The Isle of Wight is perpetually sunny. Or so it seems. Even when it rains the place makes my spirits feel light and carefree.
I have a deep sense of affinity with the island. My parents went there on honeymoon in the 60’s and never came back. My first ever festival was there. Aged just 1 my parents wheeled me in my pram to ‘see’ the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, Tiny Tim and Melanie – you could say that my musical education started at a very young age. We only lived on the island until my dad’s work took us back to the mainland when I was about 4, but by this time my grandma had also fallen in love with the place and moved there. Therefore when school holidays beckoned, my working parents would often ship me off to stay with her for blissful weeks. Those holidays were great times. The Isle of Wight was like, and still is, the land where time stood still; nothing changed. Every year as the rest of the country became ever more homogenous with its identikit towns with identikit shops and identikit houses, the Isle of Wight retained its strangely old-fashioned charm and independence, the strip of water known as the Solent protecting it from the commercial vulgarities of the rest of the country.
Holidays at my nans were always packed with fun. Trips to the plastic dinosaurs, cowboy village and crooked house at Blackgang Chine –an eccentric fairytale-like amusement park that was gradually falling into the sea, Brading’s Waxwork Museum with its curious mix of horrific, historical and humorous waxwork figurines, Alum Bay and the rickety chairlift, the steeply sloping streets of Ryde, the beauty of the old chine in Shanklin, Queen Victoria’s favourite residence Osborne House, the penny slot machines on the pier at Sandown, the Isle of Wight was full of oddball magic.
Even as an adult I’ve often returned to the island – my children enjoying their holidays there as much as I did when I was their age. For my 40th birthday my girlfriend hired a milkshake pink VW Camper van for the weekend and under brilliantly sunny skies we toured around the place stopping each night at a different camp site and sleeping under the stars. It was as romantic as I can imagine.
But my main reason for returning religiously every year now is for Bestival. Whilst the Island hosts two major music festivals it is Bestival that captures the spirit of the place. Eccentric, unusual, eclectic, beautiful, chaotic and non-corporate I’ve been lucky enough to attend every single one since the first. In the last few years I’ve even been fortunate enough to DJ there, and will do so again this September under the name The Sunday Best Forum Allstars with a crew of Bestival regulars.
The eclectic and exciting music policy at Bestival - everything from rock ‘n’ roll to futuristic dance to hushed folk wonderment - is, of any festival, most in keeping with my own tastes. I have developed so many memories of the place that it is almost impossible to pick one song that symbolises Bestival and the Isle of Wight. Some would say that it’s 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton – it seems to ring out like the national anthem a number of times every year. Yet for me one of the defining moments was when the mighty minimalist electronic giants Kraftwerk headlined. Dancing at the very front of the stage with friends as their computerised pulses and repetitive rhythms took me to another place was even better than I had imagined – and when for their encore they finished by replacing themselves with robots, a concept that in theory sounds like a fraud, but in reality was both genius and weirdly euphoric, it really didn’t get much better.