Wednesday 28 July 2021

It's a Wrap! Fringe Awards Ceremony 2021 Chair's Speech

Fringe chair Stephen Walker (credit: Ian J. Parkes)

The Fringe has come to an end, we have held our Awards Ceremony, packed up the Fringe Desk, and all gone for a well-deserved rest.

The awards and nominations are published, and the Chair's speech from Sunday is reproduced as follows:

Three weeks of fabulous Theatre and Art, Comedy and Music, and it all culminates in a speech by me. You deserve better.

One of the things I have been asked most this Fringe, and I guess it would be the same in any Fringe, is “How’s it going?”. My answer has been, “Well, it’s going, and I’m just happy that we have achieved that”.

But while I am delighted that we have been able to go ahead after 18 months of COVID (that’s going to be my only use of the C word), and that we have reached the end of the Fringe without major incident, which is something for us all to be very proud of, we have, or should I say, the performers have made this an excellent Fringe. Given the difficulties of getting together to rehearse and prepare shows, let alone finding anywhere to put them on, the quality of work on offer at this Fringe has been wonderful. We will recognise that in the awards very shortly (I promise), but first I want to thank everyone that has done anything to help make this event happen.

Before I get going, I’d like to thank Carole Garner for organising this venue for us, and the Serpentine Community Garden for hosting this awards ceremony. It is a great place to be, and nice to be in the open air. Thank you also to Ian Parkes who is doing photography of the Awards for us.
There are so many people I need to thank, but to start from the beginning, I want to thank the Fringe committee, as capable and enthusiastic a bunch of people as you could find. Over my two years as Chair, I have delegated more and more, and they just keep absorbing all the jobs that need doing. I am very grateful to each and every one of them.

It has been great to see the new initiatives that come up every year, even more so when I have nothing to do with them! So, thank you to Viv, Carole, Pam, Sandra, Linda and all those involved in our Orange floral hotspots this year. Thanks also to Rob Harrison, committee member and also Morrisons Community Champion who organised some flowers from Morrisons for us, Kinders Garden Little Shop of Flowers - the new Florist where the Fringe desk once was, and all the shops and businesses that have hosted Orange hotspots!

You’ll know that we didn’t publish listings in the programme this year, simply because the programme was so volatile right up until the Fringe started, but I would like to thank our designer Jon Tromans, who working with Steph, put together our new format guide, and has dealt patiently with lots of changes this year.

During the Fringe itself the face of the Fringe is the Fringe Desk, and as you will have seen we are in a new location this year. We are very grateful to Paul Kelsall and Parkwood Leisure for making this space available, it has worked very well.

Thank you to Gaye for leading the efforts to get set up in our new space, and to our desk managers Alice, Denise, and Cameron. You have made a great team, and I appreciate how much you have done this year. Also, to all the volunteers who also help out at the desk, some are members of the committee, but others are just here to help the Fringe and do their bit. Thank you.

Tomorrow we’ll be back there for the get out, and then Ian Hamilton has the job of getting our archive sorted out.

During the Fringe, there is a lot of work to keep the programme up to date with late changes, and making sure Reviews are covered and published on time so a special thank you to Steph, Ian and Robbie for staying abreast of everything, and particularly to our webmaster Dan, who deals with so many changes without complaint. Many thanks also to our army of Reviewers who have made sure we have covered every show once again.

This year has been particularly difficult for venues. The changing rules in the run up to the Fringe have been a constant challenge, not to mention the changing rules during the Fringe! I think we all appreciate the efforts that they have gone to to make their venues both safe and welcoming.

Underground Venues have come and built their theatre above the Old Clubhouse as usual, but it has been a massive commitment to come here in the circumstances. It meant a lot to the Fringe that you were here, so many, many thanks to Tom, Zoe, Dylan, Gemma, Nina, Oliver and all the team there.

The Green Man Gallery has become a real stalwart of the Fringe and a cultural hub all year round. Caroline at the gallery kept slots open for everyone who wanted to come in 2019 and wasn’t able to, and despite performers’ and artists’ changing plans, has kept a full programme of events going. Thank you to Caroline and all who have helped at the Green Man.

Buxton URC and the High Peak Bookstore have come into their own as venues this year and we have seen some great performances and healthy audiences at both. Thank you to Lesley and the URC, and Louisa at the Bookstore, and all our venues for your support this year.

Financially, the last couple of years have been difficult. We waived all entry fees last year, and have kept them low this year, and we have also lost some of our sources of funding, so I would like to thank High Peak Borough Council who continue to support us.

For two years now our Fringe Friends have been our main financial contributors. We are very grateful to all who support us in this way, and if anyone would like to become a Fringe Friend, please have a look at the forms within our Fringe guides, or have a look online. It is a small individual contribution, but collectively it means a lot to us. Thank you to Jeanette who looks after our Friends for us.

I know many people have not felt ready to go out to shows and it has had an impact on audience numbers, but we respect everybody’s individual decisions, we all have to make our own judgements on what we feel comfortable doing, and we hope to see all our regulars back in future years.

But I would especially like to thank all the audiences who did come out to see our events this year, and trusted our venues and performers to keep them safe. It has meant the world to us to see people at shows and engaging with the Fringe. As audience members ourselves we have been so glad to be able to go and see Theatre and Art, Comedy, Music and Spoken Word, and all the other events that have made up this Fringe.

Of course, none of this is possible without all the performers and artists who have created and performed for us this Fringe. It would of course be nothing without you. The last 18 months have been particularly difficult for the arts, as work has dried up, and many have gone without government support. In the run up to the Fringe it has been hard to meet and rehearse, there have not been as many opportunities to perform prior to Buxton, and of course you have had to perform in socially distanced conditions.

We are so grateful for your resilience and perseverance, and for bringing your work to us. In Buxton, we consider ourselves very lucky to be among the first to enjoy a festival of art this summer. We are about to recognise excellence at these awards, and of course, we can’t mention everyone, but more than ever, I would like to thank every single artist, performer, writer and backstage crew who contributed to this very special Fringe.

Thank you. Here’s to a continuing recovery in the arts, and to all the Fringes to come.

Buxton Fringe

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