Music

Ticketmaster meets I.O.W Festival booker John Giddings

John Giddings is responsible for booking one of the UK’s biggest and longest running festival, the Isle of Wight. Before this year’s instalment of the festival, he chats to us about the challenges of playing host to 50,000 music fans for the weekend and his plans for this summer’s event.

What’s been your highlight of working on the I.O.W festival?
Entertaining an audience of over 50,000 and watching them enjoy the artists we book.

How did you get started in the music industry?
I was social secretary at Exeter University and met agents in the business and got offered a job. I wasn’t good enough to be a musician!

Did you always want to be a festival booker?
No, it never occurred to me until the Isle of Wight Council gave everyone in the music business the opportunity to start the Festival again after 32 years. I thought it would be a good day out! When I turned up I thought it would be great to restart something that I went to as a child.

How far in advance do you have to start planning the festival and how many people are involved?
As soon as you complete one year you start to think about the next! It is an all-round job – having ideas, maintaining the campsite, etc. All year round there are 10 people that work on the Festival, but on the actual weekend there is thousands.

What are the biggest challenges you face?
Logistical exercise to get 50,000 people to the island and setting up a site that is going to be enjoyable even if it rains.

You’ve had some huge acts play in the past – Bruce Springsteen, Bowie, The Rolling Stones – who are you most proud of, and who was the toughest to book?
I’m proud of every single one. All tough to book! I hope in a small way I have furthered the heritage of the Isle of Wight Music Festival.

What would you say makes the I.O.W Festival different to others?
The fact you can only get there by boat creates a holiday atmosphere from the moment you set sail. The Isle of Wight has it’s own microclimate and has the best weather in the UK.

Do you have anything different planned for the 2014 instalment of the festival?
Yes, we are going to radically change the layout. It needs to be interesting every year for the audience who have been before. It is important to discover entertainment in different fields across the site opposed to just watching the Main Stage all weekend.

I first went to the I.O.W Festival in 2004 when you had David Bowie headlining – any chance he’ll be making another appearance?
He is welcome back any time, invite is always open!

This year’s Isle of Wight festival takes place 12-15 June and will be headlined by Biffy Clyro, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kings of Leon. Tickets are on sale now and available here.

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