Isle Of Wight festival: 50th anniversary exhibition to open with unseen photos

Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, The Who and more feature in the exhibition

A new exhibition featuring unseen photographs of musicians pictured at the Isle Of Wight festival‘s iconic 1970 instalment is set to open in London.

Wight Spirit, 1968-70 marks the 50th anniversary of the legendary festival (the inaugural year was 1968 but 1970 put it on the map), with pictures from the festival and associated artwork displayed at west London’s Masterpiece Art gallery from Monday (July 27).

Free at the Isle of Wight 1970. CREDIT: Charles Everest via CameronLife Photo Library

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Sculptures by Guy Portelli and a selection of photographs taken by the late Charles Everest – some of which have never been seen before – will be displayed until September 5.

Everest photographed the festival’s third year in 1970, and the year from which 50 years is marked, when 600,000 people watched Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell play “Europe’s Woodstock”.

Additionally, the gallery has created a documentary that will examine the festival’s history. It features archival footage and interviews with figures connected with the event’s legacy.

Some musicians who played at the festival from 1968-70 will also stage live performances at the gallery as well as at the showroom of guitar brand Gibson next month. Acts are yet to be announced.

Masterpiece Art will also stage a one-day exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death on September 19, 1970.

Joni Mitchell at the Isle of Wight 1970. CREDIT: Charles Everest © CameronLife Photo Library

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A press release states: “When it began in 1968, 10,000 people attended the event, but by 1970 this had swelled to 300,000+. That year the line-up included Jimi Hendrix, The Who and the Doors, and was a landmark in Britain’s cultural history, as well as serving as the progenitor for countless other open-air festivals.”

Portelli, who has curated the show, said: “The Isle of Wight Festival is Europe’s Woodstock. You could argue it has more significance, and yet it isn’t venerated in the same way.

“I am not sure why that is, given the bands that played there and the huge number of people it attracted. My hope is that this exhibition, along with the accompanying film, will help redress that.”

Wight Spirit’ (detail) by Guy Portelli. PHOTO CREDIT: Rabah Ichadadene

The centrepiece of the exhibition is Portelli’s large-scale glass mosaic panel called Wight Spirit. It features the handprints of more than 80 musicians who performed at the festival, including members of Jefferson Airplane, Free, Pretty Things, and The Move.

In related news, the 2020 edition of the festival was cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The 50th anniversary festival now takes place on June 17-20, 2021, with sets from Lionel Ritchie, Lewis Capaldi, Duran Duran, Snow Patrol, and others.

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