An interview with VFringe veteran, all round legend and founder of Vaguely Sunny, Vic King…
Q. For those who don’t know, what is ‘Vaguely Sunny’?
A. It’s an organisation. Well I say that, that makes it sound a bit grand. It’s a partnership of a small amount of people. We’ve been around for just short of 20 years.
We started by writing a book about the history of rock music on the Island. It came out in 1995 but was only done as limited edition which sold old out quite quickly so since the year after that we basically became music promoters. We mainly put on small-ish acoustic style gigs although we can branch out into other areas. We’ve put on plays, operas various other things, lectures, but the acoustic gig is the main theme that we do. Two examples of which we’re doing at the fringe, those are two typical Vaguely Sunny gigs.
Q. Why did you choose to call the organisation Vaguely Sunny?
A. I think if we sat around all day we’d never of chosen it! Luckily, and it’s a Ventnor story. When we did the book it was published under the business name ‘Isle of Wight Rock Archives’. If you’re putting up a poster, which we started to do, it’s not a great name for a promoter – people thought we were geologists or something!
So we were looking for a more snappy name, and while at Salisbury Gardens (then a council office), where I worked with a lovely lady called Lynn Clark. One day she was on the phone to someone asking about the weather, and after looking out the window she replied “well, vaguely sunny” and I thought Ah, that’s the name! It suits the weather, people’s personalities… We like the name! Lynn’s the originator of it, which we still remind her of.
Q. What inspired you to start Vaguely Sunny?
A. It’s all coming back to me now; doing this book gave us some money to work with. Now looking back at the end of 1995 there was little live music, nothing like the fringe back then, no hope of the Isle of Wight Festival coming back, no national bands coming around.
But the council published a document that set out what they want to do with planning etc. There was a clause tucked in somewhere saying there should be a permanent festival site- that was unusual as there were attempts in the mid 90’s to get the festival back but it was all very negative.
The applications were turned down largely because of, surprisingly, effects on tourism. Every time something big like that was proposed, people got scared and worried about drugs and sent letters of objection. So we thought let’s try to get people to send letters of support so we put this gig on at Newport FC in 1996 to flag up the issue. It was with Island bands and it when quite well and we’ve been doing it ever since.
Q. When did you first hear about the fringe?
A. We’re Fringe veterans, we heard about it a year before it started! Mhairi used to put on gigs as part of the Country Club. She helped us put on a gig for a Brading duo we were working with called the Adventurers. They wanted to tour the Island on bikes with a little trailer behind towing their instruments but it didn’t work out as there was far too much cycling!
I remember she said there was this chap called Jack Whitewood and he’s going to start something called the Ventnor Fringe, so I thought that sounded really interesting, and so it has been!
Q. How did you sell the idea of the Fringe to this year’s artists, Boo Herwerdine and the folk duo Josienne Clark & Ben Walker?
A. Boo has been here before so he knew who we were and what he was dealing with. With Josienne Clark & Ben Walker, that was interesting as for the first time I was involved in programming Rhythmtree Festival- which I thought would suit them well. Just after I thought why not book them for the Fringe? Artists like the idea of coming here, they’re well looked after, it’s a slightly different Festival and the idea of coming (to the island) is always appealing.
Q. What are you looking forward to at this year’s fringe?
A. Tuesday is our day, looking forward to The Millennium Plays, and a couple musicians we know, Mark Hickman & Karen Tweed, afterwards. And I can’t not mention Undecided! I think they’re a crazy bunch but really original work; really looking forward to Undecided.
Q. What’s next in the pipeline for Vaguely Sunny?
A. Ah, it’s quite an ambitious thing that we got asked to help with last year and went really well. It’s the Harp Festival in Ryde, 7th-11th October; just music of the harp any connection with the harp, jazz, Scottish music. Got people from America, someone from Senegal and lectures- takes a lot of work but good fun.
Q. Any thoughts as to bring out a second album of Island Music?
A. Wouldn’t think so, how Island music has organised itself since then (the first album released in 2000); everybody’s got much more scope to put stuff out now. It’s not priority at the moment.
Q. What are you currently listening to?
A. Changes all the time! Just come back from Conway, Ireland, where there’s a big arts festival and some bands gave me CDs, [including] a quirky band called My Fellow Sponges, so listening to that… Digging out some Boo Herwerdine; my taste can change, I’m a bit fickle!
Q. If you were stranded on a desert island, what would be the one thing you would have?
A. Record player! Some means of playing music, it would help the frustration.
Q. Any advice for young people looking at the music industry?
A. Keep all the music yourself, keep control of all the stuff yourself, do the music at your own speed. Keep control of it don’t give it a way to some nasty shark whose going to make a million and you won’t.
By Evan Wragg