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.

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.

Judy Rodrigues - by Tobias Penner

Interview: Judy Rodrigues

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Ben – So I’m here with Judy Rodrigues and we have just come from the Bloomsbury and the Isle of Wight event at the Ventnor Film Club. I’ll let Judy introduce herself to you all.

Judy – Hello. I’m Judy Rodrigues. I’m an artist and I’m based at Spike Island where I have been for a number of years now. I was brought up on the Island from the age of 3 and left at 18, but I’ve been coming back ever since. In 2014 I had a residency at Ventnor Botanic Garden which was supported by the Arts Council. It was a research and development grant and it allowed me time to work with the Island. I was really interested in the connections between writers and painters, particularly poets and poetry.

B – Your art has been heavily influenced by the likes of the Bloomsbury Set (in particular the relationship between sisters Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell). For our listeners who might not know what the Bloomsbury Set is, how would you describe them? Who made up the Bloomsbury Set?

J – The Bloomsbury Set were pretty much a very educated, cultural elite in a way. I think that’s how I thought of them, of their time. Made up of a group of men, from Cambridge. I suppose that it was only after the Dimbola [Dimbola Lodge, the home of Victorian photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron – in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight] Show that I started reading how the sisters, Virginia and Vanessa became involved in the group through their brother, Toby who died very young. It was through the sisters and how they became so pivotal within what was known as the Bloomsbury Group.

B – It’s interesting that a group that included E.M. Forster and Virginia Woolf just came together…

J – Yes! I think I’m more interested in E.M. Forster and even George Eliot – a different generation I know – now. I didn’t do literature at school and it’s strange how it’s come in so much for me, as a painter. It was a synchronicity of events and I was finding that I was reaching out to certain people because I was identifying with them in relation with how my paintings were evolving in the studio.

B – You mention synchronicity – there was a part of your talk earlier that identified the 3rd of May letter between Vanessa and Virginia. How is that date particularly relevant and synchronous with your life?

J – For me, when I read it as the 3rd of May it was the date of birth of my daughter – my first child as well. So I wasn’t likely to forget the date from then on. The 3rd May was when Vanessa wrote – after arriving with her family in France – and she wrote about the moths, the light and being in a lighthouse and how the moths were attracted to the light. It was a very good letter. You usually find quoted a paragraph but it’s the rest of the letter that is important to read.

B – What do you think of Ventnor Fringe?

J – I love it! This year has been quite a year for me and I’ve just got back from the Azores Fringe on the Isle of Pico.

B – There was one point earlier in your talk that you said you have an exhibition going on at the St Mary’s Hospital, is that right?

J – Yes, in the Full Circle Gallery [outside the restaurant on the first floor of St Mary’s Hospital in Newport), Guy Eades is putting up paintings that I’ve been working on and that came out of being on the Island in the last 3 years. There’s a few paintings from the Freshwater Diary still there, I think.

B – Well, thank you so much for spending the time for an interview and I hope – if you’re sticking around for the rest of the Fringe – you enjoy it.

Judy Rodrigues can be found at

Steven Paul Sales

Interview: Steven Paul Sales

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Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Steven Sales. I’m 33 ½. I was born on the Island, but I currently live and work in Bristol. I hate using the term artist, but its essentially what I do – I make objects and things about the physical and cultural identity of places. I like dancing to disco and cooking; and especially cooking to disco.

Describe your connection to Ventnor and the Fringe.
The first of my Island family moved to Ventnor in 1900. My great-great uncle’s name is inscribed on the War memorial near Ventnor Park, so Ventnor has always felt like my ancestral home. It’s been my cultural home since being a teenager, frequenting the beaches, footpaths and pubs. I’ve had many friends perform in the Fringe and have seen first-hand what a great experience it can be. I didn’t want to miss out.

Tell us about what you are bringing to the Fringe.
I’m presenting a sound installation at the Errant Stage, which explores the uncertain future of the native Island dialect. I was fifteen when I first realised the island had its own unique set of words and over the past 18 years it is clear that less people are using these words in everyday life. Some Island words describe actions which don’t exist in the English language. Kurn for example, refers to the turning of a flower into a fruit. I hope the installation excites people about this wonderful aspect of our Island heritage.

One previous Fringe memory you hold dear.
Watching Stealing Sheep last year. The balmy weather and the venue helped to enhance the atmosphere that evening. I remember a moment of just looking around, being surrounded by mates and realising I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

This year you are most excited about…
It goes without saying that I am really excited about presenting my own project, but I’m also looking forward to seeing Childhood, Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads performance piece at Trinity Church and Puppet Bingo.

Interview: Sophie Honeybourne

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Our first creative character interview this week is with Sophie Honeybourne, owner and artist behind Honeybourne Jewellery, with our very own Editor-in-Chief, Catriona Macaulay.

So to start things off – how long have you been making jewellery?

I think it’s over 20 years now, which is really scary! I started when I was 18 alongside studying for my degree in 3D design and during my first year I realised I wasn’t getting taught enough. I wanted to specialize in jewellery so I trained at Theodosia in Newport for 7 years. I had the apprenticeship at the same time as doing my degree.

Where did you do your degree?

I studied at Portsmouth and then did a final two years at the Royal College, followed by a Masters specialising in jewellery. I didn’t know until I was in my second year that jewellery was what I wanted to go into, because I was more fine art based with a love for sculpture, but I struggled with the idea of how to make a living out of art. But then jewellery put it all together; I could make pieces of art for the body.

Well they are like little sculptures when you look at them…

Yeah well, making anything in miniature was a real challenge. I saw a Japanese jewellery exhibition and it just completely sent me down the jewellery path. In this country we have such a rich history in jewellery-making. But at the same time, we’ve got set ways for ‘this is how you enamel’ or ‘this is how you make rings’ whereas the Japanese jewellery exhibition just opened up a whole new possibility that jewellery could be used as sculpture for the body.

Have you ever been to Japan?

No, but I’d love to go! It’s just so out of our comfort zone, it seems like everyone I know that has been says that it’s just so different to our culture.

When did Honeybourne Jewellery come to life?

I graduation from the Royal College and I made my End of Year Exhibition and sold nearly the whole lot which was really a shock.

How many pieces did you have in your exhibition?

It was probably nearly 20 or 25, and from that I gained lots of interest from exhibitions and galleries so it just snowballed! I imagined I’d go travelling or do something in-between, but literally a week after finishing, I graduated, came home and set up in my mum’s shed and started making. Every time I sold some jewellery I bought another tool, so all of these tools are 20 years old [gestures towards her work bench filled with sculpting tools].

It has become a right of passage for people to have a Honeybourne piece; when people graduate, finish Sixth Form or get married – it’s very much, “Have you got your Honeybourne?”. Is this something that you’ve realised?

Thank you, yeah I think working for Theodosia helped. My studies didn’t give you any help in business experience or how to deal with real-life customers or clients. So to have a mix of the two, working for Theodosia with customers and having to design and make for them rather than just being taught at uni.

I’ve been able to make 16th birthday presents, then graduation gifts and in some cases, their engagement and wedding rings then their christening gifts, and it’s been beautiful. You actually see people grow through jewellery. It can be a celebration, it’s a real marked point through their lives and a real honour to do that.

Are all these documented on your social media?

We have a bespoke archive (on the website) and each piece has a little text about what the customer wanted, what we discussed and what the piece became.

We actually just added a subsection on the website about the remembrance pieces, and that’s been really beautiful. So, if people have lost a loved one we can incorporate hair and ashes into the piece so that it’s not just celebrating the good times but also marking really important life moments. That’s been in the last two years and we’ve been working really closely with clients and customer and making something that means the world to them.

How many commissions do you tend to get through a week?

It can really vary, I’d say in a day – there are three of us now – we can do from 5-10 commissions and in the really busy times like Christmas we work 10-12 hours daily to keep up with demand. It can be anything, from really tiny to a massive wedding piece and everything in-between, and each one needs attention and time.

Do you work with any other companies?

When I was on my own I used to exhibit at about 20 galleries around the country and a few major exhibitions but because of the success of the shop which is unbelievable – I always imagined some little open workshop that people could come in and see what I did and they might leave with a pair of earrings – and we were totally blown away by how successful it became.

We’ve done a few collaborations with Sherlockology, which was the fansite for Sherlock Holmes. We made a piece for Steven Moffat and his wife Sue Vertue (directors of Sherlock and Doctor Who) and we stocked their online shop. We’ve done some work for Rockkins, a friend of mine who makes beautiful silk scarves, that was the Kate Moss piece that we made. We’ve worked with Charnwood, I made a miniature wood-burning stove and we’re about to possibly work with another island company but we’re still working on it at the moment so, quite exciting.

Can we ask who it is?

I can’t say right now. You’ll have to keep watching our page.

What is your take on The Ventnor Fringe?

We love the Fringe. I can remember when I got my first email from Jack and he said, ‘Hi, my name is Jack, and I’m at university. We’re looking for unusual spaces and we’d love to use the archway’ and I immediately just said ‘yes definitely, whatever you like; we’ll give you cables, use our electricity’ and we’ve just supported it from day one. It’s so wonderful to see people so passionate coming together, not to mention the unusual and creative people it brings to Ventnor. Just to see that was like ‘Go Jack, go!’ and to see it growing a growing has been amazing. To have Ventnor Exchange as our neighbours is great and we’re wholeheartedly behind it.

Is there anything on the program that you’re really looking forward to this year?

We’re going to see the Parrots and Childhood, so that’s going to be really exciting. I loved last year, seeing Stealing Sheep was brilliant, because I’ve loved them for absolute years so it’s so lovely to see that one amazing band and then find loads of little bits around the Fringe and Rex [Sophie’s son] likes to wonder around.

Will you be taking Rex along to any of the kid-friendly events this year?

Yes! Rex loved Seska, he was brilliant. Rex was sat with his mouth hanging open, he’d never seen anything like it so we’ll definitely be going back to see him.

Thank you to Sophie for speaking to us, you can find the Honeybourne Jewellery website here, and Facebook here.