The complicated joys of playing the festival field
I definitely had some of my best times ever at the last two Isle Of Wight Festivals which were both absolutely blinding. As well an unbeatable line-up (The Stones, The Sex Pistols, Neil Young…) and a friendlier atmsophere than most major festivals, you can pretty much – if such a thing is possible – be assured of a dry, sunny event. It is yet to rain at the Isle of Wight festival (although, obviously, Bestival wasn't so lucky last year).
So why did I decide to go, instead, this year to RockNess in Scotland – hundreds of miles north, with heavy showers and cold forecast all weekend?
It's complicated, as Paris Hilton might say on her Facebook status. Firstly, VF's strength relies on us being totally impartial (which is why we don't form partnerships with any festivals) and I was definitely in danger of growing a bit biased towards the old IOW in recent years which doesn't do VF, our readers or the festival any justice at the end of the day.
Secondly, for VF to grow, it's essential that the team can stand on their own feet and operate brilliantly without me breathing down their necks. It's not easy – not too long ago it was just me doing everything, so letting others take the steering wheel doesn't always come naturally. I do have the best team I've ever had around me right now though so it's the right time to start letting go.
So IOW was an important – and slightly tough – exercise in delegation for me. All credit to Dan, Annie, Jon and the guys who did me (and VF) exceptionally proud and the coverage they generated speaks for itself. As well as identifying and appreciating everything I fell in love with at the festival, they were able to paint a more objective picture that more closely represented the experience of the ticket-buying fan, which is, afterall, our primary remit here.
Fundamentally though, I think I'm just a festival whore at heart. I can't say that part of me wasn't massively excited at the prospect of discovering a new festival (even if it was a wash-out – which it certainly wasn't!), and experiencing new people and magic in the Highlands. It's a deep, primal feeling in the pit of my soul that reminds me of the urges that prompted me to start VF in the first place 10 years ago. Sometimes, when the pressures of business and life mount up, I worry that I've become a bit disconnected from the spirit that that was in me when I first fell in love with festivals all those years ago. Then I lose myself for a few days at an event like RockNess (or the Isle of Wight) and I realise that – bollocks to that – festivals are my blood and I will be bound to them until the day I die (which will most likely be at one!)
Luckily, the weather forecasters were wrong and RockNess was blessed with hot sunshine for most of the event! Next year is going to be a tricky decision.