We Are 9! Here Are Some Strong Island 1sts You Mig...

We Are 9! Here Are Some Strong Island 1sts You Might Not Know


9 years ago today a website/blog appeared quietly online, for the first time digitally shining a light on the arts and culture (plus skateboarding) scenes of Southsea & Portsmouth. It all began a few months earlier on Albert Road, with an idea on trying to have a central place where our friends could find out about the many different things happening in the city and where we could share photos from exhibitions, parties, beach BBQs and bands.

Facebook was really basic back then, no Instagram, everyone stopped using MySpace and Twitter was in it’s infancy (and a bit crap before photos), so on the morning of the 27th we put the site live and from then, we’ve had an incredible journey. We’ve posted up interviews, reviews and so much more (almost 6000 articles/posts), we’ve evolved from visiting the local bars and scanning people’s flyers to having long-form interviews, photo essays and beautiful video content. We’ve also been very lucky to work with 100s of incredible local people, organisations, brands, charities and more, all with the shared aim of shouting from the top of Portsdown Hill how special this city is.

We’re having a quiet(ish) party with the contributors and team behind Strong Island tonight, sadly no charity art raffle, but next year we’re looking to really have a big party with all of you for our 10th birthday.

…all with the shared aim of shouting from the top of Portsdown Hill how special this city is

Strong Island Holding Page from 2008

The holding page before the 1st Strong Island website went live, featuring our first logo.

For now, here are a just a few ‘1sts’ for Strong Island you might or might not know:

1st Post: A video we made with Bored of an autumn skate session at Bransbury Park in Milton (have a watch HERE). We’ve always wanted to include original video in to articles on the website and it was really fun to start off with a skate session with friends.

1st Photo Article: Photos from the last all night beach party of the summer, also posted on the first day we went live. Photography has been a key part of Strong Island, be it sharing people’s work through to running photography walkshops. When we started the max size we could share was only 500px wide, happy to say we can now share the beautiful photography taken in and around the city at full screen hi-res.

1st Created Local: The Created Local series of profiles on the art/craft/photography/film/more creatives who call Portsmouth home stems back to almost right when we started. We first shared the work of When We Were Kids and then Matt Howarth. Over the years we have profiled and interviewed 100s of local creatives, doing our best to let people know the incredible creativity happening right here. Our interviews now include people who use Instagram for sharing their work and our current website is a much better platform for in-depth interviews and galleries.

1st Your24: Those of you who have been islanders from the start might remember our Your24 photo articles where a local person would take 24 photos over 24 hours and we would then share their day in the city with everyone. After myself and Tris kicked the series off the first person to get involved was local creative (and one time Strong Island writer) Lou Bush. Would love to bring this article series back one day.

2nd Birthday Poster
Strong Island 3rd Birthday Poster
Strong Island 4th Birthday Poster
2nd B-Day by Matt Saxey

2nd Birthday Party and 1st Charity Art Raffle, Photo by Matt Saxey

5th Birthday, Photo by Josh Knill

5th Birthday, Photo by Josh Knill

1st Comment: We didn’t have comments switched on initially, but very quickly people wanted to give their thoughts and feedback to the articles we were posting up. We lost some of the first ones in a website move years back but the first we still has was by Joao who actually posted their comment from Barcelona on our Love Albert Road Day 2008 article: “super cool pics!!! who’s the photographer? any idea about the cam/film used?”. Over the years we have had over 4000 comments on the website and many. many more on social media. A quick shout out to commenter Jay Rayner for keeping us in check.

1st Party: We’ve organised quite a few of these over the years, be it our birthday raffles, record label shows and more but way back our first parties were joint Christmas parties with our friends at Bored. They were a bit notorious for the cheap mince pies and dangerous mulled wine and spiced cider we would make just before people arrived. Respect to everyone who stomached those drinks!

1st Exhibition Shared: We’ve shared the details to many 100s of exhibitions and shows over the years, from student and graduate group shows to huge events like the legendary In Rust We Trust at The Gold Room in 2012 with My Dog Sighs, M-One and Los Dave. The first post about an exhibition was about ‘Solstice’ by artist Neeta Madahar and composer Miguel d’Oliverira, a video installation shown at Aspex. Keep on sending us your shows and exhibitions and we’ll keep on sharing them, and coming along too, when we can.

1st Exhibition (for Us): After sharing so many exhibitions, we wanted to get involved ourselves and put one on and we were lucky to work with Southsea treasure Claire Sambrook on Strong Island at the Round Tower back in 2011, which was a toe in the water to test out if the Round Tower and Hotwalls could work as a creative quarter. The exhibition brought together 40+ local creatives and ended up being a huge success, watch the film below to find out all about it. This project then led to another, another and another. We try and work on a main exhibition/community creative engagement project every year.

1st Bike Ride: Never very organised (in any sense of the word), our bike rides used to happen at Easter and at the August bank holiday Monday. Initially just an excuse to get friends together for a ride around Southsea, these quickly grew in to something so big we ended up having to stop running them. Our first ride was Easter 2009, we had only been running 6 months or so but over 80 people turned up. As time went on the rides grew and grew, with traditions seemingly starting from nowhere such as the multiple loops around Museum Road roundabout, the bike lift photo on the beach and the inevitable boozefest at the pub at the end. We’ve had people of all ages and abilities, families, bikes of all shapes and sizes, rain, sun, fancy dress, an engagement and even a police escort. By the end we had over 200 people come along and it sort of grew out of control. Maybe one day we’ll bring it back. For now, if you want to refresh your memory on the Strong Island bike rides you can see this retrospective article from 2014.

1st Song Released: Another part of the Strong Island family is Strong Island Recordings, a record label set up in 2012 and launched at Southsea Fest that year. The label has put on dozens of parties & shows in Portsmouth, London and Brighton and has released many singles, EPs and albums from bands from Southsea to Tasmania. The first release was with London band Arrows of Love, with both the song available digitally and on special hand finished 7″ vinyl. The band has stayed close to the label over the years with appearances at a few of our shows and a second release. If you want to have a listen to the latest releases, check out the label’s Bandcamp and SoundCloud.

1st Interview (for Us): Tris and myself have for many years tried to stay behind the scenes a bit, wanting to put all of our time and energy in to sharing other people’s work to a growing audience. Sometimes though, you can’t get out of it. The first interview about Strong Island was with BBC Radio Solent back in 2010. A bit nervous, as you can hear, but it really captures where we were at the time. Thanks to their kind comments it meant we had lots of new people want to find out more. The first TV interview was in relation to the Round Tower exhibition and shows two fresh(er) faced Islanders as part of the news piece for Meridian News. You can watch it HERE.

1st T-Shirt: We never set out to do t-shirts, but with our logo change in 2010 to the now familiar anchor people were asking if we could, so for our 2nd birthday party and our first charity raffle at The Belle Isle we got about 20 or so made up. We assumed nobody would buy them and we would have t-shirts for years for ourselves. Surprisingly when we were setting up two guys asked us about them (didn’t know about Strong Island) and both bought one there and then. In May 2012 we launched the Strong Island Clothing Co brand at Little Johnny Russells and now have a shop in Marmion Road. We’re always blown away by the incredible support for this part of the Strong Island family and thank you to everyone who has bought a tee or more over the years.

So that’s it for this year, here is to the next. A HUGE thank you to everyone for all of the support over the years, we are incredibly thankful and it is impossible to name names here but you know who you are, in particular all of the writers past and present. One last thing, your support and generosity at our birthday art raffles over the years has meant that you have helped raise getting on for £10,000 for Strong Island’s nominated charities, which include our local RNLI station in Eastney, Portsmouth Autism Support Network, Feel Yourself and Southsea Skatepark. Good work you.

Thank you. – Paul & Tris.


Strong Island Bike Ride 2010, Photos by Claire Sambrook

Beach stop on the 2010 bike ride, Photos by Claire Sambrook

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