the vast crowds was knowing that all our efforts have been worthwhile. We've given enjoyment to a lot of people."
But that enjoyment wasn't given without cost. The financial outlay involved would be enough to make a Charles Clore blink. To start with, there was £20,000 for Dylan, plus 50 per cent of the profits and £5,000 first-class air fare for him and his party.
The Band swallowed another £8,000; Richie Havens took £3,000. Tom Paxton cost £750, the Who £900, and Pentangle £500. "The rest of the bill accounts for another £6,000," says Ronald.
The stage set back Fiery Creations another £10,000. Then there were the additional attractions, plus catering, camping, security and travelling arrangements to take care of. To say nothing of publicity expenditure.
But, despite all the money and headaches involved, the Festival was an unqualified success. So much so, that the brothers are already planning a similar event for next year. Dylan has said he is prepared to go again, although recent reports suggest that he will not visit Britain again. But it's a safe bet that, with the prestige the brothers have gained from thisFestival, they will aim for other big fry of equal calibre.
there were some in a venture of this proportion. "We've learned that
we shall have to make better arrangements for the Press," admits Ronald.
"So many people were gatecrashing into the Press enclosuresome important
people couldn't even get in.
Adds Peter Harrigan, who was in charge of the Press: "Two months ago, I asked the G.P.O. to lay on 15 extra telephone lines. I was told this was impossible. Eventually, I managed to get seven. Next year, we shall see we have at least 15 field telephones, teleprinters and Telex facilities." Ronald also says the fencing and security arrangements will have to be strengthened. Though he adds that the Isle of Wight council and the police were "marvellous."
hoodlums burned portions of fencing and part of a marquee. And there was a
tense incident backstage when a gentleman wielded a bottle. But, as Peter
Harrigan puts it: "There was remarkably little trouble when you consider
the crowd was over 150,000. You can get far more trouble at a Cup Final with
only 30,000 present."
There has been much ado in some sections of the Press about Dylan allegedly giving short weight - one hour's performance instead of three. "We wouldhave liked him to do more," says Ronald. "But he was under no obligation to do so."
In fact, Dylan and the Band put on a performance lasting about two hours. And there were no outbursts from those present
was a problem. The organisers did their utmost to clear up the previous night's
refuse before midday, but the task was impossible to accomplish in the limited
time available. If anyone was disappointed with the Dylan Festival, it was
those sensation seekers whose febrile imaginations conjure up lurid visions
of orgies and drugs at every gathering of pop, jazz or folk followers.
One can imagine them rubbing their hands and sharpening their pencils when the first ferryboat of fans set foot on the Isle. They may have felt aflicker of a voyeur's titillation when a young lady cast off her clothes and danced in the nude.
But that flash was soon extinguished by the surging sea of musical enthusiasm. And this, after all, was what the Dylan Festival was all about.
You can view many great photos of the acts at IOW 69 here at Robert Ellis's photo site
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