Sunday, 19 July 2020

End of the Fringe - The Chair’s Review

The Chair ... in orange.


Buxton Fringe 2020 has come to an end and I think we can safely say that it was a Fringe like no other. Coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on us. We have had hardly any performances taking place “in real life”, there have been no venues open, no Fringe Desk and no programme. We haven’t been able to go out to shows, catch up with old friends and meet new ones, no chatting outside venues about what we have seen and what we're looking forward to seeing.

But we have still had a Fringe. We decided to go ahead at the usual time and see what we could salvage, feeling that by July audiences would be looking forward to something different from what was on TV. We also knew that creative people don’t stop creating just because of a lockdown, and that having an outlet for their work and something to work towards was important.

We feel that our decision to go ahead has been more than vindicated by the rush of entries that came in to the Fringe in June. We couldn’t believe that we hit 100 entries just before we opened!

We’re not doing the awards in our usual way this year, but I will announce a few picks of the Fringe later in this blog, no prizes (and no free entry next year, sorry), just kudos! But we are so grateful for everyone that contributed work this year, the online nature of the Fringe has enabled me to get to over 90% of the entries this year and it has been a joy to see the range and quality of work on offer.

We’ve had recordings and reworkings of old favourites - three former winners of our award for New Writing appeared in radio play form, last year’s Once Upon a Time in Trieste, The Gambit from 2013 and 2002’s Sounds like the NHS. New audiences have been introduced to such joys as Burbage Band’s Happy. 

We have seen people we perhaps wouldn’t otherwise have been introduced to, such as Stew Walker and The Book of Snorin’. There have been retrospectives and reminiscences about the Fringe from old friends like Darren Poyzer, Will Hawthorne and Sudden Impulse.

There has been innovative work like Despite the Monkey’s audio play, It Flows, which is to be experienced while walking around Buxton, and two events curated by Mark Reid, It’s About Time, a live event encouraging reflection and interaction about time, and a special Buxton edition of Summit featuring the avant garde and experimental.

The local community has been so supportive, there have been lots of local contributions, from writing groups, choirs, and community groups, many of which have made use of the local landscape, such as the wonderful Peak Voices. And the Visual Arts scene, which is predominantly local, has been as vibrant as ever with online exhibitions, and lovely innovations like the Sketchbook Trail. And who can forget Floella Flap-a-lot, bringing colour and joy as she perched outside Hawkshead on Spring Gardens as lockdown eased.

The success of this year’s Fringe can be partly seen in the attention we have received from respected voices on the Fringe scene, and I can’t pay better tribute to all our entrants that in the words of Fringe Guru, Richard Stamp, on Twitter, “I've been inspired and maybe a little humbled by how so many people have put so much effort into specials for @buxtonfringe - not because it's a stepping stone to anything else and certainly not because it pays anything, but just, well, because. 5* to all of you.”

To everyone who has brought their art, shows or workshops to the Fringe, we are so grateful. We would be nothing without you.

As I have said, there will not be any of our traditional awards this year, but we wanted to recognise excellence in original work that has been completed during Lockdown to be aired at Buxton Fringe.

So, in absolutely no order, our picks of the Fringe 2020 are:

  • Debbie Cannon - Three Voices - “Three women, nothing in common apart from the fact, that is, that they are all in Lockdown … Debbie Cannon is a very talented writer and actor … very special, new and relevant work”
  • Nathan Cassidy - Roses from Joe - Nathan was determined to put on a live show. And he did - properly socially distanced. He made the Fringe for me. “Nathan Cassidy has always had something of the magician about him. You can think you are listening to observational comedy only to realise by the end of his show that it has become - and indeed always was - something else entirely.”
  • Ray Castleton - An Ordinary Woman - “An ordinary woman, just an ordinary woman, her son Edward tells us on the day of his mum’s funeral. But nobody is ordinary. Everybody must count.”
  • Bloom - The Landscape Jukebox - “an intriguing, mindful piece of work, created with imagination and artistry, and well worth watching. Each piece is short, so the viewer is left with a collage of thoughts and images that force us to think about the landscape around us, and our place within it.”
  • Orange and Pip Theatre - Through the Screen - “the intensity of friendships at university, the obliviousness of love in your twenties, and the power that people can hold over others when there is a secret and a friendship at stake.”
  • Ian Bowns (with Carol Bowns and Sarah Owens) - A Song a Day - “Folk performers Ian and Carol Bowns and Sarah Owens have a novel idea ... Instead of a full concert they are posting a song every day of the Fringe ... dip in when you have just a few minutes but also really immerse yourself fully in the song,”
  • Adrian Lord - Journey to Sky Blue - “His music is just sublime; I lay back and floated on Adrian's piano picks”
  • Buxton Drama League - The Shakespeare Jukebox - “Utterly wonderful! The company of The Shakespeare Jukebox are regular street theatre performers at Buxton Fringe and this year have produced a series of short videos of their pieces. The online format works really well - it feels like Shakespeare’s characters have taken to social media and are producing their own TikTok videos.”
  • Three's Company’s Adventure Department - “Great acting and hilarious story telling will keep you chortling throughout, as will the half time ad break. Promising a different genre with each daily episode, this entertaining podcast is a perfect listen”
  • Egriega - Xuxu's Revolt - “Settle back and lose yourself in this beautiful, immersive experience, each Portuguese poster, mural or filmed bar scene hinting at stories within stories. A glass of chilled white Port can only help. As Xuxu says: 'You can do the bossa nova even if you’re falling over…'”
  • Two Left Hands - Alternative Well Dressing - “What a great idea! Superbly delivered, the project keeps alive a special tradition, proving that volunteers like Gill, and so many others who love this town, are the true beating heart of the community.”
  • Gordon MacLellan - TINY! Treasure Hunters, Lost Castles and Make your own Museum - Gordon has been both stalwart and star this year, making sure the TINY! adventures still went on in Pavilion Gardens, his craft videos, plus some great poetry in Buxton Spoken Words! “a storyteller, artist and all round good guy, proves the perfect guide … I think making these castles would cover art, English (storytelling), drama and just plain old fun on the home schooling front. Get the whole family involved and act out your stories”
  • The Fringe of the Fringe - “all the shows that aren’t here, the very best of what is not happening, and more importantly, reviews thereof … clearly knows what’s he’s on about; the reviews are knowing and the caricatures and comments reveal inside knowledge and a fine sense of satire. We’ll have to keep an eye on this chap.”

We are making one award this year. It is the John Beecher Memorial Award for original, challenging work with high production values. This is a cash prize and doesn’t entitle the performer to free entry the following year. This year it goes to The Affinity Initiative from But Why? Theatre. Our review said “be prepared to commit to the performance to get the most out of it. I decided to go for it, and at times was genuinely thrilled by what was happening … Featuring one-to-one immersive performance and real-time interaction, But Why? has brought something very intriguing and thought-provoking”

Of course, there wouldn’t be any point in putting on a Fringe if no-one came to see it, and it has been heartening to see the engagement of audiences with online shows. It has been hard to get feedback about the Fringe this year, as we haven’t been out mingling and hearing what you all think! But I think the sense is that alongside reaching new people, we have been greatly supported by our usual Fringe audiences.

We thank you all for joining in the fun, and we’re grateful for everyone that has donated to our artists and to the charities they have been supporting. If you can, and you haven’t yet had the chance, please seek out the performances you enjoyed and see if you can support the performer with a donation. No one gets rich doing this, and it is a very tough time for performers everywhere at the minute.

Our budget has been tiny this year so we thank High Peak Borough Council for their support. With no entry fees it has been our Fringe Friends that have provided the bulk of our income, you have really kept the show on the road and we are so grateful for your faith in us.

It is my first year as Chair and it hasn’t been an easy introduction! I have discussed at length elsewhere how much work the committee has put in this year to hang on to the hope of putting on a Fringe, and then the immense effort that it required to revisit every entry and venue, and to start to rebuild the programme. I can’t pick out individuals, but believe me when I say, I recognise and appreciate everything that each of you has done to make the Fringe a success this year.

We also managed to review every show. A great achievement in a year when there were no free tickets to shows to entice reviewers! We are very grateful to all those who gave their time and energy to do this for us.

As mentioned above, we had one live show this year from Nathan Cassidy, and I’d like to finish with a quote from him about us. This is exactly what we try to achieve: 

“The @buxtonfringe is incredibly special - wonderful creativity, innovative and supportive. And that’s proved whole-heartedly by going ahead when many would have cancelled. Creatives can only create with the right support and that’s what this Fringe gives us. A very special place.”

Thank you everyone.

Stephen Walker
Chair

Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe


Saturday, 18 July 2020

Hello again from Floella

C:\Users\Viv\Pictures\floella 6 (2).jpg

We caught up with Floella the other day. She reported that she has really enjoyed being part of the Sculpture Trail for Buxton fringe. The people of Buxton have been so kind, stopping for a chat and a smile so, even though the weather has been slightly damp, she said she has felt warm and sunny.

The most exciting news Floella had to tell us was about the wonderful letters she has received from the Y3 class at Harpur Hill Primary. Here is one of them and you will find the rest on our gallery in the coming weeks. The children were so kind. They advised her about places to visit in Buxton and drew her pictures of friends. She certainly feels a lot happier now.

Floella has really enjoyed being able to catch up with Fringe events in the evenings when she goes inside. She particularly liked the bear and banana in Burbage Band!

Floella has been so happy here in Buxton that she has decided to stay a while longer. From 1st August – 31st October she will be joining a very special lockdown exhibition in the Cavendish Arcade. The exhibition will be open on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday so you can drop in and give her a wave. 

Viv Marriott


Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe


Friday, 17 July 2020

The Shakespeare Jukebox – Un-juked!


The Shakespeare Jukebox are probably the most visible act in the Buxton Fringe, year after year come rain or shine they are outside the Opera House or on the Pavilion Gardens Promenade performing extracts of Shakespeare selected by an admiring audience. Here, Maria and Jayne from the Jukebox reflect on how different it has been this year.

Friday night at Buxton Fringe. Usually finds us in the ladies at the Club House, getting changed into long skirts and corsets. We always have a moment when we look at each other and say “Remind me, why are we doing this again?” And then we gird our loins, head out and join the Shakespeare Jukebox men, ready for our first piece, which has a rousing chorus of “Double, double toil and trouble...” Go on, join in; you know how it goes. 
Jayne Marling

It’s been different this year. We’ve missed getting together; working out the playlist, discussing new ideas. None of our usual rehearsals, which are always fun, good exercise and of course sometimes frustrating when the lines and moves for a new piece don’t come readily to hand. Seriously, I don’t think we ever got our scene from the Tempest right before the first live performance!

This year it’s been lots of emails, a couple of video calls and even one socially distanced meeting between the two of us in the back garden. Jayne rounded up and re-distributed our props, Maria contacted previous members of the Jukebox; Alex and Malcolm, who said ‘Yes’ far quicker and easily than we expected. It’s been wonderful having them back in the team. We needed an editor, and the wonderful Caroline stepped in. She’s been coming to the Fringe for many years and watches most of our performances. She’s filmed us live. So, we knew she ‘gets’ what we’re trying to do. She was up for it. So much so, that as she couldn’t come to Buxton for her usual holiday in July, she took time off before the Fringe to edit the videos! 
Maria Carnegie

The ‘day job’ has remained busy for some of the Jukebox team so we’ve had to make time to learn new lines and film ourselves. We’re clearly not film directors - as our editor will testify! We’ve headed to the hills, woods and gardens for our filming – and some of us still got rained on (well, it wouldn’t be the Jukebox if we didn’t get wet at least once!) We have guest appearances from Elyse, Caroline, chickens and Amy the dog. We’ve tried to deliver pieces differently, but still capture the Jukebox essence. And we had fun – just wait until you see the fairies; the sheer joy leaps off the screen. It’s been good for all of us to have a creative project to do.

We’ve all missed the audience engagement – reacting to and involving our audience is one of the joys of performing. And it’s strangely odd not having any applause at the end of a piece. Are people watching? Did they enjoy it? We really hope so. One of the biggest losses is not seeing the familiar faces who come back year after year to watch us (yes, really, people do!) and have a chat. We know some of them have found us online, which is just lovely. We have also really missed the sheer joy and mayhem of Tag Rude Mechanicals; audience participation at its best!!!

So why do we do it? Well, it’s a great group of people to work with, it’s fun (even when it rains), it’s energising. People enjoy it. And we do it to raise money for the Buxton Samaritans. As with many charities opportunities to raise funds have been reduced these last four months. And the need for their services has increased. We’re really proud to do our little bit, so if you would like to donate please click here, and thank you for your support.

Keep watching – join in with the bits you know. Share and like the videos. And come back and see us live next year!

Maria Carnegie & Jayne Marling


Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe
Instagram: @buxtonfringe

Thursday, 16 July 2020

‘The Crooked Spire’ - a Medieval, Murder-Mystery Musical



A story of murder and deception and love set in Chesterfield in the aftermath of a global pandemic!

A developmental reading of a musical in the making, ‘The Crooked Spire’ is a story of murder, mystery, deception and love set in Chesterfield during the 1360 building of St Mary’s Church spire, in the aftermath of a global pandemic! Just a short few years after the Black Death ravaged the country the spire is rising above the tower of the Parish Church.

John Carpenter has come to help build that spire. He finds a friend in a young boy, Walter and falls head over heels for Katherine. But death and intrigue strike the construction site and John is suspected of murder. He is faced with a life and death struggle to clear his name and bring the guilty to justice.

Produced by Ashgate Heritage Arts ‘The Crooked Spire,’ is being presented online for the Buxton Festival Fringe on Friday 17th July and Saturday 18th July 2020 at 7pm. The creators have been collaborating from a distance to write the script, songs and music for this original piece and will also host a Q & A session at 8pm on the 18th to discuss their experience of working collaboratively during lockdown.

Chris Nickson’ novel, The Crooked Spire, has been adapted for the stage by Fringe award-winning writer, Mary Hennessy whose script brings the flavour and character of the story to life. Music and lyrics by Martin Coslett (Ferguson’s Gang, The Perfect City) and Peter Gray (Aliens in 6F, Mr Boltin and the Temple of Doom.) Martin and Peter’s music and songs blend traditional folk melodies with contemporary harmonies and rhythms to set your feet tapping.

A cast of professional actors and singers have been “filmed” for this unique production.


Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe
Instagram: @buxtonfringe

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Alice Goes Elsewhere


With theatres closed and social distancing still very much the order of the day, this year’s Buxton Fringe is largely taking place online. However, Buxton Drama League were ahead of the game in that they had already entered Alice Goes Elsewhere, a purely online play for this year’s Fringe. So when we had to revisit every single thing in the programme to see what could be made Covid proof, we had this single entry that didn’t require any revision!

Alice Goes Elsewhere is a musical fantasy written and produced by Will Blake. It tells the story of Alice, a creative and talented girl facing the challenges of modern life by entering a fantasy world populated by larger-than-life characters.

Will, who has been making music his whole life, previously worked in mental health, which informed the theme of this play, with its central character being on the Asperger’s/Autism spectrum. ‘Alice has a capacity for bluntness and obsessional traits, but remains engaging and good company.’

The play features a range of songs which range in style from country to 80s synth-pop, so musically there’s something for everyone. Will adds: ‘I wanted a setting where I could have lots of different musical styles from various decades, that were integrated into the story in the same way as in a musical. The alternative reality idea – loosely inspired on Lewis Carroll – seemed to make this easier.’

Will joined Buxton Drama League a few years ago, and has provided soundscapes for their productions including Enlightenment and Dracula, has exploited the talents of the group’s members – especially actress/singer Megan Davies (who plays Alice) – to create a memorable and captivating drama.

Alice Goes Elsewhere is available to download and listen to now at www.alicegoeselsewhere.com or via the Buxton Fringe website.

And look out for Buxton Drama League's other entry to the Fringe, the ever popular Shakespeare Jukebox!


Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe
Instagram: @buxtonfringe

Monday, 13 July 2020

Phone@5 - Go on, treat yourself, you're worth it!



So Covid 19 really messed up my birthday this year, a milestone birthday at that, yes I was going to be 30 (ish). The plan had been a group of friends, Portugal, sun, wine, delicious fresh fish. Reality was a somewhat chilly and damp day in Buxton.  There were some great bits; a lovely walk, flowers from friends and family,  lots of cards (my husband even remembered) and a glass (or two) of champagne.

But the one thing that made this milestone unique was my contacting Steph @buxtonfringe to book a phone at 5 call. I'm a big opera fan and having listened to Stephs interview on BBC Radio Sheffield talking about the Phone@5 idea I thought why not?

Bang on the dot of 5pm the phone rang, Tora from Poperasops wished me a happy birthday and asked how my day had been. She then sang me a wonderful aria that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Besides the song what I loved most was the chance to talk to Tora and to whoop down the phone and let her know how much I had enjoyed it.

Tora told me how much she was enjoying making the Phone@5 calls as a chance to talk to the audience, and was delighted at what a clever idea it was. I'm sure this must be the case for all our Phone@5 artists.

You don't have to choose opera of course, there are other musical choices, as well as comedy, poetry and stories. Call Steph to find out more on 01298 79351. Its not too late, Phone@5 is available till 17th July.

So go on treat yourself and support our wonderful performers at the same time - it doesn't have to be your birthday, you're worth it!

Carole Garner

Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe
Instagram: @buxtonfringe

Sunday, 12 July 2020

The hills are alive with the sound of music - and lions…

Peak Voices

One question mark surrounding this year’s mainly online Buxton Fringe was whether it would manage to have a sense of place.

Interestingly, a combination of our performers’ love of the local area, plus a feeling that the great outdoors is a safer option for us all in this Covid year, has meant that a good number of our shows have been filmed using the Peak District as a fabulous backdrop.

Clearly they are onto something; Peak Voices has had nearly 200 views of its video in which their wonderful singers perform big musical numbers while socially distanced from each other in beautiful green fields with sheep as their only audience. With a full orchestral soundtrack, the effect is quite surreal!

Comedian Andy Quirk introduces his engaging musical parodies from the middle of a wood in a quite personal show that takes his move from London to a new life in the Peak District as its theme. Meanwhile the three witches from Macbeth (complete with inquisitive dog) can be seen at a very familiar reservoir as part of The  Shakespeare Jukebox’s locally filmed daily scenes. A different kind of jukebox - The Landscape Jukebox - urges you to engage both heart and mind as you select from a number of landscape scenes released in batches from July 11th.

One of the Fringe’s rare live events, The Lion and Albert (and Friends) is Zoomed to us from the heart of the Peak District - next show Wednesday 15th.  Performer Lewis Hancock places himself under a tree and with one of those stone walls we do so well round here just behind him - watch the trailer here. Again, it feels slightly surreal for him to be talking about a zoo in Blackpool from this rural idyll. Then again, the Peak District is the kind of landscape that wants to give you a warm embrace, much like Marriott Edgar’s cheeky poems - even when they do feature a lion that (spoiler alert) actually eats someone!

I’m still working my way through the Fringe’s delicious repertoire of some 100 shows. Have you seen any other shows with Peak District locations? Why not let us know?

Stephanie Billen

Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe
Instagram: @buxtonfringe