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Island fever

Angie Sammons visits the Manx Bay Festival, musical joys a short hop from Liverpool

Written by . Published on April 20th 2011.

Island fever

THE Isle of Man is an island like no other.

It is place, a sprightly spit away, where they believe in fairies. Where the only cats that have tails are those belonging to an outlawed method of punishment.


It was the last place in the civilised world to decriminalise homosexuality. Where the super rich go to meet their money (many from JLA, an airport owned by one of them who, incidentally, has a town on the island named after them), and where at least one of my biker friends has gone to meet their maker.

There is no car speed limit, which is perhaps why super rich Jeremy Clarkson has a property there. Unthinkingly, he has fenced off a public footpath, which means ramblers no longer have the right to traipse straight off a high cliff and into the sea.

Other locals in the news are DJ Andy Kershaw, plus the Kwik Save millionaire who gave most of it away. Then there's the late Norman Wisdom and the friend of a colleague who was busted for drugs recently by the IOM constabulary while driving home from a kids' birthday party. Such arrests are a piece of cake. Which is what his alleged lump of weed turned out to be.

The Isle of Man is where I had the best time in all my six-year-long life. In the green glens and shimmering bays - you can see the sea in all directions - Summerland was Shangri-La.

It was a fantastic idea that could never happen today. A climate-controlled building covering an astonishing 3.5 acres on Douglas's waterfront, at a cost of £2 million in the old money. Summerland could accommodate up to 10,000 tourists and comprised a dance area, five floors of holiday games, restaurants and public bars.

I can remember skipping along the illuminated promenade at night, and the new smell of it. Begging to go back there to get, literally, lost in its magical vastness one more time.

20110419iom65.JPGA year later it was gone. Built from what was basically industrial strength cling film,  the whole lot went up in a horrific fire that could be seen from the mainland. It killed 50 people along with the Isle of Man's then-dream. A mass appeal tourist destination in ashes.

Who knows what might have been? It was just a year before Wish You Were Here and Club Cantabrica, when the UK caught on to the idea of foreign sun packages.

So, setting aside he delights of the Laxey Wheel (built near Chester) what attracts tourists to the Isle of Man?

Well, there's the Bay Festival, of course. To give it its correct title The Manx Telecom Bay Festival.

It persuaded me back last summer. Easyjet, who operate a convenient flight from Liverpool, gave us, the family, some tickets in an act of enormous generosity.

I have kept my powder dry until now because I wanted to draw attention to this event which is happening again in just eight weeks..

And I am glad I held on because the best thing for 2011 is that you no longer have to get everyone up at 4am to catch the half hour flight there, as we did. It's at a civilised hour of the day.

Perhaps because it is a multi-millionaire's haven, the Isle of Man is not big on public transport although a good circular bus from the airport takes in one or two of the sights and drops you at the edge of Douglas and next to the ferry terminal - keeping all sudden-exit options open for those with island fever.

Surveying the lengthy prom we called a taxi (£8) to The

20110419iom03.JPGRegency Hotel, a half-hour walk to the other end. We swept past the Villa Marina (highlights for this year include the Halle Orchestra and Dean “Lucky Stars” Friedman) driven by a friendly cabbie who once had Van Morrison in the back.

This well-appointed establishment with its handsome façade and luxurious, period features including an accordian-gate elevator, is probably the finest hotel on the island.

It also serves an excellent breakfast. Or, as we were led to remark the next morning. “Look at the kipper on that.”

After catching up on sleep, the way you might when you hit India, we headed up to The Bay Festival late afternoon. No buses were forthcoming so we walked the hilly mile. That sunlight. That sea, perfect for scuba diving and many people do.

Programme wise, the following day, Sunday, would prove to be better - depending on your age and musical taste. For the children and teens - a whole day of X Factor and Britain's Got Talent contestants swimming in the wake of their brief TV fame.

For the rest, a best-of-the-80s tour. Kim Wilde; Belinda Carlisle; the most witty and urbane creature to ever come out of Newton-le-Willows, Rick Astley. Plus Curiosity Killed The Whateveritwas and the superbly nostalgic The Real Thing, last seen walking their dogs in Princes Park.

But it was still Saturday and although not quite the the longest day of the year yet, it was doing its best.

20110419iom58.JPGCalvin Harris, The Feeling, The Coronas, Diversity, DJ Ironik, and the winners of a local Battle of the Bands competition were all appearing in a big half-tent affair, promising Spandau Ballet to round things off at around midnight.

So for now we turned on our heel.

Where's good to eat around here? I asked two well dressed young chaps after another long tramp back to town, in what looked like the likely area. They thought about this for several minutes and then pointed us in the direction of Allesandro's, an Italian, which, according to its website, is endorsed by no less than Lou Reed and Chris Barrie and where Ben Fogle, who started his TV career stranded on another island, was thankful for a “wonderful meal”.

The Regency Hotel  also serves an excellent breakfast. Or, as we were led to remark the next morning. “Look at the kipper on that.”

It was remarkable mainly for a waitress who said they did not get much call for olives. Perhaps she was joking. With four hungry mouths to feed, we kept it to pasta and pizza which weigh in at about a tenner a dish on an extensive menu which does justice to much of the island's fresh catches of fish.

What next here on a Saturday night at 9pm?20110419iom25.JPG

Unwilling, by now, to explain to a six- and eight year old, the Kemp brothers' place in the history of rock and roll , we eschewed the prospect of another two long walks - back to Nobles Park and then on home again. In the absence of any fun alternative (the horse drawn trams had gone to bed) we hit the hay in the hotel. Or at least the boys did.

Upon venturing out alone to the shop a few doors away, and passing a pleasant looking pub, I was confronted by a large group of lads drinking foaming pints of Okells, the local brew, two of whom blocked my path and demanded to know if I was “doing business”.

Perhaps they were talking about offshore investments. We will never know, but you don't mess with a gal who lived in L8 for 10 years.

Back up at the park, the party was really kicking off – people out in their droves, the best thing, potentially, that's happened for tourism here since Summerland.

As the strains of Tony Hadley's vocals boomed across the bay, I reflected again that the Isle of Man is, as they say, "special".

I know this much is true.

Tune into a reason to visit the Isle of Man this summer


  • The Manx Telecom Bay Festival happens in 2011 from Friday 17th June until Sunday 19th June 2011, the week after the TT Races.
  • This year's line-up is much more ambitious than last year, as are the facilities. There will be two sites this time, camping and a 10,000 capacity marquee with 5,000 seated and 5,000 standing.

  • It will be headlined by Westlife, Alan Carr, Jo Brand Peter Andre, S Club, Stacey Solomon, Tinie Tempah, Tinchy Stryder, Ministry Of Sound, The Lightning Seeds, The Farm. The Wonder Stuff, 10cc, Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Bay City Rollers.
  • Friday evening ticket prices start at £22.50. Saturday or Sunday afternoon tickets from £22.50. Saturday or Sunday evening ticket prices start from £45. Under 16 weekend tickets are also available. See http://www.bayfestival.im/

  • easyJet operates twice daily flights to the Isle of Man from Liverpool John Lennon Airport, currently under £25 for the Bay festival period. See http://www.easyjet.com
  • Rooms at the four star Regency Hotel start at £100 a night, £155 for a family room, including breakfast, and boast PCs wi-fi, Bose sound systems, Skype phones, and free mobile phone hire. http://www.regency.im/ 01624 680 680.

  • For general tourist information visit http://www.visitisleofman.com

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Anthony SchumacherApril 20th 2011.

I remember, at six years old, the family going there whilst on holiday. I think it was the whole reason my Mum and Dad chose the IOM for a holiday that year.
We were only in there for five minutes when my dad made us all leave, all I can recall is that I was devastated (major tantrum) as we'd all been looking forward to it all week, having walked past it loads of times (they were waiting for the end of the holiday to ensure we had enough money left!).
It turned out that my Dad, who had been in the Royal Engineers and had spent years blowing things up and burning things down, didn't like the look of the construction materials he'd also been horrified to see that the fire exits had chains and padlocks on them and decided that we had to leave, much to the chagrin of us kids, my mum, my nan.
I was told years later my Dad had convinced my mum by pointing at the roof and saying "that will be like lava when this goes up"
We'd only been home a few days when it burnt down.

Is that three legs or are you just pleased to see me?April 26th 2011.

You aren't comin around to my place then Shooey

MikeJuly 18th 2011.

Yes! I was there a week before conflagration.
Drums of used cooking oil stacked in the fire escapes , Piles of polystyrene trays stacked in the corridors , Chains on the crash bars , I said it looks like a big chimney waiting for a match! Lets get out of here quick--Not possible because the pedestrian flows led everyone back to the commerce and tills and to get to a door you had to fight your way past the queues.

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