San Fran & the Ventnor Fringe

See this poster?

This poster is why I take extra long in my business partner’s loo.

She has it hanging to one side of the sink and I sit there every time, gazing and thinking,

“One day Bethan. One day …”

I sit for a long time, elbow propped on knee, chin propped on knuckles, imagining what it would be like to live in a place where invention, vibrancy and colour are married on every street corner.

I remember going to London and wandering into a derelict shop where string had been tied from wall to wall, creating a spider web of washing lines. Dotted around were little tables festooned with pens and luggage tags. Here you were invited to write your one greatest wish. You then tied your wish to a washing line and later one of these would be picked to become a theatre production.

I imagine there must be loads of this stuff like this in San Francisco.

And I want to go there and swim around in an oasis of ideas.

Wouldn’t stay forever though. Just long enough to get my nails painted pink and silver, quench my thirst, perhaps deliver a Gorgeousness workshop, go in a few book shops and see if everything tastes how I’ve imagined. Then I’d come home.

And all this San Fran planning goes on while sitting in my business partner’s loo.

I know.

It’s impressive.

Well, imagine my ultimate breath taken “yes” when one day I left the loo; said bye to the business partner; drove home over the downs and discovered that the wildly genius circus wind that seems to pervade the air molecules of San Francisco had finally curled and ribboned its way into my little seaside town.

The place = Ventnor.

The genius circus = Ventnor Fringe.

Bus shelters were hung with velvet curtains and became make-shift stages for street performers and musicians.

The launderette became the base for some theatrical Red Riding Hood thing. The Youth Club became a cinema. Various houses became “secret locations” where mysterious bands and musicians played. The old Natwest bank that has been locked up like Willy Wonka’s factory for months and months, creaked opened it’s doors at 10pm to anyone who managed to suss out that inside was a secret bar. Empty shops played out whining old War tunes and exceptionally well spoken gents created cappuccino and latte art that even Ads whistled at.

The home of a local artist became a fountain of creativity

flooding through her open door, onto the high street

with puppets

and paintings

dancing from the minds of the Undecided Art Collective and hanging to the tunes of a vintage record player.

The sewage works became a

African themed champagne and cocktail bar

festooned in purple velvet.

The alley between the jewellery shop and the Chinese became a Free Art Exhibition.

And the whitewashed walls on the either side were plastered with the Free Art of Tony Trowbridge.

Little handwritten signs alerted the viewer that on Saturday at 3.00pm, people could come and simply take a piece of art away. Free of charge. Just like that. Can you believe it? It reminded me of going up the Magic Faraway Tree to the land of Take What You Like. I stood for some time and gazed at a piece that showed a silhouetted crane across a graffiti mauve sky and thought, “you’re my one. You’re my one!” Then I winked at it and followed Ads through the alley to the shed turned shop at the end.

Here it is …

… stuffed with vintage treasures and trailing with ivy.

And through the window, out in the sunshine and haze … LOOK!

Old palettes had been pulled in to make a stage for performers. Mismatched sofas and cabinets were placed here and there for the audience to get comfy in.

 By this point any onlooker could see that I was a very, VERY happy girl. If any onlooker had looked really closely, they would pretty much see the juicy, more-ish, completely unholy and pure shameless LOVE AFFAIR that was going on between me and the Fringe Festival. It was like I was IN the picture that hangs in my business partner’s loo.

I think Ads was mildly concerned.

I mean, he was digging The Fringe and everything … but I was making no attempt to hide that my mouth was actually watering at it.

Yet even Ads could not fail to perk up when we saw a beautiful vintage caravan from Vintage Vacations. The Beauty was nestled in a corner of the Courtyard and was open for poets to schnuggle up and perform their pieces.

(V strange really. Ever since Ads and I named our combined cars Doris Black (the Golf) and Doris Green (the Pug), I have been photographing Dorises EVERYWHERE. Well. I’ve photographed two. The first was in town and belongs to the florist Doris Pink. This car is also black and says Doris on it’s front bit. (I will upload it tomorrow for proof, but right now my bum is numb from sitting on the floor and uploading all THESE photos). Anyway, then we also found THIS Doris; Vintage Doris.

What is going on?

Why are so many mechanisms of transport called Doris?

If anyone knows the answer, I’d be interested to hear it. Ideas welcome also).

Anyway … back to the Fringe. Later the courtyard filled with folk who spread out their blankets and pulled the sofas closer. The magician’s palette board stage became a story teller’s theatre and local writers spun their tales, bewitching the audience who basked in the sun like sleepy children listening to their great grandfather’s war tales by the fire of the sun …

 It was like the Quirky had a whirlwind weekend love affair with the Mundane and we all got to wander (and wonder) around it.

So beautiful.

The best day/three days EVER.

But still haven’t told you the very last bit. Remember the Free Art Exhibition and the 3.00pm collection?

At 2.25pm I went and I stood in the alley. I leaned against the wall and guarded my piece of art. Gradually as time ticked on more and more people trickled into the alley. I swallowed, inched nearer to my piece.

It was a very strange feeling. My heart rate picked up and I felt my breath becoming more shallow. Didn’t like the way other people were eyeing up MY art. Was not at all comfortable with the mildly aggro feeling I was having towards an older lady who obviously also fancied teh crane and grafitti mauve sky.

“Which painting are you after?” she asked.

I tilted my head. “That one.”

“Ahh. Ok. I’ll move on.”

Oh My God. She surrendered. Took a  deep breath. This was not very San Fran. Now I was feeling more like an aggro hill-billy who’d taken up a pitch fork and was guarding his farm from meandering Woodstockers looking for a private place to take a piss or have sex.

You can actually feel the seriousness of the atmosphere jutting out of the photo above. Can you see those faces? They are faces of people who will do anything to claim their piece of free art.

Three o’clock had nearly arrived. I took a massive breath – filled my lungs with air. I glanced around at any threats, then …  oh.

My final test had come.

A child.

A little boy of about ten, looking up with great big eyes, over my shoulder to my crane. At once all hill-billyism melted like chocolate on a sunny window sill.

I was about to side step, to let the next generation stand where I had once fiercely guarded the wall … but then hurrah! His mother nudged him onwards and said, “I think that one is already taken Timmy.”

“Thank you lady! Thank you Timmy!”

“THREE O’CLOCK! Take what you want!” yelled the time keeper.

I turned and feeling like a solider being reunited with his/her love, lifted the piece of art off the wall to the inner sound-track of the Black Beauty theme tune.

I thought it was on canvas, so expected it to lift easily, but it was actually a very heavy piece of wood. Struggled briefly, then released the Beautiful Thing and hugged her to my chest.

Hugged her all the way home.

And I’m going to put her somewhere where I can sit, elbow on knee, knuckles under chin and smile and go all shivery and be happy.

Thank you all you amazing people who were part of and organised the Ventnor Fringe Festival. Oh and, about two hours after the Free Art Riot, I saw that kid and his mother staggering home with a 6 foot graffiti giraffe which was the Cherry on the Free Art Exhibition Bakewell Tart.

So.

All good.

Any residue hill billy guilt dissolved and swooshed away … hurrah!

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4 thoughts on “San Fran & the Ventnor Fringe

  1. In awe over here! What a great place to witness. I’ve never heard of such a thing or place but sure do wish there was something like this here where I live. Or close by. Free Art? ! I’d be in heaven, I love collecting others work. How cool. Great post.

    • Hello gorgeous Mountain Gypsy! Yes, it was INDEED an awesome experience. I’m not sure whether Free Art Friday is something exclusive to this place or if it is a bit of a movement within itself (a bit like the people who knit covers for lamp posts and fences in industrial areas etc). If it isn’t something that is a global movement then it defo should be and I’m certain that anyone prepared to give out free art would be very happy to share an idea. Why not start your own Free Art Friday? xxx

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