Jimi Would Have Approved

Having received the support of Jimi Hendrix’s family’s company for his controversial statue of the legendary rock guitarist and selling out the fifth running of his Isle of Wight Festival three months in advance, John Giddings had a couple of reasons for saying, “If ever there was a moment that made it all worthwhile… .”

The support for the statue, which has stoked up much “Not In My Back Yard” rage from IOW residents who live close to where it’s sited, came in the form of a letter from Janie Hendrix, president and chief exec of Experience Hendrix, the family firm that looks after his interests.

Having touched on “the opposition that you had to ward off,” she went on to say “Jimi would be thrilled to know” that he made such a lasting impression that he’s become “part of the landscape.”

Having Jimi as part of the landscape is what’s irking some of the locals, possibly fearful that it will attract streams of tourists past their monumentally expensive and beautifully secluded retirement homes.

Janie Hendrix’s letter was written to Dr. Brian Hinton, curator of the Dimbola Lodge Museum, who was keen to have the statue sited next to his collection because he sees the proverbial rock god as part of the island’s heritage. He, along with the IOW authorities, also understands that the money tourists bring is vital to the economy.

Armed with these diametrically opposed agendas, Hinton and the local “Nimbys” have, often amusingly, slogged it out in the pages of the local and U.K. national papers.

The Nimbys said it’s “wholly inappropriate” to have a memorial to a drug-taking rock star. Hinton countered by accusing them of “cultural snobbery” and so on and so on.

The 2006 Isle of Wight Festival didn’t pull the estimated 600,000 that were reported to have turned up to the list of acts in 1970 that included Hendrix, The Who, and The Doors, but it had no trouble selling its increased – and legal – 50,000 capacity weeks ahead of the June 9-11 weekend.

When asked for a rundown of the highlights, Giddings name-checked pretty much everyone on a bill that had Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Prodigy, Placebo, Primal Scream, Suzanne Vega, Richard Ashcroft and – with a nod to the ’70s – Procol Harum.

He also gave mention to the new U.K. talent on show, which included Editors, Maximo Park, and The Rakes.

In the week before the event, the weather forecast changed from monsoon to heat wave and the sold-out site basked in glorious sunshine throughout the three days.

Jimi Hendrix would probably have approved.

– John Gammon