Updated: Aug 9, 2020
Why are you advocating for Ventnor Exchange?
If you've lived in a rural area you'll probably be able to relate to the sense of "splendid isolation" (to coin a phrase) that you get from growing up somewhere a bit remote. I've lived on the Isle of Wight for most of my life and I'm unspeakably grateful that I've been raised amongst these rolling hills, sun-soaked beaches, and wholesome people. However, there is also a tremendous sense of being stranded or cut-off from the outside world.
Whilst progressing through secondary school on the island it became increasingly clear to myself and many of my peers that there were minimal opportunities available to us here. Upon turning eighteen, there was a mass exodus of practically everyone who wanted to study, train, or work in a company other than the handful operating on the island. Thus, the community was starved of a fresh round of youth, energy, and talent.
To be clear, I'm not advocating for a world in which nobody leaves the place where they were born; accessible travel opens up a wider, wiser, and more colourful world for everyone. My (somewhat rhetorical) question is this: How can small, rural communities retain some of the vitality that's brought by successive generations of young people and their ideas?
I'm not an economist, but I can see two types of solution:
Increase and diversify the opportunities available locally (so that young people aren't forced to leave en masse by a perceived lack of opportunities).
Make the island a more attractive prospect to the rest of the world (in order to bring more year-round life and colour to the community).
One of the organisations that is addressing both of these points is Ventnor Exchange, an all-in-one creative space and arts venue on the Isle of Wight.
Ventnor Exchange is probably best known for bringing artists, musicians, and performers (both local and global) to the island during the annual Ventnor Fringe festival. Unlike a lot of local businesses though, their work continues outside of the tourist-clogged summer season. Throughout the year, the Ventnor Exchange space offers coffee and vinyl records by day before becoming an all-in-one theatre, comedy club, arena, and (of course) bar by night. There's certainly no doubt in my mind that having a venue of this calibre makes the island a more attractive prospect to mainland artists and residents.
Crucially, Ventnor Exchange also offers opportunities for local creative talent of all ages. They run open auditions with industry professionals, as well as artist social events to facilitate conversation and collaboration amongst locals. Plus, where many arts organisations have disappeared or gone dormant during lockdown, Ventnor Exchange has been busier than ever. Rather than writing off 2020, they've launched an entirely new endeavour — Brave Island — aimed specifically at young people looking for opportunities and funding within the arts.
It's true that a student in Ventnor still doesn't have access to the vast range of arts and culture that's available in London — and probably never will. However, thanks to Ventnor Exchange, they are at least engaged with a broader, richer range of possibilities and opportunities which might not even have been in their contemplation before.
That's why, when MoMa's asked me what organisation I wanted to advocate for, I instantly knew it had to be Ventnor Exchange. Which brings me neatly to...
Why are you a MoMa's advocate, then?
Most of us have grown accustomed to having a constant diet of danger and dilemma being fed to us through our various screens. At times, we may feel small, overwhelmed, and unable to affect what's happening in the world. It's certainly true that creating global change requires significant and sustained effort — often without much hope of success — and this can be extremely daunting. Having said that, I firmly believe there's equal value to be found in changing the world immediately around us. After all, change doesn't have to be seismic and grand to be meaningful. I'm not saying we shouldn't campaign for progress on a national and international level (because we should), but let's also match those efforts with positive gestures on a personal level within communities.
This is where I think MoMa's and Ventnor Exchange have their biggest overlap. Both organisations are catalysts for the kind of change that makes a more immediate and meaningful difference to the lives of the people they interact with.
Recently, many of us have been (yet again) staring at our screens in various states of horror and disappointment at the death of George Floyd (amongst far too many others), not to mention the sort of treatment that even our Olympic athletes are subjected to. When faced with scenes such as these, it's right and necessary to demand fairness and justice in our society. Unfortunately, this kind of activism sometimes brings with it the feeling of being powerless in the face of overwhelming forces, campaigning for change that won't happen within a lifetime, or possibly at all. Change can be infuriatingly, dishearteningly slow.
With that in mind, if you're looking to engage in the kind of small-but-meaningful change I've been talking about, then supporting MoMa's Cookies (a Black-owned business, by the way) is a great place to start. It's doable, it's meaningful, and it's something we can do right now without waiting for anyone's permission.
Will vegan-friendly cookies and art venues solve all our problems? No, of course not.
But it's not every day that you can meaningfully enrich the lives of others by eating cookies.
To find out more about Ventnor Exchange:
To contribute towards Ventnor Exchange use discount code: MosesMoMas20 upon checkout