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Bestival Is A Big Loss, But The Isle Of Wight Is Still The UK's Festival Capital

16/12/2016 15:31 GMT | Updated 16/12/2016 15:32 GMT
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Bestival's decision to pack up its fancy dress box and move to Dorset is bad news for the Isle of Wight. There's no point sugarcoating it. A few residents will enjoy the quiet but most people saw the benefits of a world class festival outside of the summer season.

It's bad news economically but it's a big loss culturally too. Organisers seemed to make a real effort to include local artists and organisations onstage. For an unknown local artist, even an 11am slot in front of a few hungover revellers was a coup.

I wish Bestival all the best, I really do, but I still believe the Isle of Wight offers more quirky festivals per square mile than anywhere outside of London.

There are still two massive festivals, of course.

Over the last 15 years the Isle of Wight Festival has attracted Sir Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, REM, The Strokes...you get the idea. In 2017, Rod Stewart and Arcade Fire will be added to the list.

In recent years the Isle of Wight Festival has also become a much more rounded festival with curiosities and sideshows sprawling into the adjacent fields rather than just a couple of stages to gawp at.

And then there's Cowes Week, the world's largest yachting regatta of its kind with 8500 sailors who race around the Solent in August. It also attracts 90,000 other visitors - most of whom know nothing about sailing but happily turn up their collars and enjoy the Pimms and parties.

Bubbling under are a dozen smaller festivals on the Isle of Wight which are gradually growing in reputation and popularity. I doubt any of them will ever grow as big as Bestival's peak but several have the potential to grow and they have a charming vibe which it's hard to maintain once you reach a certain size.

There are several specialist music festivals, including Rhythmtree, which was originally a celebration of the didgeridoo, presumably until someone realised that it was perhaps a little too niche. There's another one for jazz fans, a folk and blues festival, a 1980s retro weekend and one themed around VW campervans.

The Island's festival with perhaps the biggest potential to grow is VFringe, which takes the free-for-all spirit of the Edinburgh Festival and thrusts it into the pretty Victorian seaside resort of Ventnor. I'm especially fond of it because it was started by a group of local youngsters during a recent cultural renaissance in the town, rather than by an events company with a money-making agenda.

There's also a literary festival, a festival celebrating the Isle of Wight's love of garlic, a walking festival, a vintage sailing festival and (inexplicably) a Scottish themed festival.

The Isle of Wight is also home to the UK's oldest carnival (in Ryde) which was once visited by Queen Victoria. I like to imagine she sat on the back of a tractor surrounded by lightbulbs waving unenthusiastically at the crowds, although history is a little sketchy on the facts.

So, farewell Bestival, enjoy your mainland life, I hope the giant glitterball will fit on the ferry.

This blog first appeared on Isle of Wight Guru