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August 2017

Interview: Jim Willis

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What is your creative passion, Jim?

I am an amateur film maker I suppose you could say, well I’ve written scripts and had films made, and I help out Jack and Mhairi with the Ventnor Fringe.

How did you get into film?

I went to university and did a degree in creative writing which is where I learnt the process of script writing. I wrote a script for a workshop run by my university lecturer John Goodwin, here on the Island. All of our scripts were put into a kind-of contest and whoever had the best script would have it made into a film. John came up to me one day and said- Jim, your script is the best by far, we’re gonna make it into a film – so I was just happy to have that opportunity. We then filmed it nearby in Bonchurch.

How did you get involved with Fringe?

Well I’ve been connected from way back, before it first started 8 years ago. When Jack, Mhairi and Joe were just teenagers. Jack created a board of creatives to help him with theatre and script production. There were a few of us back then, but that was a long time ago now.

So Jack was determined from a young age; how did you meet him?

I used to help out with the local youth club, at the time it was the only thing to keep kids from hanging around the streets. Luckily now there are more opportunities for young people but there’s still some way to go (see the Fringe Forum article for more).

What did you help Jack with in the beginning for Fringe?

We all just helped to facilitate his vision I suppose, he said he wanted to bring art and culture to Ventnor and talking about a fringe festival and we just helped him do that, any way we could.

You’ve stuck with it all these years; how do you think the Fringe has effected Ventnor?

I think it’s been amazing for Ventnor, the amount Ventnor has changed since the beginning of the Fringe is amazing. It’s what Ventnor needed for so long.

Do you think of Ventnor is transforming into a place that people can start building businesses and be successful?

I think it’s come a long way. I think all the Ventnor Exchange guys have done an amazing job as well as the other young people that have been starting up business in Ventnor, like The Events Co. But I think it still has a way to go; I think there are varying reasons for this. One that I have been talking about today, is the number of holiday-makers with second homes. As much as we need tourism, I don’t think it’s productive having people who own homes that only live in them for four weeks of the year. It would be much better to have people living in these homes all year round. There is a ridiculous amount of these homes on the Island, and a considerable amount of them in Ventnor.

Yes, this has been brought up in conversation a lot over the last few years. Do you see this changing?

I hope so, I think that we have people that have been coming down, seeing the work everyone in Ventnor is doing and are decided to spend more time here. It’ll take time but I hope that this will happen with more people.

A big thank you to Jim and everybody that come in to have an interview with us this week. You can find the round-up of these interviews here.

If you’d like to listen to any of the interviews with artist and performers at the Fringe this week please visit our Mix Cloud here.

Are We There Yet?

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As mentioned in the first issue of this year’s Fringe Review; we’ve been talking to some of the creative people Ventnor has produced, maintained or incubated over the years. To recap we’re heard from…

Sophie Honeybourne: a home-grown thriving Ventnor business owner and artist.
Steven Sales: Ventnor-born artist, now living in Bristol.
Kate Powell: Wiltshire-born, nomadic puppeteer and travelling theatre owner.
Hannah George: Ventnor comedian and script writer, now moved to London.
Luke Joynes: Island born, eighteen-year-old music promoter.
Jim Willis: Life-long Ventnor resident, builder, amateur film maker and historian.

(You can read the original interviews by clicking the names above.)

 

So we’ve had quite a collection to talk to this week. From those actually making things happen here on the island, to those that felt the need to take their careers elsewhere. Not forgetting the people that keep returning to create and facilitate art here in Ventnor.

Hannah (scriptwriter) and Steven (artist) felt it necessary to move away in order to build their careers further. Unfortunately, this is the case for many here on the island, but is this going to change?

While there is a clear demand for cultural music and arts events such as the Fringe, there are still obstacles to overcome when considering career paths for young people. As Luke Joynes pointed out yesterday, the costs of getting artists over to the Isle of Wight are far greater than putting on a performance in somewhere like Southampton or Portsmouth. This is also hindered by the lack of a student population. For those that have never put an event on, it is far easier to sell tickets to student populated areas as there is always an initial demand.

It seems that this problem is dependent on which career path you choose. On our first day we spoke to Sophie Honeybourne, who has been incredibly successful with her jewellery business. Though the price of sending parcels is far cheaper than importing people and the business is blossoming, it is still quite a small one. Sophie has one apprentice at present and would find it difficult to take on any more due to the size of their work stations and volume of client work. In businesses like these you can generate enough money to sustain a family or two but beyond that is another ball game.

Jim made interesting points to do with the property on the island, how large numbers of houses are bought by DFL’ers (Down from Londoners) that stay vacant from 48 weeks of the year. He posed the question that while, yes, when these holiday-home owners are present they spend money here but if these homes were filled with people living on the
Island for 52 weeks of the year, surely these people would contribute so much more to the community.

Is this lack of financial support to the community why our business can’t succeed? And indeed, is this why housing prices are becoming so increasingly difficult for people to match? Yes, the houses on the Isle of Wight may
be considerably cheaper than those of London but the work opportunities or salaries available to people, particularly young people are far lower too.

On the other-hand you have people like Kate Powell, that have only made a connection with Ventnor through the Fringe and have returned multiple times throughout the year to nurture art on the Island. In the Fringe Forum on Thursday, Jack Whitewood stressed the importance of nurturing artists that come to the Island.

As Kate is essentially one of these artists; she originally came to the Fringe as a volunteer. Her talents were revealed when she was working as a volunteer here and she has stayed in connection with the Fringe and Ventnor Exchange productions ever since she started out back in 2013.

We need more of these people here in Ventnor, we have more people than ever trying to build their careers on the Island which is fantastic, but we’ve still got some work to do before everyone can get on this band-wagon. Let’s keep investing in our Island’s creative industries.

 

Dead Blondes

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The first half of Died Blondes is a monologue in the form of a letter to David Blakey, Ruth’s victim and late-boyfriend.

Local author, Joan Ellis’ portrayal of convicted murderer and last woman to hang in Britain, Ruth Ellis, is harrowing. Joan is able to convey the raw conflicting emotions that Ruth would have undeniably gone through while waiting for her final walk down to the gallows.

This has clearly been a very well-researched and well- practiced performance. Conspiring to kill someone is no little thing, so of course why wouldn’t you recall every little detail and emotion that lead up to the event.

“I must have been standing there for so long- so long that my shoes began to pinch.”

Ruth passed her psychiatric evaluation, but Joan turns this idea on its head in under half an hour. Once her emotions take hold and old memories of an abusive relationship with David ensue, Ruth becomes almost hysterical.

The second half of this show is Marilyn’s final phone call to ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio. Joan performs this from behind a screen in order to draw focus to Marilyn’s final words.

She erupts down the phone to Joe with her many suspicions, all centred quite firmly around her relationship with the Kennedy brothers. At the time of her death, Marilyn had been suffering heavily with depression, and has various prescriptions to help her manage the condition. This becomes clear as she spirals in and out of consciousness. The conversation develops and details are revealed, questions are raised as to whether this was Marilyn’s paranoia or an assassination from the Kennedys.

A thought provoking and engaging performance. Joan will be performing Died Blondes at Edinburgh Fringe this coming Tuesday (15th August).

 

By Catriona Macaulay

History Repeating

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It was a strange day today. Walking round town, taking in the sights of the Ventnor International Festival; I was taken back in time. There is a definite feel of the 1990s about the place today and quite frankly I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

I was reminded of a conversation I had last year in the press office, when a colleague of mine here at the Fringe Review asked the question – “What was it like in the 90’s?”

I was taken aback a little when it dawned on me that I was talking to someone who wasn’t alive when Jurassic Park was released, and has no memory of BSE or that whole Charles and Diana thing. Nonetheless, there was a genuine curiosity and reverence in her tone that showed that the 90’s are back in, and since that conversation I have been noticing a nostalgia for the late 90’s more and more.

There is a theory that fashion and music and culture repeats on itself roughly every 20 years and I would argue that this theory has got legs. The 80’s obsession that came in the 00’s, helped by Calvin Harris and the New Ravers like Klaxons., ran it’s course and left behind a pile of day-glo and leopard print. And before that the 90’s themselves revelled in the 70’s, with it’s flared trousers and celebration through films like 54, Boogie Nights, and Dazed and Confused.

So according to the theory we should be revisiting 1997 as I type. For me, ‘97 was a good year. It was a time when the gig culture was strong, and the island had a ferry service that enabled me to go across to the mainland to see bands play every other week. It was the year that saw the Radiohead give the world OK Computer, The Prodigy release The Fat of the Land, Bjork started to really start going weird on Homogenic.

Socially too the country was on high. Cool Britannia had swept in along with a New Labour government, the Gallagher’s were partying at No.10 while Geri Halliwell was flashing the world with her Union Flag knickers.

Then in late August, Diana went for a drive and the world changed. The death of Princess Di affected the world in a way that I still can’t quite comprehend. One and a half billion people around the world watch her funeral and ‘Candle in the Wind’ became the biggest selling single in British history. Then came Mr Williams, cleverly timing the release of ‘Angels’, catching people off guard in a period of national mourning and pop music was never the same again. The party of Cool Britannia was over and culture changes again and, as always, we moved on.

So 20 years on and are we going back round again? Well, Corbyn has recently been on stage at Glastonbury and there’s a growing sense amongst the young that another political shake up is needed after years of Conservative leadership. Fashion is certainly looking back over it’s shoulder with the rise in popularity of norm-core and acid wash denim.

Musically too, there are sounds being produced that I haven’t heard for a very long time. With bands like Girl Ray and The Parrots playing with old ideas and making them fresh, I for one am perfectly happy to be living in a 90’s world once more.

Day Planner

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Day Planner

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Luke Joynes

Interview: Luke Joynes

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Eighteen year old, Luke Joynes, is right at the beginning of his career on the Isle of Wight. Luke is a prime example of a young person just finding his feet in the creative industry. I thought it was about time to find out how Luke feels about beginning his career over here and what he sees for the future.

Hey Luke, so how are you involved in the Fringe?
I coordinate the Free Fringe side of the program, which involves programming all the people who applied to play at the Fringe for free and curating where they perform and who else they perform with.

How did you get into all of this?
In 2015 I did the Fringe Review [Luke was our journalist for the Free Fringe, weird how that’s come about]. Then last year I did a gig of my own at St. Catherine’s Church, now this year I’ve been promoted, and here I am now.

You’ve been working at Ventnor Exchange this year, what have you been doing?
Yeah, we’ve just been making sure that everything is in place for this week and I think we’ve done a pretty good job apart from the weather, but that’s a bit out of our control.

As a young person on the Isle of Wight do you plan to continue your career on the Island?
I do plan to continue living here, obviously it’s a bit difficult to make it in music here purely because of the logistics side of it. It costs so much to get people over here from the mainland, but then you have things like the Ventnor International Festival and Strings that’s just opened up in Newport shows that there is a demand for original live music on the Isle of Wight. Perhaps I’d like a slice of that too.

What other festivals have you worked with?
I have a festival news blog, we cover Isle of Wight festivals and I’ve done a bit of PR for Jack Up The 80s.

You’re working in curating events at the moment, is that what you’d like to continue doing?
Yeah, so I run my own business called Atmos Music, currently got gigs with Vant, Clean Cut Kid, S Club and Blazin’ Squad coming up.

Where are these events?
Vant and Clean Cut Kid are in Southampton and then Blazin’ Squad are at Strings in Newport, and that’s mid-September. I also manage events for the Blacksheep in Ryde.

Do you find finances difficult at the moment with the gigs that you’re putting on?
I find it more difficult on the Island than I do in Southampton, simply because there is a student population in Southampton and you also don’t have to pay ferry prices.

What would be your dream band to put on, and what venue would you put them on at?
That’s a tough one. I’m really into Everything Everything at the moment, so probably them and I’d put them on at The Joiners (In Southampton) I think.

What venue would you choose on the Island?
Blacksheep Bar, for it’s underground vibes. It’s the best grass-roots venue on the Island.

Describe Little Mammoth in one sentence…
Ruckus rock and roll fronted by an ex-Noah and the Whale member.

Come along to Luke’s next gig with Little Mammoth at The Parkside on Sunday @ 7pm.
Luke’s Blog can be found @ www.atmosmusic.co.uk

Nakamarra by Tobias Penner

VIF Review: Nakamarra

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It’s going to be a hard gig, even for an up-and-coming Isle of Wight band. You’re the first band on, the opening act to the Ventnor International Festival. You’re playing at two in the afternoon and in a cavernous venue that is notoriously hard to (a) sound engineer and (b) fill.

Local band Nakamarra took these issues in their stride and walked on to the stage to the Jurassic Park main theme, indicating extremely good taste in soundtracks and a cheeky, playful approach to their imminent performance.

The Naka-vibe is a full, riff-and-hook-heavy one; a sound born from the festival scene. Well structured, catchy songs with a penchant for the dramatic. Charlie’s vocals are effortlessly powerful, soaring above the thoughtfully layered arrangements. You can tell that there is honest camaraderie between these young musicians, with a passion and enjoyment that is clear to see, which is no easy thing to convey in such a large venue.

Overall it was a varied set; with changes in mood and musical influence so that the listener can appreciate each song individually, and on its own merit.

However, some constraints of the venue prevented Nakamarra from truly shining. Due to the intrinsic echo chamber effect of the venue, a lot of lyrics were lost on us, which is a huge shame. But not enough of a shame to prevent us from loving what they brought to VIF though.

They are a dynamic, energetic, thoughtful and intelligent band on their way to rather good things. Our Island benefits from young musicians staying here and working at their craft, putting on gigs and creating a live music scene that inspires the next generation as well as pushing current bands and artists to up their game. I, for one, am thankful Nakamarra are here.

I would like to see Nakamarra explore layered harmonies, as I saw two other mics on stage, but did not hear them being put to full use. I would like to see them strip back on one or two tracks, to really vary the set. I think this would really bring the lyrics through and truly reflect the depth of the music. Ultimately, I want to see them do well. They are a shining light on this Island, a marvellous example of home grown talent excelling, despite perceived geographical limitations.

During Nakamarra’s set at the Winter Gardens, I felt a nostalgia. Local young bands used to play there weekly in my formative years and there was an atmosphere of excitement, a feeling that each band could make it, and we would be the crowd that discovered them. Yesterday afternoon Nakamarra brought that feeling back.

Childhood by Tobias Penner

Island Sounds

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YESTERDAY WAS HECTIC. Start of the day, we had Island bands Nakamara and Goo Lagoon in the Winter Gardens and Warehouse, then everything turned somewhat international. It’s say somewhat because, all, bar one of the VIF acts were from the UK. So hats off to The Parrots for making this year’s VIF thoroughly international.

The media team were very busy yesterday, running around to different venues to get film, photo and radio coverage for you lovely people.
All Ventnor International Festival coverage can be found on the Ventnor Fringe and Ventnor International Festival Facebook/ websites.

“It’s a really good line up here, it’s a really quaint town but it’s got a really quite diverse line up. It’s a nice surprise.” – Childhood

“We have time to enjoy it, go to the beach. We really want to come back here – it’s a very peaceful and quiet place.” – The Parrots

“I think the Isle of Wight has a sound – I don’t know how to describe the Island’s sound – I think it’s quite free spirited.” – Pale Seas

“Go see Puma Blue who is on after me, it’s funny because he’s from where I’m from Lewisham, and I never get to see him – It’s a good festival – The power of Ventnor has brought us together.” – Moses Boyd

“We climbed onto the tiny Isle of Wight island in the children’s paddling pool, because we thought it would be a good photo, but we just ended up scaring the children I think.” – Happyness

Listen to the Ventnor International podcast here. 

Hannah George by Julian Winslow

Interview: Hannah George

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Sometimes it’s nice to just to sit back and celebrate the achievements of a child of Ventnor who has gone on to do great things in their field. When I think of ‘home girl done good’, it’s hard not to think of Hannah George – writer, director, good natured bon viveur.

At 19, Hannah won the Paramount Comedy Student Comedian of the Year award and things just went from there. She has performed at hundreds of comedy gigs around the country including at our very own Ventnor Fringe. As if that wasn’t success enough, it’s in the last few years however that Hannah has really found her feet. Since taking a hiatus from stand up, Hannah focused on her writing and has since worked for (to name but a few) the BBC, Sky, Disney Channel, and Nickolodeon. She also creates work with her own company, Somewhen Productions, including ‘S Band’ which was nominated best UK webseries at Raindance Film Festival and a hit viral video that amassed over 2 million views in a matter of days.

Not only that, Hannah has recently achieved an ambition of hers to write a novel by the time she was 30, finishing the first draft days before her birthday. She’s living proof that hard work can get you far. I had a very brief chat with Hannah about how things have been going.

Hello, tell me about your connection to Ventnor.
I have lived in Ventnor since I was 6. My folks still live here and I constantly come back from London as it’ll always be ‘home’.

And what about your connection to the Fringe?
I went to the same school as Jack & Mhairi. And in 2012 wrote a piece and performed in Paines Plough ‘Come to Where I’m From’. That was the second Fringe. Then the next show I was involved with was ‘Ventnorville’ which was a mock vaudevillian cabaret, including a two-man, ten-minute rendition of Les Miserables complete with multiple wigs, and a loaf of bread. It was the greatest show on Earth. Even though I live in London I still come down and watch shows and gigs at the Exchange.

Ventnor seems to influence a lot of creative types, is that true for you?
Ventnor always offers inspiration in everything I do, and my writing partner still lives in Niton so he’s a big creative connection! When I’m not writing up in London, I often come back home; it’s a great place to be.

Talking to Hannah gives me hope. Although Ventnor and the Isle of Wight can seem a million miles away from the big smoke of London, it’s wonderful to see people who show that success can be had and dreams fulfilled. Ventnor has a history of nurturing creative people and releasing them into the world, but time and time again the pull home is strong and the impressions left long-lasting. It’s through people like Hannah that the Ventnor vibe is going national.

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