Monday, 15 February 2021

Even the wrong shoes won't spoil my fun!

Does anyone else miss being jammed in a hot, dark, smoke-filled room, warm drink in hand waiting for the next act to start?

Most people in these Covid days shudder in horror at the idea of sharing indoor space with a group of strangers, and you can understand why.

But I have to admit I miss the days of being in a live audience, the excitement of waiting to see and hear a new show. Will the gags be good, will the band hit the right notes? How will the audience react - will they heckle or get behind the performer?  I even miss the discomfort of standing still for ages in the wrong shoes.

I know there isn't real smoke anymore.  But the idea of heading to a club, cafe, bar or theatre to see 'live' entertainment always makes me feel that I'm off to somewhere sophisticated and slightly edgy. Like the old days of black and white films; say Rick's bar in Casablanca or a jazz club in Harlem.

So I was really pleased to hear that a large number of Fringe venues in Buxton have announced their support for this year’s festival. Old favourites such as the Green Man Gallery,  Underground and the Rotunda are all wanting to be involved and a host of new cafes, church halls and sports facilities have also registered.

Of course there will be lots of safeguards in place. Fringe performers are working on contingency plans - marquees and tents are being mooted (a good idea for any British summer!) as well as online or mixed activities.

As entries start to arrive there are whispers of large open air venues also being interested which all adds to my excitement.

I only have one concern, where did I put my favourite heels?

Carole Garner

Buxton Fringe

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Twitter: @buxtonfringe
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Friday, 4 December 2020

Walking in an Orange Wonderland

Buxton - 4th December 2020


It's snowing outside and that can only mean one thing: Buxton Fringe is open for entries.

Usually to celebrate the launch there is a Christmas party with all the community invited to enjoy an evening of Derbyshire Carols, drinks, chat with local performers and the committee and lots of laughs.

Of course Covid-19 put paid to that as it has with so much in 2020. Undeterred and encouraged by the success of this year’s online Fringe, the committee decided to hold a Zoom party.

My experiences of Zoom have been mixed so I wasn't sure how this would work. But at the appointed hour I logged in wearing my homemade Christmas hat, a bit anxious in case no one else had dressed up.

I needn't have worried; I was greeted by Chair Stephen Walker in a full Santa suit complete with beard. Compere Ian Bowns was in reindeer horns and nose and Secretary Gaye was showing off her Zoom skills with a background of the Oxford Street lights. Other Christmas outfits were also on show and luckily with Zoom no one could see that I had my pyjama bottoms and fluffy slippers on!

Joining members of the committee were a number of Fringe friends, performers and supporters; it was great to meet them and see their commitment to the Fringe.

And so the fun commenced. We had two quiz rounds and a poem-writing challenge. Ian mixed us up and put us into breakout rooms so we could chat with different people as well as answer questions.

The teams were different for each round, and you would think this would've removed the competitive edge but oh no, there were lots of loud complaints about points being awarded.

Somehow Ian maintained control of the "fringey crowd" and moved us on to the finale of the evening; a sing-along to that all time favourite "Walking in an orange, sorry, winter wonderland". Luckily Ian muted everyone apart from himself and singing partner Carol. With the words on screen I could happily join in safe in the knowledge that no one could hear my terrible, out of tune voice.

Maybe Zoom’s not so bad after all!

Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Happy New Year one and all!

Carole Garner
Buxton Fringe

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Twitter: @buxtonfringe
Instagram: @buxtonfringe

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

The Fringe isn't just for Summer!

Screenshot from 2020 Zoom AGM featuring Top row left to right: Gaye Chorlton, Stephen Walker and Sandra Jowett, Bottom row: Viv Marriott and illustration of Entries co-ordinator Ian Bowns.

Buxton Fringe have announced the dates for next year's Fringe; the 7th to 25th July. "So what?", I hear you say ,"That's eight months away." 

Last week was the Fringe AGM and planning has already started for next year's event; there are an amazing amount of things to do and organise before July.

Like every meeting I've ever attended it was the most unassuming item on the committee  agenda that stimulated the hottest debate. Last year's artwork for the programme was much loved but never got to be fully appreciated as although it was used on flyers, we weren't able to print the programme. So we wanted to reuse the design for 2021 but with new colours to make it a bit different.

Crucial question, which colours should we use for 2021's programme and flyers?

Of the 10 shortlisted contenders, each one had a champion and each one a detractor. Some of the colour combinations were described as "too pale", others "too bright" or most dangerous of all "Marmite".  The debate raged on, clearly there was not going to be unanimous agreement - time to put it to the vote.

Want to know which colour scheme won? Check out the website when entries open on 1st December.

Last summer I wrote about being a new volunteer and not having found "my niche" with the team. I now feel like an old  hand and I've been ringing community groups, schools and care homes who without exception have been positive about being involved in 2020. I've also joined the committee as an honorary member and been signed up to help with communications. Luckily I dodged the role of treasurer which looks like a hot potato (just as well my grasp of Excel is basic to say the least).

As we all know, 2020 was a year like no other with theatres, arts venues and cinemas all forced to close. In response the Fringe moved on line.  At the meeting Chair Stephen Walker thanked the 100 plus performers who responded to this challenge with creative and innovative works. 

At this point in time we don't know what life will be like next July, the arts and entertainment sector are continuing to face difficult times with venues still closed.

We are all hoping for live events but the committee are making plans for a mix of live and online shows. One positive thing to come out of 2020 was our ability to reach new and more diverse audiences and performers, and that's a good platform to build on.

So the Fringe isn't just for summer, it's year round! If you'd like to get involved our next (Zoom) meeting is on 10th December.

Carole Garner

Buxton Fringe

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Twitter: @buxtonfringe
Instagram: @buxtonfringe

Saturday, 3 October 2020

Winner of The Trail of Smiles!

Fraser Unwin wins the Trail of Smiles!

8 year old Fraser Unwin Of Buxton Junior school is the winner of The Trail of Smiles - an Art Installation created by Artist Lindsey Piper in collaboration with Buxton Town Team and launched during this year’s Buxton Fringe. 

The Trail of Smiles was created for the people of Buxton to discover 25 Smiles throughout their town in venues that included houses, places of interest and businesses. When Artist Lindsey Piper was asked why she had put this installation together she said ‘I was very aware on my daily walks during lockdown that other people like myself were discovering parts of their own town they may never have seen and wanted to mirror that experience of discovery with a reward of a cheeky smile. To make it more fun I decided to make it a competition.’ 

Fraser was thrilled to be the winner of the Trail of Smiles and when his Mum, Katy told him she said he had the biggest smile on his face. 

Lindsey is looking forward to Buxton Fringe 2021 to create another installation for the people of Buxton and visitors to the town, and we can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

Buxton Fringe

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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

Buxton Fringe

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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

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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

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