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.

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.

Ventnor - By Tobias Penner

What to do on Monday

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So it’s the Monday before Ventnor Fringe Festival, be sure to enjoy the scenic pastimes available in and around our beautiful, bizarre town and coastline before everything kicks off tomorrow.

1 – Crabbing
For a few pounds, you can purchase yourself a bucket, some fishing wire (Wendy’s in town can
supply these) and some bacon (from any of the local fresh meat sellers). Head down to the left of Ventnor Haven, to Wheelers Bay or to the right of the Spyglass. With this Holy Trinity of cheap fun, you can have hours of fun dangling your enticing bait and luring many a crab. When you have a bucket full, throw them back in and start again. Maybe name the crabs. Maybe race them. But be sure to treat them with kindness and respect.

2 – Paddling
Take off your shoesies, roll up your jeans and get in. The Ventnor waters and fresh sea air were once reputed by the Victorians to cure many complaints such as consumption, syphilis and ennui. Freshen up your feet and get the blood flowing and then maybe you may be tempted by…

3 – Swimming
You have paddled. NOW COMMIT. Ventnor beach has the lifeguard keeping a watchful eye should you be a novice sea swimmer, but if you are mindful of currents and stay in your comfort zone, the more secluded coves and beaches such as Bonchurch beach, Woody Bay, and Steephill Cove are magic to dip into. P.S. Night swimming is delicious, but take great care, especially when leaving one’s undergarments behind.

4 – Kayaking
Heading West from Ventnor you can take a stroll along the coastal pathway to Steephill Cove, once a quiet, local secret (until the weekend supplements found out about it) and go see a bearded man about a kayak. You can hire a vessel, paddle out solo or tandem and admire our luscious Island from the mermaid’s point of view.

5 – Bonchurching
Bonchurch is the other-worldly village next to Ventnor to the East. Take in the famous Bonchurch
Pond, where there are many water fowl to feed (fowl friendly food available outside the old post
office), fish to admire and maybe the errant naughty terrapin to marvel at. Though I have it on good authority the terrapins were evicted recently due to antisocial behaviour, I am sure one or two have avoided the nets and are sunbathing as I write. Carry on to the oldest church on the Island, the 11th Century Bonchurch Church, step inside and take some advice from Depeche Mode… (enjoy the silence).

6 – Rock Balancing
Immediately below La Falaise car park, down a sturdy flight of wooden stairs, is a place with all the right rocks to get balancing. Create towers as tall as you can build, then either leave them there for future travellers to marvel at or use for target practise.

7 – Beachglassing
No, this is not Begbie’s favourite beach based leisure activity, but a rather more sedate affair. Ventnor Beach has a good crop of small pieces of smooth beach glass in a variety of colours. Beach (or sea/drift) glass takes 30 to 40 years, and sometimes as much as 100 years, to acquire its characteristic texture and shape from years of rolling and tumbling around the sea bed. Sky blue, bottle green and misty opaque are the most common shades. However, with a keen eye and some patience you can find autumnal reds and browns and sometimes a golden amber.

8 – Downsing
Look out to the sea. Now look behind you. That large, mountainous, wooded mound rising from the town is Ventnor Downs. It is the highest point on the Isle of Wight and is home to Old English feral goats, the Blue Adonis Butterfly and a range of other uncommon beasts. Getting up there is not easy. You can zig zag through the woods, being careful of slippery, sliding leaves, or you can hike straight up the side, starting at the site of the old Ventnor Railway Station on Mitchell Avenue (by the Warehouse). Climbing equipment is not needed, just a fairly strong constitution and willing calf muscles. It is worth it. The scene that awaits you is glorious, with an unparalleled view of the Island’s rolling landscape and a chance to look down on our little town.

9 – Outdoor gymming
Just above Ventnor Park is the marvellous outdoor gym, as affective for fun as it is fitness. With an incredible view of the Channel, you can work out solo or (more fun) in pairs or a group. I like the tandem rowing machine. And the thrusting machine. And the swingy – leggy machine. I don’t know the proper words.

10 – Rock pooling
As the tide retreats, try and find a quiet spot far from the madding crowd and observe a micro sea life centre in amongst the rock pools of the Ventnor coastline. I have had it on good authority you can cook limpets in butter and garlic for a foraged feast, but I prefer to just observe the aquatic splendour and take a sandwich.

It’s the Beginning…

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It’s 2017, the world has become a different place in the last eight years.

Eight years ago, our festival founders were eighteen-year- old students experiencing the first sips of university life, visiting prospective courses and deciphering what career paths to go down. This journey ultimately brought about the question; how they could bring the culture they’d tasted back to the Isle of Wight, or more importantly back to their hometown, Ventnor.

The kids did good eh? But they’re not kids anymore, eight increasingly more successful Fringe festivals, one Ventnor Exchange and countless community projects; I think we can all agree that VFringe has been a change for the better.

Ventnor town has come alive in the last decade, seeing empty shops brim with light, life and laughter. We have two art venues (Ventnor Exchange and Ventnor Arts Club), several artisan eateries (Cantina, Tramezzini and The Bistro), a Tea House, a homemade ice cream parlor, three small supermarkets and countless thirst quenching bars. What does all this ultimately mean. Is this town just a brilliant holiday destination or is Ventnor finally becoming a town of young entrepreneurs making a sustainable living?
The problem that young people have always faced on the Isle of Wight is whether it’s a viable place to live and have a career. Is it possible to build a successful career right here on the southern-most coast of the Isle of Wight?

The town is smarter, more refined and culturally rich than it ever has been, the young people of the town are setting up shop with their businesses. Three businesses are run by young people; Ventnor Exchange, The Tea House (and The Events Co.) and Red Squirrel Studios. Gentrification is always a hot topic in our yearly Fringe Forum. Whilst Jack Whitewood has always steadfast in his belief that gentrification will not happen, or at least is a long-way off for Ventnor, we pose the question: Is it?

The Fringe Review have decided to investigate whether Ventnor is now a viable career option for young people by interviewing successful creative faces that have done just that. Look out for these interviews in the coming six issues of the Fringe Review.