THE STATUE LOOKED incongruous where it was standing, in a flower garden next to Dimbola House in Freshwater Bay on the Isle of Wight. Made in bronze and life-size, it depicts Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) strumming an electric guitar. At its base, there is a title of a Hendrix song, “Purple Haze”, and below this some poetry (not the lyrics to the song) and the words “I.O.W. lavender”. Appropriately there was a lavender bush with purple flowers growing close to the statue. Nearby, a door leading into a second-hand bookshop housed within Dimbola is decorated with stickers bearing photographs of Hendrix. Not being knowledgeable about Hendrix, I was puzzled to discover this monument to him in a place that seems to be in a different universe to that of Rock Music.
Between the 26th and 31st of August 1970, the small island off the south coast of England hosted the Isle of Wight Festival at Afton Down. This music festival was attended by between 600000 and 700000 people, that is more than met at the famous Woodstock event (USA, 1969). On Sunday, the 30th of August, the performers included, to mention but a few, Kris Kristofferson, Jethro Tull, The Moody Blues, Joan Baez, Pentangle, Leonard Cohen, and … Jimi Hendrix. Jimi played late at night and into the early hours of the 31st.
Sadly, Hendrix died a few weeks later, on the 18th of September in Notting Hill Gate. His death occurred in the still existing self-catering apartment hotel, the Samarkand at number 22 Landsdowne Crescent. He had recently moved in there with his new partner, the German artist and figure-skater Monika Dannemann (1945-1996).
The statue of Hendrix at Dimbola was commissioned by the Isle of Wight Festival organiser, John Giddings, in 2006. Why it stands at Dimbola was a mystery to us. Someone in the museum in the house explained that Giddings had wanted the statue to be placed at the site of the 1970 festival, but was refused permission. As he knew the director of the organisation housed in Dimbola, Brian Hinton, he asked whether it could be placed there. Hinton agreed. Later, he is reported saying:
“Jimi is now immortal, a man for all seasons, and it is lovely to dress him up to celebrate cultural and sporting events in the vicinity of the Afton site, where he very much helped put the West Wight on the map, as did Mrs Cameron and Alfred Lord Tennyson a century earlier.” (https://onthewight.com/dimbolas-jimi-hendrix-statue-to-get-lycra-makeover-for-tour-of-britain/)
Mrs Cameron was Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), a pioneer in 19th century photography, about whom I will write in the near future. And Tennyson needs no introduction. Although the statue does not flatter Jimi Hendrix, it is wonderful to see a place, which many people think as being a 1950s-time warp, is pleased to celebrate someone who burst open cultural barriers not so long ago.