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Ventnor Exchange unveils new nomadic venue for the Isle of Wight, following £225,000 award from Arts Council England’s Capital Investment Programme

Today we’re excited to reveal that following a competitive application process we’ve been awarded funds that will enable us to commission the construction of a bespoke Big Top tent that will provide the Island with a new multi purpose, fully equipped mid-scale venue.

About 7 months ago we published our 2023-2026 Delivery Plan, which set out our vision and key priorities for the next few years. It was created following extensive consultation with our audiences, workshop participants, staff and the wider community and sets out 5 main strands of activity which when taken together aims to create a significant step change in our activity. We hope it will also have a visible impact on the Island’s wider cultural landscape, expanding what is possible and bringing many more creative experiences to a wider range of people.

One of these core goals was to bring to fruition our much dreamt about ambition for a big top tent as a flexible, nomadic venue for the Isle of Wight.

Why? Well we want to re-imagine what a theatre or arts centre can be and as a nomadic venue this will be a new town hall for the whole of the Isle of Wight, ensuring every community can have access to an amazing facility capable of attracting world class entertainment. It will also be more flexible than bricks and mortar, adapting to all sorts of different community needs. It could be a cinema, gig venue, circus or even an indoor roller disco!

Working with local residents from the outset, together we’ll decide what this new venue is called, how it’s used and where it visits.

Local ownership of this key piece of infrastructure will also help secure the long term future of Ventnor Fringe

It’s no secret that festivals all around the country are facing particularly challenging economic circumstances. Live events were undoubtedly one of the sectors most impacted by COVID restrictions, followed by a period of rapid inflation of overheads on everything from fuel to toilets, lighting to hotels.

Ventnor Fringe is a small event, but still costs much more than you might think, running into hundreds of thousands of pounds to stage each year. Despite record breaking audience numbers (Ticket sales have risen from 6,000 in 2019 to 12,000 in 2023) we’ve not been immune to the rising costs of just about everything!

Owning more of the core infrastructure that the festival currently hires will make a huge difference over time. It will save money, lead to the training up of more local crew and reduce our environmental impact. Last year’s Big Top travelled 365 miles each way from Belgium! Now it will be based just down the road at our new Ingrams Yard site. Read more about that here

We’re also incredibly excited about the opportunities this will create for young people

This new venue will open up a whole range of new experiences to be offered through our Brave Island programme which supports 14-25 year olds with new training, placements and work opportunities.

From circus skills to gig nights, new on-stage and backstage roles will be created and we will have a phenomenal new space based right here on the Island to train young people with.


Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England

“This infrastructure investment will help a whole range of different cultural organisations across England to flourish, increasing opportunities for people to enjoy creatively excellent cultural events close to where they live. It’s particularly important that we’re making this happen in communities where cultural investment has historically been low”.

Bob Seely, Isle of Wight MP

“Well done to the team at Ventnor Exchange. It was a great bid and I was delighted to support it. It’ll be a fantastic contribution to arts on the Island.

“More generally, we secured priority funding status for the Island from Arts Council England back in 2018. That success has enabled us to get a better deal for the Island in terms of arts funding. We have a remarkable arts heritage on the Island. We should all be celebrating it.

“I can’t wait to see the new big top tent touring the Isle of Wight.”


Stay up to date by following us on socials or signing up to our newsletter for all the latest updates as the project progresses. 

What will the tent look like? 

We’re still working on the final design but it will be modelled on the tent you can see in this video, which is owned by Collectif Malunes and which was used at Ventnor Fringe in 2023.

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