NOT long ago, if you said you worked in the events industry, people probably thought that sounded like a fun job.

Putting on a festival meant booking in some famous names and decorating a field with some colourful flags, right?

Of course behind the scenes is never the same as outward appearances would have you think.

But these days, post-Covid, even the thought of working in events sounds like a bit of a nightmare. Covid took all the fun out of organising, well, anything, really.

But if it's your livelihood, and you're at the heart of the local community, there's little option but to crack on and navigate through the minefield.

Lockdowns, isolation, regulations, potential illness, loss of income — the uncertainty didn't last just a few weeks, but is showing little sign of letting up nearly two years on.

The first major event on the Island to brave the whole new world, post the first year of lockdowns, was Ventnor Fringe 2021.

Not much had happened on the Island during 2020, with all major festivals, including the Fringe, postponed or cancelled.

But in 2021, several tweaks to the Fringe offering made it robust enough to launch post-lockdown.

It came back, bigger and better than ever before, just days after major restrictions were lifted.

For many in the audiences, it was their first time in a circus tent or a comedy show or sitting in anticipation in front of a stage for more than a year.

Fringe founders Jack Whitewood and Mhairi Macaulay, of Ventnor Exchange, spoke exclusively to the County Press about how they had done it and what major hurdles they had to overcome.

Jack said: "No one was expecting a global pandemic. Our whole organisation is based around bringing people together, and all of a sudden the Prime Minister was making speeches about not going out, which scared everyone, and that was before the first lockdown."

At first, there was no funding available (Arts Council help came in the October that year). The Exchange launched a Crowdfunder, which was well supported.

They reopened in the summer, after using the lockdown time for a refurb, and enjoyed a busy season, albeit with no Fringe festival.

However, the country went back into lockdown in the winter and then 2021 seemed much harder.

Missing one year of the Fringe was just about do-able, but the thought of missing another? Two fallow years would have lost the event's momentum.

Restrictions were supposed to end in June 2021, but were put back a month, meaning people were still living under tight rules right up until the Fringe launch date.

There was no guarantee it could go ahead.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Once lift-off came, Track and Trace was still in place, the Isle of Wight Council still had to check compliance, and the 'pingdemic' was raging.

There was concern that some of the acts would have to cancel last minute if they were pinged, or the team of 60 volunteers could be diminished at any moment.

It was a huge achievement but the Fringe involved 150 different events and only three had to be cancelled.

Jack said: "It was a big responsibility for us. Some people couldn't understand why the Fringe was going ahead, and others couldn't understand why we had restrictions.

"Our team were all too young at that point to have been double vaccinated, and the pingdemic was raging.

"All around us, we were seeing so many events go down, and we were one of only a handful actually attempting to go ahead.

"Despite being small, we still had hundreds of thousands of pounds invested. We had to keep our nerve."

Working in the Fringe's favour, was that the many events are individually ticketed, most are seated, and most could be held outdoors or in well-ventilated tents.

There were lots of judgment calls to make. The tents had to be ventilated for Covid reasons but not too much that they contravened noise control regulations. There was also some confusion over what was guidance and what was law.

By putting on more events, in fewer venues, but across a longer period, the team sold an incredible 8,500 tickets, and put on some free events. The best year yet, in more than a decade.

Mhairi said: "Once it happened, it was really inspiring for the artists to be back on stage. We had lots of thank yous, people pleased it had happened, and how safe and comfortable it felt.

"There was so much apprehension, then it felt so good to have done it."

Isle of Wight County Press:

Jack said: "If we had been a young business putting on a Fringe festival, Covid would have wiped it out.

"We had the advantage of having supply chains, loyal acts, support from the public, and experience in logistics."

Covid aside, other things were sent to try Ventnor Fringe.

There was extreme hot weather, followed by extreme rain, which caused the Cascades road to crack open the day after the festival finished, before the seafront marquees had been taken down.

Not only that, but Belgrave Road, between Ventnor Exchange and the park where most of the activity was, suffered a landslip in January 2020 and was still closed.

"The infrastructure of Ventnor is part of its charm," Jack joked.

Ventnor Fringe 2022 is going ahead along the same lines — a ten-day flexible multi-venue structure (July 22 to 31).

Jack said: "2022 feels like a whole new chapter. Covid bookmarked the end of a period and now we have the confidence to explore different ways of doing things.

"People come from afar for the Fringe but locals enjoy seeing the place they live, be transformed."

The Fringe gives the team a reason to live and work in Ventnor, and they are keen to go back to their early roots and explore secret shows and pop-up venues — so watch this space.