We are pleased to have had the chance to catch up with Lewis of Joy Fantastic to find out what it’s been like to set up and start running an art gallery and vinyl music shop with his best mate in the middle of a pandemic and what’s on the horizon.
Who are the people that make up Joy Fantastic? Please introduce yourselves.
At present, it’s mainly just me, Lewis Darvill, though I had loads of help getting it off the ground from my pal Ben Stanton. His knowledge of Ecommerce was so important at the beginning to get the website rolling. Unfortunately, he has been super busy with lots of other projects as well as having a little boy, but we’re looking to get the band back together soon!
You had previously been solely online, how did you come up with the concept for your shop? What inspired you to turn it into a bricks and mortar offering?
So basically it came about because of lockdown really. I knew quite a lot of artists that worked in design for the music and hospitality sector. With it all being shut down several of them were struggling to find work or had more time on their hands. So I approached a few people about doing a small print run and the reception from artists was really positive and loads of people wanted to get involved and it snowballed from there really. We just wanted it to be something fun in a not so fun time.
Moving into the shop was acclimation of quite a few things. Before this print project, I also had been collecting, buying and selling art of more well-known artists. So I decided to pull the 2 projects together for the shop/gallery.
I was previously working out of a small office in our loft and I needed more space. I was only really looking for an office space at first but then by chance I heard that the shop was coming up for rent. I knew it was too big a space for what I needed so approached Alex about coming to look. We both then got really excited at the possibilities of the space and I then decided to give a bit of high street retail a whirl.
How did the idea of collaborating with Alex from Nothing Ventured Vinyl come around?
We’ve been bezzies ever since we met so couldn’t be a better person to share the space with. Before this project, I used to DJ a bit and Al used to drive us everywhere or get us on planes if we might have had a few too many the night before. We’ve had some pretty fun times in the past so there would be nobody else I would like to share the space with.
Alex has had a few different spaces along the Albert Road area but they weren’t quite his own. But once we saw this space we knew we could make the two businesses work together in there.
Getting your store to where it is now started with a challenging refurb project, what was the trigger for you to start, and what was it about the location that drew you in?
The refurb was a massive job in the end. We definitely didn’t go in there with a view of doing so much work, but once we started we just had to strip it right back and start again. Everything is new except for the floor. We were lucky enough to have some highly skilled friends who went above and beyond for the project, or it would probably be still closed now if it wasn’t for them, so big up those beautiful people!!
Location wise.. it chose us to be honest, we just fell in love with the space and thought we could do something really exciting there. Once we got in we realised how lucky we were, there’s a lovely vibe between all the local shopkeepers and workers in the area. We love it!
How do you choose the art for Joy Fantastic? Is it based on art you like yourself, artists you know/admire or recommendations?
I don’t come from an art background really so I am learning all the time…I’m just curating stuff I love and would have on my own walls. I just go with my heart. I don’t think it would work if I tried to do it any other way. We have quite a nice broad range of styles but I think it all makes sense together.
If someone is looking for new art for their home I would say don’t overthink it – go with your gut instinct. If you think it’s going to bring you Joy go with it!
Your mission is about more than just selling great art, with a focus on doing good by raising money for charity and planting trees. Can you tell us more about this?
Sometimes we do an in house release with an artist and produce and sell the whole run of prints. With most releases, we donate 1/3 of the money to a charity of the artist’s choice. I want to do some local charity events next year too.
We plant one tree with every order and so far we have planted trees with a charity called One Tree Planted that helps with reforestation efforts around the globe, but I am looking into moving around tree charities to try and work out if there is a way of doing something a little closer to home.
Having a DJ in the space with you must mean you get to listen to a wide variety of new music. What’s been your recent favourite?
I come from a music background originally so it just feels perfect tbh. I am getting back into techno a lot more because of it and also loving this disco house vibe that I hear a lot in the shop. Also starting to appreciate Jazz from hearing records being played by Alex and customers although I haven’t got a clue about it at all.
Alex what’s most popular right now? Is there anything you would recommend people give a listen to?
There’s a big revival of UKG/Breakbeat around at the moment with lots of new young producers coming through, people like Bakey, interplanetary criminal and more, very popular with the younger crowd. Also, the whole jazz-influenced broken beat scene is booming with producers like Footshooter, Scruscru, Cody Currie all doing big things. A couple of labels to check out would be SlothBoogie & Toy Tonics.
Alex have your individual deck stands in the shop been popular since opening, with people enjoying the opportunity of trying it for themselves?
The listening posts are essential for any record shop. They allow customers to double-check the condition of pre-loved records and to listen to records they may not be familiar with before they buy. It’s a great way to introduce new music to people if they can try it before they buy.
Are there plans to start framing and printing in house in the future? How will this expand your business offerings?
We have just started working with a framer that I have been using for years. He had a bit of a break but now is taking on all our framing. We were being asked so much we had to find a way to make it work. We have a great space out the back but it needs a lot of work before we can set up the workshop. If we can get that sorted we will definitely frame on-site and expand to other areas.
What sort of things can we expect to see in the store in the next few months? Any artists or designers you are excited about introducing next?
We have just announced our first gallery show “Here & There’ which features Joseph Loughborough, Karl Bailey & Joe Munro, and it gives us the chance to create an all Portsmouth artist exhibition to really show some of the talent on our doorstep. The artists have all originally come from Portsmouth though some have moved away now, it is great to share the work of artists we love. The show starts with a private view on the 27th November 7-9 pm and will be running from 27th Nov – 15th Dec. Keep an eye on our Instagram for updates and more info on the show.
Visit Joy Fantastic at their relaxed and friendly gallery store at 37 Highland Road, Southsea for a chance to look through the latest arrivals and listen to some choice tunes while you are browsing. You can also find them online at joyfantastic.co.uk where you can search for artwork by print style or scroll through their handpicked collection of art, with the New Arrivals collection front and centre of the website, or find your next new listen at nothingventuredvinyl.co.uk.
37 Highland Road, Southsea, PO4 9DA
Weds, 11am – 5pm
Thurs, 11am – 7pm
Fri, 11am – 5pm
Saturday, 11am – 5pm