Going beyond The Fringe on the Isle of Wight

What started seven years ago as a “social experiment” by a group of six 18-year-old friends, is now a showcase Fringe Festival that could become one of the leading events of its kind in the UK.


It will be fascinating to see how Ventnor Fringe continues to develop. But based on the past seven years, there is every likelihood that what books have done for Hay-on-Wye, food has done for Ludlow and music for Dingle in Ireland, performance art might yet do for the town of Ventnor.


Based on an Edinburgh model, albeit on a much smaller scale, Ventnor Fringe now has seven years of history that it can call upon, as well as an increasingly bright and visionary future.


In the meantime the 2017 edition scheduled to take place between August 8th and 13th will also incorporate Ventnor International Festival – or “VIF”, for short.


The Ventnor Fringe, which coincides with the annual Ventnor Carnival, has already become an occasion that visitors to enjoy while they are on the Island. But, helping to set the Friday apart in a six-day festival, VIF (according to Ventnor Fringe Director Jack Whitewood) is set to become “all about attracting more people who want to discover new sounds on England’s largest Island.” It will feature emerging talent: all signed artists, but the kinds of acts which organisers believe will include many of the stars of the future.


A multi-venue festival featuring a carefully curated line up of the most exciting emerging artists from across the UK and beyond, it’s a place to discover the next big thing – with entry available through one, £30 wristband.


A new focus for the Ventnor Fringe, which completely dominates the entire town for six days in August, VIF is already starting to attract interest and curiosity in equal measures, and in a way that could see more visitors than ever before making their way to the Island specifically to enjoy a part of the Fringe.


The 2010 Ventnor Fringe attracted 200 people, mostly from Ventnor itself. Today, there are 3,500 tickets available for the six day Fringe, with at least 30% of those going to people who live on the mainland, or overseas.


“It’s the Island’s only urban Festival,” explains Jack. “It has its own vibe, and energy, and is based in venues which include churches, old halls, basements, warehouses, laundrettes, barber shops and even some of the local’s front rooms.”


Ventnor Fringe now operates out of its own HQ – the Ventnor Exchange, which is described as a “dynamic creative hub and hangout on the Isle of Wight combining a craft beer bar and record store”. Full details can be found at http://ventnorexchange.co.uk – and, in the very near future, watch out as well for the Exchange offering visitors to the town the opportunity to join in with a whole range of “experiences”, such as joining a local photographers in some of their own favourite locations.


VIF, meanwhile, has even opened-up the possibility for organisers to offer its visitors special hotel packages, featuring local hotels and tickets to the event. A wristband for the Ventnor International Festival, plus accommodation at the Leconfield Hotel with breakfast and use of the swimming pool, starts from £78per person. For more details, visit: https://www.festicket.com/festivals/ventnor-international-festival/2017/packages/?buy=hotels-packages.


Comparisons with Edinburgh, and with Dingle in Ireland, are inevitable. Still in its infancy VIF is nevertheless the Isle of Wight’s answer to an urban music festival in a selection of the town’s coolest spaces.


“I can’t think of anything else on a scale as small as Ventnor trying to do what we’re doing – in a small town of just 6,000 people,” says Jack.


“It can all appear a little weird, and very quirky. But eventually world-class will be ‘made’ here. Ventnor was originally built as a health spa town – and the Fringe is a modern take on that. The environment influences what we do. This is authentic. It’s not a made up attraction. And what we’re saying is that the Ventnor Fringe is the way to discover the Island’s blossoming cultural scene.”