IW Story Festival Young Journalists

We were delighted to be joined at this year’s festival by young journalists and photographers from the Island VI Form. Here are the reviews they wrote.

Simon Farnaby review
by Izzy Flux

The show Simon Farnaby put on at the IW Story Festival at Quay Arts was simply amazing.

The children’s author, screenwriter and start of the TV hits ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Horrible Histories’ was exactly what I thought he was going to be and more.

He was very funny and engaging to all his audience members, young and not so young. He made an effort to keep everybody entertained, whilst showing off his personality and let us as an audience build a relationship with him.

Farnaby claimed “he has not told these stories before” and shared some interesting thoughts about himself, such as when he was younger he thought he looked like James Dean, which is rather hard to imagine!

He gave a range of advice to the audience such as “you can’t be too stupid” and shared some stories from when he was younger. He told us he: “used comedy to make friends” which touched me personally as I have a similar experience.

He was very interactive with the audience as he asked them for ideas for his next book and was very open to answering questions about his life and childhood.

The whole experience was brilliant! When I interviewed Simon it felt as if we had known each other for a long time, as he was very comfortable and easy to talk to and he was very relaxed during the interview.

I discovered that he was a very curious child and “just wanted to find a robot in the woods.” He always wanted dramatic things to happen to him like a plane crash where “we all survive but we have to live on a desert island.”

I am grateful for this opportunity and as a budding writer it has really inspired me, which is the goal of the IW Story Festival! It is an experience I will never forget and will always hold close to my heart.


Julia Tuffs review
by Allister Woodhouse

Always question, “is this okay?” was the message from the fantastic new author of young adult (YA) novels Hexed and Twice Hexed, Julia Tuffs, when she came to the IW Story Festival at Quay Arts to give a talk on feminism, the patriarchy, and how it affects everyone in modern society.

Tuffs’ talk highlighted where we can find casual sexism in our day-to-day lives – even before birth at gender reveal parties- from the clothes we’re given and the toys we’re advertised, to the modern magazines on store shelves and the media’s simple dismissal of women’s issues.

A wonderfully put-together presentation using infographics, statistics and local experiences, it was easily digestible and accessible for a young audience of early teenagers.

Encouragement and tips on how to question and bring down the patriarchy were shared – as well as a reminder that ‘It is not an attack on men. It is not us against them.”

Tuffs also spoke briefly about her experience in the writing world, from finding the right agent to tips on dipping toes into authorship for first-timers – valuable advice, spanning from reading frequently to deep character development, as well as finding a place within local literature and writing groups to branch out.

When asked about advice to give to aspiring authors who may be fearing rejection, Tuffs said: “Just keep going. Believe in yourself. Remember that [writing is] subjective. One agent not liking something doesn’t mean that you’re not a good writer.”

Simon Whitworth interview by Faith Weir

Simon Whitworth is a local singer-songwriter whose extensive discography portrays a varied range of genre and lyrical depth. During my conversation with him at the IW Story Festival, he gave me an insight into his past and future projects.

Two years ago Simon released a song called ‘Time’ which is the second song in a trilogy and is part of a record of the month project to promote older songs that weren’t released as a single.

It gives a second life to these songs as perhaps more people will find it or maybe serve as a reminder to people who’ve already listened. Its lyrics are complex and thought- provoking as they are all questions made into a story which is truly engaging.

Simon often writes music for other vocalists to perform and I wondered if he ever had a sense of regret when he’d rather have released a song over someone else. The simple answer was no as he described how different the demos usually are to the released song so although some of the lyrics remain, often the entire vibe is altered into something unlike how it was pictured.

The Invisible Steps musical is something we spoke about in depth as it is a project Simon says he is most passionate about. The fantasy-mystery novel turned musical, which has been over 10 years in the making, were both written by Simon along with all the music

involved in this adaptation. As a muse for the show he says it was ‘immense beauty with darkness within it’ and the highs and lows of life even when you’re in the best position possible.

His music is very versatile as he told me he changes the vibe of some of his songs to fit the more chill environment but usually has a much more upbeat performance. This depicts how adaptable he is as a musician and shows how his expertise are so useful to engage more listeners.

It was so interesting to hear about Simon’s upcoming projects as well as his general insight into the music industry from his perspective. If you wish to see Simon perform he has an upcoming show at Strings on the 14th of April as well as the opening of the Invisible Steps Musical on the 9th of June at the Quay Arts Centre.


Ruby Bodenham interview by Faith Weir

After her well received set at the IW Story Festival 2023, local singer songwriter Ruby Bodenham was kind enough to give me her views on local artists and venues as well as her own personal inspirations and goals.

Ruby has been performing for just over a year, ever since her Island’s Got Talent win in 2021, which led to her decision to pursue a career as a musician.

Listening to her acoustic set (which had the whole audience transfixed) you could hear the inspiration from her favourite artists, which include indie-folk star Phoebe Bridgers as well as local talent like Amy Jolliffe, who also performed at the festival.

When asked about her thoughts on the newer artists within the Isle of Wight’s music scene, she expressed how much she believes in the “amazing young talent across the Island” and described how we need more venues to showcase what there is to offer. She mentioned her peers at Platform One College and how many projects are constantly going on that simply need to be discovered.

We discussed the breadth of the music scene on the Island and how there is certainly an audience for more musical diversity but a lack of artists to fulfil this role as they tend to stick to a more traditional music route.

Ruby has also recently set up a band with a more neo-soul sound, which is very different to when she performs alone.

From listening to her performance and gauging the audience’s reaction, it’s easy to spot that she has a bright future in music ahead of her and after talking to her, it’s clear how passionate she is, not only about playing but discussing her craft and others in her industry.

Ruby hopes to have more opportunities to play at Strings this year and for anyone exploring local talent, supporting young artists or just a love of good music, it won’t be something to miss.


An interview with Simon Clark of Black Daniels by Faith Weir

After Island-based blues duo Black Daniels performed a well-received set at the IW Story Festival, Simon Clark gave me an insight into what it is to be a local artist and how the Isle of Wight is a hidden treasure of a musical hub.

Simon explained how blues is a way of storytelling and how all songs have a progression throughout. His description of people relating to the music but being unsure why was a valid point, as sometimes we really resonate with a song yet share no similar experiences.

When asked about inspirations, whether they are blues artists or not, he said the only thing was if they were strong lyricists as the lyrics are key.

He spoke about the abundance of local talent and how there is such a supportive musical community across the Island, there is “nothing like the IOW for music and support” and additionally, there is nothing like word of mouth for getting your name out and heard, he said.

He discussed the plethora of venues and audiences who love to listen to new talent. In terms of finding people who want to listen to you he commented “if you deliver the goods, play what you want to play and play it well, people will want you.”

Black Daniels is a true Island talent who always impress at every show no matter the venue. They have cultivated an audience over the years all across the Isle of Wight, who constantly enjoy the sets and make an effort to see them time and time again.

Simon told me that Black Daniels will be playing the Kashmir Tent at the Isle of Wight Festival in June which will definitely be the place to be as so many other amazing local talents will perform in the tent.


Songwriting with JC Grimshaw by Rosie Mills

JC Grimshaw’s song writing workshop, that took place on the Thursday of the Isle of Wight Story Festival, was fun, informative and inspiring.

JC has always had a passion for music, from listening to his father’s records whilst growing up, to instantly taking to his first guitar at ten – music has continued to be a part of his life. He said it’s: “always a backdrop, without even realising it, it was always there.”

As JC’s love of music grew, he went on tour with Midge Ure, where he performed in massive stadiums, opening for huge names such as David Bowie and Van Morrison. He said the time he spent there was amazing, but playing in such large stadiums – the crowd one hundred feet away – felt slightly isolating; like he was looking out to nothing compared to when he’s playing a club gig when he “can just have fun with it.”

JC has now continued his career with his family and said that it “feels great to be on stage as a family, it’s the best you could hope for, it’s a lovely, lovely feeling.”

In the workshop, JC explained the realities of song-writing, sometimes “fighting with a song for three or four days”, and other times having concepts come easily to him.

In the workshop when JC performed songs alongside his wife, Kathy, all eyes were transfixed and the feeling of inspiration was evident inside the room.

These performances built up confidence and created a sense of comfort and safeness, so that everyone felt assured enough to have their own go at writing lyrics and sharing them in front of everyone. JC used his guitar skills and moulded the lyrics into songs.

JC’s advice to the group was to just have a go at song-writing, to start by placing your own lyrics into songs that are already out there, then to try and learn a bit of chord theory and even if the song doesn’t work out how you want it to, at least you’ve written something.

You can continue to tweak and improve things after, but to be able to write a song you are happy with you must first write. He explained that you have to start by writing for the pleasure in it, the songs can be “simple or complicated or whatever you want but you have to find the magic in it.”

He told the workshop that performing your own songs is so fulfilling and enjoyable that it is what really gives him a kick out of it all. He gave his final advice: “Get out there and listen to good music, write good music.” And with that, the workshop was over, exiting a group of inspired song- writers.


Dungeons and Dragons review by Rosie Mills

The Dungeons and Dragons workshop hosted by Tim Andrews on the Thursday of the Isle of Wight Story Festival was an engrossing and intriguing glimpse into the large community of players living on the Isle of Wight.

Whilst sitting in the session I witnessed groups of eager players, including young children, playing together, and proving to me that teamwork, community and bonding is at the heart of the game.

But first of all what is Dungeons and Dragons? As Tim put it, it is a story being told by a collective, you have one person, the Dungeon Master, who sets up a series of problems for the remaining players to solve and drive the narrative forward, ending up with a really cool story.

Throughout recent years the game has become increasingly more mainstream, luring players from its emergence in pop culture, such as Stranger Things and Big Bang Theory.

However, what makes people stick with the game is the fact that it is extremely community driven. Tim explained how video games have tried to encapsulate the community-led parts of D&D, however it has proved impossible to reach the same level that Dungeons and Dragons naturally has.

Instead of having to always rely on someone being on the other end of the computer, D&D is about sitting down with your friends and sharing that time together, the limit only being that of your imagination allowing a brand new world to unravel around you.

This sense of community and creativity was very apparent when witnessing a short portion of the game, watching the group make decisions to support each other as a team and seeing how immersed they were within the game, showing uncontainable excitement when they defeated the monster together, creating an atmosphere of wonder and realness within the room.

Tim’s final advice to anyone thinking to start playing Dungeons & Dragons was to just do it and find a local group. There is a community of almost two hundred players on the Island and games taking place all over, including at Snacks and Ladders in Newport, so local groups are not hard to find. It might not be for you and that’s fine, you’ve found out.

Once most players start, they find something they love, whether it’s within the magic, fantasy, freedom or the story telling, dungeons and dragons allows players to find a community of people with whom they can fit in and who are “just the right amount of weird.”