The onset of Spring brings with it great excitement. As the cold subsides, attentions quickly turn to outdoor events and what we hope will become a long, hot summer. With those first flickers of sunshine the Isle of Wight truly comes into its own. Playing host to festivals both wide-ranging and eclectic, it serves to lure tourists from far and wide.
With a calendar chocked full of dates, deciding which events to attend can prove problematic. To help narrow the selection, The Royal have put together this, a stellar shortlist.
Isle of Wight Festival | 13th - 16th June
The big one. Our annual Isle of Wight Festival has become a highlight of the musical calendar, drawing superstars from the world of rock and pop since 1968. The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z are just some of the giants to have graced and rocked Seaclose Park in Newport.
Spread over four days, fans revel in non-stop live performance, with sets held between the iconic Main Stage and a complimentary Big Top equivalent.
This year’s headliners include Noel Gallagher, George Ezra and Biffy Clyro –underlining the strength of the British music scene. While camping is both permitted and encouraged those preferring to break-up the musical marathon with a degree of comfort may head to The Royal and recharge.
Ventnor Fringe Festival | 23rd - 28th July
The Ventnor Fringe festival is bohemian and brilliant, a fact lost on neither attendees nor critics, who have bestowed on it a multitude of awards in recent years.
2019 signals a decade of fun in this beautiful hillside town. Yes, for six days in August seemingly anything goes. Come such time a puppet show within a launderette is deemed a normal occurrence. Really.
A celebration of the arts, more than 300 ‘performers’ from all corners of the globe descend on the island to showcase their unique and scarcely believable talents. As for the surrounding area, this is totally transformed. Pop-up cinemas, basement bars, street pianos and mystery tours can all be enjoyed throughout an unmissable week.
The Sunday Times has heralded Ventnor Fringe Britain’s ‘most surprising and inspirational multidisciplinary arts festival.’ We’d call that a ringing and merited endorsement.
Isle of Wight Gothic Circus Festival | 24th - 27th May
Never before has a self-proclaimed dark festival brought so much light. Indeed, The Gothic Circus prides itself on showcasing the best in ‘Twisted’ performance, to the delight of all attendees.
This three-day event has something for everyone, a glorious, freak show of fun divided between three tents. The largest of those scales 36m and by day boasts a family friendly circus. Come the witching hour however it is transformed, birthing a dancefloor that echoes to the sound of pumping house music.
Elsewhere the 20m Little Big Top Tent ratchets up the random. Expect everything from magicians to burlesque dancers and crowd pleasers aplenty. Also available here are an array of familiar and not so familiar cocktails, not to mention an epic buffet spread.
Be sure to check out the Outside Stage also, where live music comes courtesy of artists whose attire makes Lady Gaga’s wardrobe seem suddenly sensible.
Several smaller tents are dotted around the festival site located near to Newport, promising trapeze, juggling, clowns, a fun fair and so much more besides. A unique and quite brilliant experience, the Gothic Circus is a must for all heading to the Island.
Rum and Reggae Festival | 29th June
Channel the spirit of the Caribbean at the emerging Rum and Reggae Festival. Now into its third year, organisers succeed in transforming the Cowes Yacht Haven into a Jurassic Jamaica.
Yes, this much-loved musical genre is given a welcomed re-boot, its soothing sounds reimagined by a host of UK musicians.
Their feel-good sets provide a fitting backdrop to a colourful, vibrant carnival featuring spirited dance routines and unabated fun.
To mark the occasion, craft rums seldom seen in Western Europe will be flown in from all corners of the globe. Tipples from the likes of the West Indies, Cuba and South America will bring a literal taste of the Caribbean lifestyle.
As for the menu, expect to find traditional Jamaican cuisine – tasty, flavoursome dishes brought to life by the likes of chicken, rice and peas. Having gone nationwide, the Rum and Reggae Festival’s Isle of Wight pitstop remains one of the best.
Isle of Wight Pride | 20th July
A celebration of love, in every form, Pride has become a symbolic show of unity. A worldwide phenomenon, it is best evidenced on the Isle of Wight where a spirit of inclusion thrives.
Pencilled in for July 20th, show your support by unfurling banners, flags and other decoration championing a great cause. Colour, music and a party atmosphere are guaranteed as love wins out.
Isle of Wight Mardi Gras | 29th March
Mardi Gras is synonymous with New Orleans but Islanders have picked up the mantle in recent years. Combining aspects of the original carnival scene with Latin and Caribbean themes our version makes for a great, free event.
Always scheduled for the last Saturday of June, what was formerly known as The Arts Parade features some 800 school children adorning costumes and riding floats in celebration of particular theme, one closely associated with the national curriculum.
This year’s focus is on the Biosphere Island. Head to Ryde and learn all about it, whilst soaking up sun and a terrific atmosphere.
Isle of Wight Festival of Running | 1st - 2nd June
Donning trainers and pounding road is – admittedly - stretching the definition of a festival. In fact, cynics may scoff it sounds no fun whatsoever. Fitness fanatics however flock to this two-day event where endurance is put to the test.
Laid on by the West Wight Sports & Community Centre, four routes are mapped out for the athletic and foolhardy alike!
First up is the Freshwater 5k, a cross country circular that slaloms through beautiful countryside. The more ambitious may choose to tackle the Tapnell 10k equivalent, this charting a course through Tapnell Farm and beyond.
For the kids, a Junior Fun Run is held on the Sunday where fancy dress is promoted. Better still medals are awarded to all who partake. Finally, the Needles Half Marathon sorts the men from the boys
The absence of alcohol distinguishes this festival from most but given everything else shared in this blog a weekend of sobriety is surely no bad thing.
The Great Wonderfest
2019 will mark the birth of a new festival led by TV double act Dick and Dom; yes, they are still going strong! Famed for fronting Children’s BBC throughout the 1990s the comedy duo have recently announced their Great Wonderfest will be heading to the Isle of Wight.
Though details are still to be firmed-up – there is currently no set location – we have been promised fun for the whole family, a given when these two are involved!
Spread across four days at the beginning of August what we do know is there will be music, magic and mischief aplenty. Household names of the pop and comedy world are being lined-up to make the first Wonderfest one to remember. We have a hunch it won’t be the last.
Those hoping to savour every second will be pleased to hear camping options will be made available closer to the time so do keep an eye out.
Hullabaloo | 11th - 12th May
Finally, we come to the Hullaballoo Festival which is billed as a free discovery and exploration event.
Held across two days in May this is the brainchild of 'Shademekers UK Carnival Club'. The latter team-up yearly with local groups and businesses to shed light on the arts community first and foremost but also health and the environment.
Expect a mixture of traditional carnival antics fused with other, hands-on activities. There will be shows, displays and even pop-up laboratories certain to enthral and educate in equal measure.
While bigger festivals may take place on the mainland there is surely no greater collection of them than right here on the Isle of Wight. How many will you attend?
If you’re looking for somewhere to rest your head after a day of dancing in the sun, consider a Royal experience with us at The Royal Hotel. We will provide a cosy bolt hole for you to return to and even supply a hearty breakfast to fuel you for the next day!