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.


Views with Matt and Questions with Kate

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As many of us creative lot have noticed over the last decade, there’s just not as much money being passed around in order for us to do what we like doing – creating.

This is seemingly even more of a problem for those of us that live outside the M25. With the recent announcement of Arts Council Funding for 2018 – 2022 there have been numerous artists who have been made all too aware of the cut-throat, world of funding applications.

Even those who have been successful in retaining the same level of funding as the previous term are facing a real term cut as the costs associated with running venues and staging productions increase.

As part of the new set of funding, it was highlighted through repeated criticism that not enough money was being spent in areas outside of London. ACE has increased funding outside London by 4.6% – or £170m from 2018-22. This sounds great in theory, although sadly this good news for us locals has been soured slightly by some recent controversy surrounding certain recipients of the cash.

In particular Wise Children, the newly founded theatre company of Emma Rice, ex Artistic Director of the Globe which has been awarded nearly £2million over the next four years, claiming that it is a company with its roots firmly grounded in the South West of England. However, it has recently been revealed that the company is set to spend its first year in residence at the Old Vic, in the centre of London.

There is no criticism of the work that this company may produce, indeed it could prove to be the most innovative, brilliant work we’ve seen for a while, but the criticism lays at the door of the Arts Council and the seeming nepotism by the way that funding is awarded. Some are asking the question would this company (only a matter of weeks old with no performances to it’s name) have got the cash if it wasn’t being run by the ex-Artistic Director of the Globe?

But art finds a way. Across the country creatives are coming up with new ways to keep the art forms they love alive. One example of this is the Errant Stage, which has joined us in Ventnor this week. The aim of this new venture is to enable small companies and new artists to perform their work in front of an audience, and intends to enable that audience to be anywhere. Arts funding cuts are greatly affecting the amount of new work being made and the cost of venue hire and production is restrictive to unfunded young companies. The Errant Stage is doing it’s own bit to help. I spoke to the driving force behind this exciting new venture.

Hi, who are you?
I am Kate Powell and I am a puppeteer and creative

Tell us about your relationship with Ventnor, and the Fringe?
My relationship with Ventnor is entirely Fringe based, I had never been before until I helped out on my first Vfringe in 2013 but obviously now after this many years, it feels like a second home! I was first introduced to Vfringe by my step brother Seb – who’s mum knew Kathy, Jack Whitewood’s mum – and he rang me up after his first year volunteering and told me I have to go – That these are ‘my people’. This will now be my 4th year. Normally I volunteer and venue manage the theatre, but last year we brought our show Goodnight Little Bear here.

So you’ve obviously got history here, anything new going on this year?
This year I’m coming down as an artist rather than a volunteer – Although I will definitely still be helping out – This year I am venue managing, but it’s actually my own venue…in a van! It’s called The Errant Stage and it’s a professional off-grid travelling stage that I am converting from a big red Luton Van! This is the soft launch in our journey to become an affordable, accessible and sustainable theatre venue of the future – there’s a long way to go, but we’re full throttle ahead! We’re hosting installations, and some other little surprises throughout the week and can be found parked up down on the seafront at The Plaza. Come have a chat about why we are retaliating against cuts to Arts Funding, what we plan to do to get theatre out to audiences – wherever they are, and what our crowdfunder is all about and how you can get involved.

Kate is doing good things, creating opportunities in a time of austerity and cutbacks. Obviously not all of us have an old Luton van lying around the place, but the one thing we all can do is support our local artists. Buy tickets. Go to gigs. Even something as small as sharing Facebook posts to help with promotion can help. Keep your local cultural scene alive!
The Errant Stage can be found on the Plaza, and you can also see Kate in action as part of the Puppet Quiz tonight @ the Parkside at 10pm.

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