The Ventnor Fringe audience have spoken!
We’re thrilled to announce that Horsebox Theatre have won the first ever Audience Choice Award sponsored by Rouse Ltd Financial Planning with the majority of votes for best show at the fringe going to satirical comedy ‘The People’s Republic of the Isle of Wight’
Horsebox Theatre Company, led by Artistic Director Joe Plumb have been creating theatre shows and experiences for all ages from the back of their red curtained horsebox since 2018, popping up at Tapnell farms summer shindigs and The Nuffield Theatre as well as adapting during lockdown by commissioning online plays.
The People’s Republic of the Isle of Wight follows a campaign for IW Independence including plenty of Island in-jokes and audience interaction in the form of citizenship tests. The show also featured Drag artist Fanny Quivers and got laughs from caulkheads and overners alike with multiple sell out performances at Ventnor Fringe’s Comedy & Cabaret Tent.
The award, an artwork in itself, was designed and created by artist Brian Marriott using fused glass and carved wood accompanied by a cash prize for the winner donated by Rouse Ltd to help support future creative commissioning on the Island.
Joe Plumb pictured said “Thank you so much to all the beautiful islanders who voted! It goes to show the overwhelming support there is for Independence on the Isle of Wight. This is just the beginning. First Ventnor, next… the world! “
Ben Rouse said “The Fringe is the culmination of so much hard work and vision and provides much needed joy and happiness to more and more people. Rouse Ltd like the Fringe is Isle of Wight grown and we just wanted to help support this fantastic event with the Audience Choice Award. Well done to Joe on being the first winner and thank you Mhairi, Jack and all the team for letting us contribute in some small way. Fringe on!”
Ventnor Fringe will return over 10 days from Friday July 22nd – Sunday 31st July 2022. Registrations for artists to take part will open soon, keep an eye out on our social media or join our newsletter at ventnorexchange.co.uk for updates.
Ventnor Fringe is excited to announce the introduction of its first ever Festival Awards, and we need your help!
For the first time we’re offering audiences the chance to vote for their favourite show to win the prestigious Audience Choice Award, generously sponsored by local financial advisers Rouse Limited. A second ‘Spirit of the Fringe Award’, named in memory of local resident Ray Durham, will be awarded to an artist, selected by the staff and volunteer team, who most embodies the spirit and ethos of the festival. Specially commissioned trophies have been designed for both awards, which will also come with £500 cash prizes.
Festival Co-Director Jack Whitewood said: “With hundreds of shows and artists to see over the ten days of Ventnor Fringe, and many artists showcasing and testing new material, we wanted to find a way to celebrate audiences’ favourite acts, as well as those performers that go above and beyond to make the event the eccentric, creative feast that it is!
Ben Rouse from Rouse Limited explained: “I have always enjoyed coming to the Fringe not just for the entertainment but also because it provides a much-needed opportunity to showcase the talent of the many bright and original acts that are essentially waiting in the wings for their big break. The arts and entertainment industry has been particularly badly hit over the last 18 months and Rouse Limited is delighted to be able to support this home-grown event that draws on the unique creativity of Ventnor and creates a platform for others to grow. To re-use an old saying: ‘the show must go on!’ – and we want to do what we can to make that happen!
Audiences will be able to vote through the festival website here or using QR codes placed across the event.
Alongside the ticketed shows at the Fringe, there’s also a whole feast of free events and performances to discover in the Free Fringe.
There are more than 100 acts performing around Ventnor in addition the main programme. We take a look at what to expect and where to find them!
The Harbourside Stage is located on the waters edge at Ventnor Harbour. Here you can watch live music every day from 12pm – 5pm. You don’t need to book tickets to any of the performances during the day, just pay what you want at the entrance. There are often ticketed gigs in the evening, with acts like Gengahr, Los Bitchos, Do Nothing and Billy Nomates. After around 9pm there are DJs playing for £3 entry.
The Parkside Bandstand is at Ventnor Park, it’s also full of live music every day from 12pm -5pm. No need to book tickets – just pay what you want at the entrance to the park and then you can stay and watch whichever performances you like. There’s also a variety of workshops and other activities taking place from yoga to ukulele.
The Book Bus (Tuesday 27th – Saturday 31st July)
A real Fringe favourite, The Book Bus is set in the grounds of St Catherine’s Church, just opposite the Ventnor Exchange. After browsing this beautiful pop up book shop set in a 1930’s Parisian bus, you can watch a variety of literary and acoustic events in the little garden next door. All of the events here are free and you don’t need to book any tickets or pay to enter.
Street Theatre & Buskers
During the Fringe performances often spill out into the streets of Ventnor with buskers and street theatre taking place around the town centre and esplanade. In particular we’d recommend keeping an eye out for Rimski with his Bicycle Piano & Handkerchief, the Double Bassicle as well as roaming Pirates and Giant Seagulls!
Introducing the very first Big Fringe Variety Show – A spectacular night of revellery and laughter from a selection of some of the finest acts at this year’s festival.
Can’t decide what to go and see? Join us in the Big Top on Sunday 25th July at 6.30pm for this unique extravaganza as we present a mixed bill of six new acts you wont want to miss, bundled together for the perfect night out!
Your host for the evening… Joe Black!
Dark cabaret DRAG darling, musical comedy misfit and vintage vaudeville villain Joe Black will be master of ceremonies. Living somewhere between the stages of music, theatre and comedy, Joe Black takes an audience firmly by the hand and guides them into a place where the strange and unusual reign supreme. Sounds very Ventnor Fringe!
Elsie Diamond is an international burlesque performer, cabaret singer and compere. Inspired by the music hall tradition of comic song, opera, pop culture and her background in costume design, Miss Diamond has an eclectic repertoire of sultry routines. Be it wartime classics, 18th-century satire or classic fan dance, Elsie will add a vintage sparkle to grace any occasion. We can’t wait to see what she brings to Ventnor! (You can also catch her full length solo show at the festival)
The Ventnor Darlings
Ventnor’s very own Darlings have been knocking about this old town for a long long … long time. They are regularly to be found in local establishments butchering the classics. Singing along is encouraged, if only just to massage their egos. Often to be described as ‘musically adequate, but always well dressed’, VD isn’t just an malady, it’s a lifestyle!
Fanny Quivers is the Isle of Wight’s very own cross-dressing clown who needs practically no encouragement. This handsome woman is here to make you laugh and bring you some joy. Her specific talents are yet to be determined, but she can guarantee you’ll get a show… whether you want it or not!
Having recently fled from Parts Unknown, The Oddfellas are returning to the stage once more! With their unnatural blend of magic, mischief, and mayhem we’re excited to be amazed and amused by their antics!
And Special Guest… Pat Gently
Last but by no means least, this is the one and only Pat Gently. We’re delighted to hear she’s coming out of retirement for a very special guest performance as part of the The Big Fringe Variety Show. Created by Ventnor Exchange especially for the festival. What an honour! 😂
One of the many wonderful things about Ventnor Fringe is all of the art on display for you to see. There are exhibition spaces across the festival, all of which are free to view!
Here is our top picks of some of the best pop up exhibitions to visit during the Fringe.
Art_house_life @ 35 Madeira Road is back this year with a tour of recent artworks that reflect loss, change & transformation for 7 featured artists. Tickets are free, but you must book in advance.
When? Everyday – 11am & 4pm
Where? 35 Madeira Road
Looking Out From Lockdown is Independent Art’s exhibition celebrating community creativity through Covid. The exhibition features works of mixed mediums, from sketches and paintings, to floristry, cake baking & installations, submitted by a wide range of artists aged from 7 – 87.
When? Everyday – 10am-5pm
Where? Ventnor Baptist Church, Pier Street
The Ventnor Artists Collective have an exhibition of paintings, sculpture, textile art, ceramics, and studio jewellery, all of which are for sale. There is free parking for visitors to the exhibition with access to the Cafe, and a separate paid entrance for the Gardens.
When? Friday 23rd July – Friday 30th July – 10am-5pm
Where? Ventnor Botanic Garden
Paradox Island is a print shop and alternative exhibition space featuring creative-recycling art and posters by award-winning model-maker Paradox Paul.
When? Everyday except Monday – 11am-4pm
Where? Paradox Island, Ventnor High Street
The Shed is a creative space in the courtyard off Church Street, where you can see and buy Arts and Crafts, cyanotypes, ceramics, succulents, and lots more. There’s also a mini exhibition celebrating the Greenham Common Peace Protest as it’s the 40th anniversary of the Women’s Walk from Cardiff in 1981.
When? Friday 23rd July – Saturday 31st July – 11am-4pm
Where? The courtyard off Church Street, through the alleyway next to Honeybourne Jewellery.
With the Government confirming all legal restrictions on social distancing to end, we wanted to provide additional information on exactly what to expect at this year’s Ventnor Fringe.
We can’t wait to welcome you back with ten days of inspiring creativity after 15 difficult months. It’s going to be a particularly memorable moment and an extra special celebration this year. However, we know not everyone feels able to be among large crowds and while we are a relatively small event, we’ve been putting lots of planning in place to ensure everyone can take part, at a level that feels comfortable for them.
1.) The Return Of Live Music
The lifting of restrictions means the return of standing gigs and dancing! It means shows with the likes of Gengahr, Do Nothing, Los Bitchos & Billy Nomates among others are all set to go ahead. We’ll only be operating one standing venue, Harbourside, and we’ll be recommending all audiences use the NHS Track & Trace QR Code provided at the venue. We’ll also be creating an extra seating space for those who’d prefer to remain further away from the stage but still listen to the music.
2.) An Expanded Parkside
This year we’ve extended Parkside into more of Ventnor Park (It’s approx 3x the size!) to provide lots of open space for those wanting to soak up the atmosphere but keep away from the crowds. There’s lots to see and do, with live music on the Bandstand each day, a new bar, wellbeing sessions and an ever rotating selection of street theatre, buskers and traders or check out the ticketed shows in our tents.
3.) Standby Tickets Are Valid!
If you’ve bought a ‘Standby Ticket’ for any event at the Fringe, these are now valid. Venues will return to full capacity, but we’re working hard to ensure good ventilation in all of our spaces, a maximum capacity in any one indoor venue of 200, and extra hand washing facilities available across the festival.
The vast majority of performances at the Festival are under 90mins, as recommended by medical experts, and while not compulsory the wearing of masks is very much encouraged for those who would like to.
4.) More Street Theatre & Busking
If indoor venues or even tented spaces are still uncomfortable for you fear not as this year there will be more outdoor theatre and busking than ever before! Alongside daily music at Harbourside and the Bandstand in Parkside (Ventnor Park) performers will be spilling out across the town so keep your eyes peeled for acts in every direction. We’ll be publishing more information in the coming days.
5.) No Tickets On The Door – But A New Box Office In Parkside
To avoid congestion at the entrance of venues tickets for events will no longer be available on the door. You will be able to book right up until the performance online or in person from Ventnor Exchange (located 2mins walk from St. Catherine’s Church and Ventnor Arts Club) or our new Parkside Box Office, located near the main entrance to Ventnor Park and a few mins walk from The Magpie, Parkside Playhouse and Comedy & Cabaret Tent. Both festival box offices will have dedicated team members able to help you select shows to see, answer enquires and book tickets. Both will be open from 9am – 10pm each day.
6.) Looking After One Another
It goes without saying that we all need to look out for each other in these unprecedented times. Please respect those who wish to keep their distance or avoid physical contact, as well as our amazing crew and volunteers who have had to learn many new processes and work exceptionally hard this year to be able to make Ventnor Fringe take place. If you feel unwell or start displaying COVID symptoms, please don’t attend the event and seek a test first. Test kits are available completely free of charge from any chemists and a list of common symptoms can be seen on the NHS website here.
It is not compulsory to have been double vaccinated to attend the festival, but please do test regularly and whenever displaying symptoms.
7.) Support The Fringe
Love the Fringe? Please do support the event this year. As with many arts organisations around the country it has been an incredibly difficult period and despite financial support from Arts Council England and the DCMS, which we are very grateful for, there has been considerable additional costs in putting on this year’s event, and losses from the cancelled 2020 festival. Every ticket sold, drink purchased or donation made makes a huge difference and this year is more important than ever to ensure our survival and recovery for years to come. There’s nothing on the Island (heck – maybe the world!) quite like the Ventnor Fringe. With your help we can keep this truly independent, creative and community minded event for the future.
Today we’ve been chatting with The Noise Next Door to find out more about what to expect at their debut Ventnor Fringe show!
Twelve time sell-out veterans of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and one of the country’s most sought after comedy club headliners, The Noise Next Door leave audiences everywhere in awe of their lightning-quick wit and totally original comedic talents. They have been performing their own distinctive brand of off-the-cuff comedy together since they met at university.
Hello Noise Next Door, we’re very excited about seeing you perform at Ventnor Fringe, will this be your first time at the festival? Are you looking forward to visiting the Isle of Wight?
This will be our very first time at the festival and we can’t wait! We fully plan to make the most of the trip over to the isle and do all the most painfully touristy things available – hang out at a chine, befriend red squirrels, get one of those little glass lighthouses full of coloured sand… The works.
For someone who’s never seen you before, how would you describe your shows in three words?
Excellent improvised comedy.
Improvising on the spot is quite a skill! You must have had some fantastically strange scenarios played out in the past. What are the wildest suggestions you’ve ever had to deal with? Any particular stories spring to mind?
Yes, yes, we are very skilled. At this one thing. Ask us to put up a shelf and you’ll soon see where our skills fall short! Because everything we do on stage is made up, on the spot based what our audience wants to see every show is very different and every show surprises us! We’ve had everything from a story about a group of Spanish nuns robbing a bank to a rap battle between William Shakespeare and Winnie the Pooh. Our job is to be ready for anything and spin it into comedy gold but audience members can still catch us out. We once asked our audience for a household object and someone suggested a Viking longboat! Anything goes.
After such a long time with limits on live performances due to COVID, it must feel great to be back on the road again. What have you missed about live performance most?
We can’t stress this enough. It’s really nice when a room full of people applaud you when you finish work. We think it should be implemented across all sectors.
The Noise Next Door will be performing their improv show ‘Out and About’ at the Magpie on Sunday 25th July at 9pm. Book Tickets
We’ve always believed there’s something special about Ventnor, this dramatic clifftop town that provides the perfect backdrop to the festival.
For many performers travelling to perform in Ventnor, whether during the Fringe or at other times of the year, it’s become a regular b-line from the normal touring circuit. We spoke to some of the artists who have made it an annual pilgrimage to find out what keeps them coming back!
Charlie Dore, Musician
“This will be our 4th Ventnor Fringe and each year I’m always fascinated by the sheer diversity of events. I love being part of that festival buzz and it seems that energy is reflected back by our audiences. Beyond our own bubble it’s like an Arts version of a brilliant street market: you’re heading out to buy some comedy and on the way you fall in love with a 1940’s book bus, a punk opera, a drag cabaret and end up at a puppet show. My only regret is that I never get to see enough of it. Next year I’ll book AIr B & B for the whole week. ”
Charlie Dore is performing at St Catherine’s Church on Friday 23rd July. Book Tickets
Ahir Shah, Comedian
“I’ve been visiting the Island to do stand-up for several years now, and my favourite bit is always after the show. The real treat is sitting in a line on the beach with friends and a beer, watching the sea roll in and a quantity of stars unimaginable to this Londoner’s eyes unfurl themselves across the canvas. There are many things in this world that serve to remind us (or do they remind us that we serve them?) how small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things. Would that they were all so beautiful.”
As well as hosting Pick of the Fringe, Ahir Shah will be previewing new material in the Comedy & Cabaret Tent on Friday 30th April. Book Tickets
Luke Wright, Poet
I’d barely even heard of Ventnor five years ago when I arrived wet-socked one march for a tour gig, but what a brilliant surprise. Ventnor has all the faded seaside charm we Brits demand from our coastal resorts plus a smattering of interesting vintage-y shops, cafes, and the incredible Ventnor Exchange which is one of the best small venues in England. I’ve gone there every year since and my heart always leaps when the taxi drops down the hill and I see the sea. And I can’t wait to return this July when I’ll be performing some bawdy Georgian street ballads at the Ventnor Fringe. Long live the Isle of Wight!
Luke Wright will be performing ‘The Ballad Seller’ in The Magpie on Tuesday 27th July. Book Tickets
Gráinne Maguire, Comedian
“The Isle of Wight has the friendliest, warmest, best looking audiences in the world. I look forward to visiting every year- all comedy festivals should be as fun!”
Gráinne Maguire will be performing her new show ‘Subtext Is For Cowards’ in the Comedy & Cabaret Tent on Monday 26th & Tuesday 27th July. Book Tickets
We’ve been talking to artists who are making the journey to the festival to find out more about their shows. First up is Luke Seidel-Haas, writer and co-director of ‘Back To Berlin’
Hi Luke and thank you for taking the time to talk with us. We’ve been reading all about ‘Back to Berlin’ and how it was inspired by a family member and real events. Can you tell us a little more about where the concept started?
My dad is originally from Germany, having moved to the UK in the 80’s. Growing up I didn’t really know all that much about his upbringing before he emigrated, but a couple of years ago and over many glasses of wine we started talking about his time in Berlin. He explained that he studied in the city as a West German student when the wall was up, then moved to the UK a few years later. In 1989 when the Iron Curtain started to crumble, he was living in England and suddenly realised that history was being made back in his home country, and that he needed to travel back to see it.
He told me this story, I told the rest of the theatre company, and we realised it might make a really interesting show. From there I developed a script based on our conversations, which then morphed into a sometimes serious, sometimes light-hearted performance. We’ve been working on it for a couple of years and developing it more after each performance, and we really want to take the audience with us, to imagine what it might have felt like to be there the night the wall opened.
It’s been 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, do you think it’s a subject that’s spoken about enough in the UK? Are there lessons for today?
I don’t think that era of history is spoken about enough. The audiences we’ve performed for so far have been really diverse, with some coming along because they remember the event or even have a personal connection to Germany or Berlin, and others just coming along because they’re intrigued and want to learn more. Our aim is to make sure that those who don’t know the history (or, like us, weren’t even born in ’89) come away with a better understanding of what happened, and the impact of those events on what’s happened since.
There are so many lessons that can be learned for today; the fall of the Berlin Wall was all about uniting a country divided by ideology, the coming together and the healing. The UK often feels divided in a similar way (right/left, leave/remain and so on), and we need to learn to come together somehow. In Germany the reunification wasn’t perfect, and of course across Europe the legacy is still felt in both negative and positive ways. I hope the show highlights those similarities.
Over the last year we feel the show has in some ways taken on a different resonance. Closed borders, being isolated from friends and family, ever changing travel restrictions which throw a country into turmoil. We could be talking about 1989 or 2020/1 The restrictions we’ve lived under for the last 18 months due to COVID feel strangely prescient now.
This will be your first time performing at Ventnor Fringe, how did you hear about the event and what are you expecting? Will it be you first time visiting the Isle of Wight?
We first heard about the Ventor Fringe from another Cardiff based performer, Stammermouth (Nye Russell-Thompson). He’s from the IoW originally, and has performed at the Fringe in the past. (Go see his show too, as he’s performing this year and it’s great) The line up looks really interesting and diverse, and I think like any Fringe we’re expecting the unexpected!
We’ve never been to the Isle of Wight before, but are very excited to be visiting. Let’s be honest, we’re excited to be leaving our living rooms after the last year of being stuck inside! We’ve heard that the beaches and countryside are lovely and want to explore as much as we can, and we will be sure to help the local pub economy while we are visiting!
And finally, if you had to sum up your show to audiences in 3 words how would you describe it?
Funny, authentic, educational
(Not our words, but my dad’s words having seen the show himself)