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 August 30th and 31st 1969.

   The 1969 Isle of Wight Festival was  much bigger than the previous years bash which only had the Airplane as the overseas headliner and not a lot of other big names to back them up. The 69 line-up was far more heavy weight . With the BIG Z as the drawcard , none other than Bob Dylan himself ,  and bands like The Who and The Band taking support roles , this festival was guaranteed to draw many more punters than the earlier festival. 

Press account.
         From D WILSWORTH Ryde, l.O.W Aug. 31

    With much pushing and shoving, more than 100.000 people crammed into the arena here tonight to see Bob Dylan. the American singer, make his first major concert appearance for more than three years. He finally appeared about 11 o clock tonight ,more than two hours late. He walked on to The stage and without any preliminary announcements went straight into his first song. A tiny figure. dressed in a white suit, white shirt and trousers. He was enthusiastically applauded by the audience who had been getting restive earlier in the evening when empty beer cans were thrown towards the stage. After his first song he said:

" Hello. Great to be here" Then he went into his next number.

    The program ran late because there were simply too many people with special passes to the so called press enclosure. The organizers tried to clear the area without much success`. Eventually the press were sitting on each other's laps. The main audience was no less crushed and there were several calls for doctors and stretcher bearers. Dylan's performance was the climax of the three day festival of pop music. But the concert ended shortly after midnight after Dylan bad been on the stage for just one hour. After repeated cheering and whistling from the audience he returned to perform for another 10 minutes ,then finally left.

    Jeering and booing broke out from some sections of the audience, and the compere. Mr. Ricki Farr, placated them by saying: " Bob Dylan came here to do what he had to do and he's done it, and I'm afraid that's the end" : In all, Dylan and his musical group, called The Band, had been on stage for less than two hours. Mr. Dylan is reported to have been paid about 35,000 for this performance. Mr Farr. Who is also producer of the pop music festival and a man not given to understatement, earlier told his massive audience at Woodside Bay, near Ryde: "You are the blessed generation. You are the body beautiful. Thank you: keep it that way." The blessed generation , sprawling on the grass. cuddling on groundsheets or contemplating a stewpot on the camp site took this tribute to their peaceful behaviour as their just due. They had no intention of disturbing the peace, at least not in the criminal sense, as opposed to the musical.

(Above left )A fan dances ,perhaps to the melodic strains of the Edgar Broughton Band ( above right )

    Even the police have been complimentary about their behaviour. The 150 men of the Isle of Wight police force who had all their weekend leave cancelled because of the pop music festival might have been excusably apprehensive about the army of the young who moved in at the weekend. But Superintendent Arthur Maynard said this morning:" Everything bas been very good tempered. The kids have. been well-behaved and there has been no trouble of a serious nature ".

    Indeed, the peaceful atmosphere was plainly due to the police tactics of avoiding force whenever possible. In any case , the festival had its own elaborate security arrangements including a group of uniformed men with Alsatian dogs who struck a note of incongruity among the generally amiable crowd. One of their jobs was to prevent people from climbing the eight-foot wooden fence around the arena , in this they were only partly successful. It was a security man who stepped in and stopped a girl who stripped and danced before the crowd yesterday evening. If he had not stopped her nobody else would have bothered. The audience was almost totally unmoved. As a young girl explained to me ". It was very beautiful. She just had to do her own thing and so she did it" Isadora Duncan could not have wished for a more sympathetic audience.

   The invasion began towards the end of last week and built up rapidly to more than 100,000 yesterday and today. Many came mainly to see Bob Dylan, the American singer who chose the festival to make his first formal concert appearance for more than three years. But many came simply because it was a weekend of pop music with groups such as The Who, Fat Mattress, Blodwyn Pig and Blonde on Blonde. A girl of 18 from Ealing, London. traveling with her boy friend, said: "We came mainly for the groups but also because we are all the same kind of people here. We all think more or less the same way." They sat in a dormitory tent at the festival site on Friday night but found it uncomfortable, and were thinking of sleeping on the beach inctcad. Between them they expected to spend about 4 during the whole weekend, plus 5 for their two concert tickets and traveling costs. On Tuesday she and her boy friend would go back `to work . Like thousands of others here, they are weekend Bedouins.

    This nomadic band of pop followers put up with extraordinary discomfort for the sake of their music. Thousands of tents are pitched on sloping ground ,ploughed perhaps last year and very rough as a result .The only washing facilities are some cold water taps specially installed. The makeshift village supplies food: 2s. 6d. for a tiny plate of curry and rice, 2s. 6d for a not very good hamburger. A queue stretches for 30yds outside the fish and chip shop because fish and chips are the best meal available, apart from the macrobiotic health foods which are in huge demand. Many do their own cooking. For a supposedly ''indisciplined generation they are remarkably orderly about queuing. They queue to get into the pub in the village near by, for the cold water taps and to go to the lavatories , the only place apparently where segregation by sex is observed.

    In the dormitory tents you stake your claim to a piece of floor simply by rolling out your sleeping bag and leaving it there. Nobody disturbs your claim. As the evening gets colder the compere jokes that two in a sleeping bag are probably warmer than one. This raises scarcely a murmur of laughter. Everybody knows that.

    The concert arena is roughly circular, about 200 yards in diameter. The organizers. Fiery Creations, provided what they described as an extensive program of "mulli-media activities" : In addition to the music they included film shows, poetry readings, and a tent where anybody could perform or as they put it, "do their own thing". One of the more bizarre entertainment's planned was described in the official booklet: .

" Anthony Scott's "Swizprix" are huge phallic plastic balloons that slowly inflate over the festival period until on the Saturday night, coinciding' with the performance of The Who, they reach 100ft high into the air and then ejaculate foam and tinsel into the spotlit air. The climax is reached when they explode gently into flames and the low hydrogen content burns in an orgy of self destruction."

    As it happens , this amazing event never took place. One of the organizers. a trifle enigmatically, said it would have been too dangerous. This was about the closest the festival came to the orgy for which Fleet Street and much of the world's press have been keeping a watchful eye, The organizers said they had no control over the private morals of the pop fans. One young couple embraced in a mass of soap foam as part of "a happening" before hundreds of onlookers. Later the girl ,who said she came from "nowhere" remarked: "It was beautiful `" .

Pop festival blast-off

The Observer, 31 August 1969

    As crowds gather in their thousands for the Isle of Wight Festival, the great arena set up on a hill at Woodside Bay is crammed almost to capacity. More are still arriving to hear Bob Dylan sing tomorrow. It seems doubtful whether everyone will fit into the vast enclosure built to hold 150,000. Fans sat on their sleeping-bags all day so as not to lose their places in the tents. Others slept in the open. At night the encampment that slopes down from the arena glitters with thousands of fires. People curl up to sleep by them, some playing quietly on guitars and harmonicas. A sharp wind blows round the site. Thousands of fans cheered as a naked girl danced today in front of the stage, wearing only a red bandanna and with red paint on her arms and nose. The cheers grew louder as the girl, who was very attractive, bounded into the press enclosure and turned cartwheels and somersaults. She was circled by photographers as she danced for ten minutes, writhing on the ground at times, while the Edgar Broughton Band played. The dance was stopped by a security guard. As she was taken away she said: 'Why can't they let me be what I am? I just wanted to be free.'

By night , as the lights on the stage dazzled in the dark, the crowds still surged in. Ryde was packed to bursting. The whole island was full of strange scenes - groups with guitars resting by the road, clumps of people sleeping in bushes. Cold winds swept the island. The vast, huddled audience faced another icy night in the open. Until a few years ago, perhaps only religious feeling could have gathered together a crowd like this. To get here many, like pilgrims, have tramped for miles. The average age seems about eighteen. What brings them? It seems like the gathering of a clan: people who feel set apart from society who have come together to draw support from one another. 'It's a question of alienation,' said a seventeen-year-old girl. 'In the town where I come from there are only a few of us and we're laughed at in the streets for the way we look. It's comforting here, with so many of us.'

    And of course there is Dylan. But there is no hysteria. As at the concert in Hyde Park earlier this summer, the crowd is quiet. They are not the mindless screamers of Elvis and Adam Faith days: they are almost as excited by poetry and multimedia events as by music. The organisers , Ron and Ray Foulk , are young local promoters. As they wander around backstage they look frightened and distracted, amazed at what they have created. But the efficiency of this huge operation is staggering. The tents, the catering, the tickets: everything runs smoothly. British Rail has cooperated by putting every boat it has got into ferrying passengers across the Solent. Buses on the island run all night. The problem that is worrying the Foulk brothers is how to get the crowd away after Sunday. It has been suggested that staging another concert on Monday would help to keep some people longer and stagger the rush for the boats. British Rail estimates that at the most it can ferry only 8,000 passengers an hour away from the island.

Marsha Hunt

    The Environmental Playground today has been a tremendous success, with jousting between beautifully painted, bizarre-shaped cars. The other spectacle has been the slow inflation of enormous plastic phallic-shaped balloons called Swizprix: when the Who play, the balloons are expected to ejaculate foam and tinsel into the air, burst into flames, and burn themselves out. A huge area of soapsud foam was blown out of a machine. As it undulated in the wind people hurled themselves into it, rolling around, looking like strange snowmen.

You can view many great photos of the acts at IOW 69 here at Robert Ellis's photo site

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1969 Festival

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