There is something phenomenal happening this April in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. Over the weekend of April 15-17 a star-packed festival of the arts will be born.
Isle of Arts will feature several headline events each day across the weekend, starting on Friday, supported by exhibitions and cultural events including art, photography, comedy and drama, film, piano and literature.
Friday April 15
The evening kicks off with man-of-the-moment Rich Hall, ‘looking like a Pearl Jam roadie,’ who will regale everyone in his grouchy, deadpan style with hilarious everyday tales and observations of the human condition.
The star of the recent critically acclaimed BBC4 documentary, How the West Was Lost, Edinburgh Fringe favourite and Perrier Award winner particularly likes to lay into Americans and life across the Pond at every opportunity.
Later the same evening, one of Britain’s best live bands, The Hamsters, begin their final year of touring before they retire, “so grab this chance to see them while you can,” say the organisers.
Although primarily performing their own brand of material, the Hamsters are widely regarded as leading interpreters of the music of Jimi Hendrix and more recently ZZ Top.
And for jazz lovers down at the Spyglass’s Boathouse Bar from 8pm till 10pm will be gypsy jazz from Menage.
Saturday April 16
Two of the greatest giants of English literature are celebrated on Saturday. Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope will be brought to life in one-man shows by Lloyd Lee and by one of Britain’s most respected actors, Edward Fox. “If you want to get an insight into the minds of the great novelists, these shows are almost obligatory. You will never get closer to meeting either Dickens or Trollope in person,” say the organisers.
A Celebration of Film is happening at the Baptist Church from midday, beginning with a magical talk from Island resident Dave Ellison about the making of ‘The Tales of the Riverbank’, along with actual sets from the idyllic children’s series.
Tony Dalton will talk about the films of Ray Harryhausen, and introduce a classic movie. Screenings from Island film-makers shorts will be followed by a talk by the Island’s own independent Hollywood producer Bruce Webb, with a screening of one of his own films.
Piano music will be celebrated at the Boathouse with four different pianists throughout the day.
At 7.30pm in the Marquee will be perhaps the highlight of the festival when several choirs from around the South of England will first perform individually and then as massed voices. But to really make it special, they will be joined by internationally acclaimed guest soprano Lesley Garrett. Music will range from light opera to old classic standards to modern anthems.
Sunday April 17
The nation’s most illustrious film buff Barry Norman will be turning the spotlight on life behind the movie cameras as part of the Isle of Arts festival finale on Sunday.
“There are few people who have more insight, more experience and more knowledge about the film business from the point of view of the cinemagoer. He’s been there, he’s met ’em, and now he’s here to tell us about it all,” say the organisers.
Edward Elgar performed by the Indigo Strings Quartet at 2.30pm in the Baptist Church. Then at 7.30pm the Jacobean romp The Revenger’s Tragedy will be performed there by theater group SOOP.
“And finally, as the sun goes down and settles across another glorious evening in Ventnor, Digby Fairweather, that scion of Southend-on-Sea will be joined by his band the Half Dozen for an evening of very accessible jazz,” say the organisers. “It’ll be 40 years since Digby’s Half Dozen played their first ever London gig and they’re planning to celebrate.”
Themed around “barnacled sailors and Victorian bathers”, there are puppet-making workshops run by Island artist Theresa Grimaldi on Saturday and Sunday to make rod puppets from recycled materials and flotsam and jetsam from the beach.
Quay Arts is bringing its free family drop-in workshop to Ventnor on Saturday and parents and children are invited to work with artist Jo Hummel-Newell to create from scratch and decorate an Easter tree.
Solent kite flyers will be running back-to-back kite-making workshops for children on Sunday
‘Memory and Imagination: approaches to writing’ will begin with the Shore Women performing a short reading from their own work and then they will help you develop your ideas and style in a workshop on Saturday for beginners and experienced writers.
Russ Calver who specialises in portraits of both people and animals will be providing an insight into his work and techniques in a master class on Sunday 17 April.
Workshop tickets cost £3 each. Quay Arts drop-in session is free.
Check out the website www.artsisle.org for other ticket prices and more details.