ISLE of Wight Festival promoter John Giddings this week visited the Isle of Wight College to regale students with anecdotes from his career in the music industry.
His audience included visiting students from Romania, Italy, France and Portugal, alongside college tourism students, who were given the opportunity to ask the music mogul what it took to run a successful music festival.
Mr Giddings started by explaining how he became involved in the music industry — when, as a 14-year-old playing in a band, he was approached by a skinhead who told him: “If you don’t stop playing Pink Floyd, I’ll f***ing kill you.”
Studying philosophy and sociology at Exeter University, John soon realised his passion lay elsewhere and blagged himself a job in the music industry, subsequently becoming an agent and promoter for acts.
In 2001, The Isle of Wight Council, seeking to increase tourism, approached various people about resurrecting the Isle of Wight Festival, with John most keen to be involved.
He curated the first of the new breed of Island music shows in June the following year — a one-day event called Rock Island — with 8,500 attending.
John said: “The first year was paid for by the council and lost around £500,000 as it wasn’t very well promoted. The following year I took the reins fully, returning to the Isle of Wight Festival name.
“I used Photoshop to double the previous year’s audience in images when trying to attract people to play — this time it was me who lost the £500,000!
“The festival really took off in 2004, with 35,000 tickets sold.”
Asked about additions to the 2020 lineup, John revealed there would be announcements in due course, most likely late February, but wouldn’t disclose any names.
Some of his most pertinent advice for the students was that it takes a combination of ego, obsession and daftness to run a music festival.
He said it cost between £8 million and £9 million to run the festival, and said he sold 75 per cent of his stake to US global entertainment company Live Nation in 2017.
Speaking about the future of the festival, he said: “I’m 66 years old now, and my hair was brown when I started.
“I know that at some point I’ll step aside, but I’d like to see younger people who could take it on after that.”
The talk was held as part of the Our Awesome Ties Cultural Heritage schools partnership.
The project will see Isle of Wight College students heading to Italy, Portugal, France and Romania over the next two years.
Pat Suttmann, international manager for the college, said: “Our project has brought young people together from across Europe, to share their heritage and culture and establish strong relationships for future cooperation.”
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