Friday 28 February 2014

Spring weather and green shoots - no jokes

The end of February deadline (for lowest price entry of events to the Buxton Fringe) and the fine weather has combined to produce a sudden and prodigious growth in Buxton Fringe 2014.

Up to 40+ entries now, with 10 hours yet till the midnight deadline.
Make sure to take a regular look at the Fringe website to keep up with all the entries. [Though as one person has asked us - "Where is the comedy?" Must be something about comedians but there will be a late surge in that category no doubt.]

After the weekend we'll try and digest what Fringe 2014 currently has to offer and provide you with summaries of different categories and venues so far. With some degree of certainty we know about a version of The Railway Children (with one child), splendid jazz in the Methodist Church and a film/video installation in Poole's Cavern.

A brief message to any entrants reading this: check out Fringe At Five - a chance for you to do a bit of busking in the Pavilion Gardens by the Bandstand. Book your place now before another 100 entrants arrive. Finally, send us your news about your shows and we'll put it on the Blog - or you can put it directly on our Facebook site. As the Fringe gets bigger it is all the more important that you get bold publicity out to potential audiences.

But back to processing the entries!

Buxton Fringe

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Twitter: @buxtonfringe

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Fringe At Five - great busking opp

The Buxton Festival has for a couple of years had A Song At Six as part of its programme - typically a singer or two will sing a song or two for anyone who happens to be around the Bandstand in the Pavilion Gardens. So agreeable is this idea that it was suggested that maybe the Fringe could do something similar prior to A Song At Six. The simple idea of Fringe At Five was born.

What will happen is this: from Monday 14 July to Saturday 26 July from 5.00-5.30pm, Fringe performers will be invited to play for free by or on the Bandstand. This can't be complete anarchy with anyone turning up and contesting for time and space. [I doubt if it can even be partial anarchy - whatever that might look like]. Any performer/artist who has entered for Fringe 2014 can perform but we'll be agreeing a timetable/schedule in advance.

Busking at the Bandstand - for that is what it will be in essence - will probably work best for something fairly physical. Singers, musicians, dancers will be at a natural advantage (but please note no PA will be available - so sing up). That said there is no reason why a bit of drama or magic actually on the Bandstand should not work - make sure to invite the audience to join you and see you close-up.

The 25 or so Fringe entrants to date may apply now for a performance slot in Fringe At Five. So make the most of being organised and entered on time and get a bit of free exposure for your show at a prime venue. When we've agreed the Fringe At Five programme we'll post it on the Blog and via Facebook. We'll also have the programme at the Fringe information desk so that audiences will know what they will be able to see and hear.

Look forward to hearing from you entrants soon.

Buxton Fringe

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Twitter: @buxtonfringe

Monday 24 February 2014

Buxton Festival programme out

It should go without saying that without the Buxton Festival there would be no Buxton Festival Fringe. So, with all necessary pomp, pageantry and celebration we are delighted and thrilled to report that the Buxton Festival programme is being mailed out this week. 

Tickets go on general sale on 1st April - so you have plenty of time to make your choices. High on our priority list are the following:

  • Monday 14 July - Rachel Cooke in conversation about her book Her Brilliant Career
  • Tuesday 15 July - counter tenor Michael Chance accompanied on lute and theorbo by Paul Beier in a programme of Purcell and Dowland songs
  • Friday 18 July - La Serenissima, violin duos (Vivaldi etc). Adrian Chandler was brilliant last year and will surely dazzle alongside Cecilia Bernardini this year
  • Sunday 20 July - Alan Johnson will be in conversation with Festival chair Dame Janet Smith about his autobiography, This Boy. [The Festival mass this day is Haydn's Theresienmesse]. In the evening the Huddersfield Choral Society will be raising the roof at St John's with a programme of Parry, Elgar, Vaughan Williams and more
  • Monday 21 July - The Swingle Singers (remember them!) are at the Opera House
  • Tuesday 22 July - accordionist Djordje Gajic is at St John's with an intriguing and varied programme
  • Thursday 24 July - The Orwell Debate: the Housing Crisis and the Countryside will have a particular resonance in the Peak District.
  • Sunday 27 July - the final day of the Festival includes a concert by soprano Gillian Keith who is a much-loved Buxton regular.
This is just a small selection - and we haven't even mentioned any of the operas. The Festival programme is a visual joy but there isn't much orange in it. Happily, on p47 that is largely redeemed with a full page notice for the Fringe.

Here's a not very difficult Festival-related competition for you. On Sunday July 13th there are two quite famous people speaking - Jonathan Aitken and Lord Archer. They have a number of things in common - but what very specific events from around the turn of the century unite them? Depending on the number of correct answers (the judges verdict will be final) we might find a suitable prize.

Buxton Fringe

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Twitter: @buxtonfringe

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Fog clearing at Buxton Fringe

The weather might be murky but behind the scenes at the Fringe we have been reviewing some of our website pages to see if we can achieve a bit of cockle-warming clarity.

Entrants’ Information seemed like a good place to start and we’ve tried to do that difficult thing (for Fringe freaks) of pretending we know nothing about the Fringe or how to plunge into it. If you’ve already been looking at these pages, you’ll need to refresh the page (F5) to see our changes, but don’t worry, we’ve not done anything super-radical, just added some structure, detail and in some cases simply space to make each point read that much more clearly. We’ve also added a load more useful links.

In the process, we did some head-scratching over whether we were throwing too much information at entrants while at the same time adopting a slightly hectoring ‘you will read all this or else’ tone of voice. Well, it’s no shorter but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. We certainly didn’t want to skimp on detail and I think we’ve decided that it is not so much a question of forcing anyone to read anything, but of simply letting people know that there is some really useful gen up there that will be helpful even to those performers who consider themselves to be old hands.

I remember when we first created the website (yes I’m that old) I was slightly scared by the concept that it was never going to be finished and might forever be a work in progress. These days I think it’s a real advantage of the medium. So if you think we’ve missed out some crucial stuff amongst our advice, do let us know and we’ll try to put it right!

Meanwhile if any of you are busy crafting your entries to the Fringe, remember that clarity is all. No matter how obscure your material, your listing has to appeal to as many people as possible. I can guarantee that you are too close to your content so try getting your Auntie Mabel to read your draft and see if she has any clue what the show is about. Oh and if she’s not busy, you can send her off to read Entrants’ Info as well…

Buxton Fringe

Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe

Sunday 16 February 2014

Venues and Mares

We may come to regret this post title and find that we've written ourselves into some inescapable corner. Let us see.

We were asked, recently, "How many venues does Buxton Fringe have?" Well we have over 100 performance spaces available - though in most Fringes around 45 of them get used. So a heartfelt thanks to all the venue owners and managers who make such an interesting range of potential spaces available - and in some cases for no charge at all.

A number of the town churches are well-established and familiar places to Fringe audiences; from the grandest, St John's, to the least intimidating, the United Reformed Church, via the friendly Methodist Church, possibly the oldest, St Peter's Fairfield and the well-lawned St Mary's. Beyond Buxton, the 'Cathedral of the Peak' in beautiful Tideswell is sometimes used by Fringe performers.

As you might expect a number of the town's bars and hotels provide warm welcomes: most years there will be an handful of shows at the Old Clubhouse which is convenient for the Opera House. There are about 10 pubs around the Market Place and The Cheshire Cheese is a new venue for Fringe 2014. Live music is often to be heard at The Queen's and The Eagle. Half-way along the main shopping street - Spring Gardens - you'll find The Milton's Head and just beyond that road is the Railway with a generously large room.

Among the hotels frequently used are The Old Hall, The Palace and The Buckingham. Unusual venues include Poole's Cavern, Scrivener's Bookshop (which offers the smallest indoor space) and Discover Buxton's Victorian Tram (the most mobile venue we have).

Public spaces that are regular Fringe hosts include the Buxton Museum & Art Gallery, the University of Derby's genuinely unique Dome and Art Cafe in the Pavilion Gardens.

We've already written at length about one 'managed' venue - Underground Venues. For Fringe 2014 we have a second managed venue situated in the Market Place. Sian Dudley's new venture is called, reasonably enough, The Market Place and makes use of two clubs, Level 2 and The Trunk.

Apologies to those venues we haven't mentioned here. The comments box is below and will help you! If you are planning to bring a show to Buxton Fringe this summer - well it costs just £45 to enter, so long as you complete your entry by the end of February. As you can see there are plenty of spaces large and small, inside and out, ready to host your event.

Oh, the Mares? Well they make very reputable dive gear but they don't sponsor us, so that's enough.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Learning to think BIG!

Flyer mania (credit: Ian J Parkes)

With fingers in various pies, I’ve agreed to help a director friend of mine, Suzanne Emerson, with publicity for her show Parade, a musical that she is taking up to the Edinburgh Fringe. With some 2,800 shows in the Edinburgh programme, it is quite a tall order to make a single production stand out.
Clearly used to being asked a great many innocent questions from Fringe virgins, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society has published an excellent, very detailed document advising entrants on how they should publicise their show:
Now I know Buxton Fringe with its 150 plus shows is a very different prospect but I would advise Buxton entrants to have a look at the link above as there are some great tips on how to make the most of your Fringe entry, how to create a strong marketing campaign using one key image and one key message, what sort of photography to provide, how to be newsworthy and much more.
For Buxton Fringe purposes, I would add that we will need strong photos or illustrations that do not feature text. This is simply because while they may work on the website, when reduced to postage stamp size on the programme, the text on such images becomes unreadable. Equally a full orchestra picture may be barely understandable when reduced.
With some of you creating entries as we speak, can we remind you that you have 50 words – so make the most of them by providing as much info as you can. Can we also suggest you have a look through our own marketing advice:
Many of our performers use Buxton as a springboard for Edinburgh, but either way if you can make yourself think big you are bound to make more of an impression with audiences and reviewers. We are not talking about making a ripple here – we want you to make a splash!

Sunday 9 February 2014

Latest Fringe Shows Announced

Veteran Fringe performers will know that it costs money to enter - we need some money to design and print 18,000 full-colour programmes which we give away, staff an information desk throughout the Fringe and otherwise promote and market the whole event. Veterans will also know two other things - our entry prices haven't increased for years and that the sooner you enter the cheaper it is. It costs £45 to enter before the end of February (entry in March costs £65 and entry between 1-20 April is £80). So depending on when you read this you have about 18 days in which to beat the February deadline.

There have been some cracking shows announced over the past 10 days or so. Full details are on the Fringe website of course but let's flag up some events for you.

On the Music front there are three gigs to draw to your attention. Fringe stalwarts Partita return for their 20th year and will do two different performances of early music and song - 17 & 24 July. They really are exceptionally good and always have some rarities for us.

We are also delighted to welcome back the Sovereign Saxophone Octet who remind us that Adolphe Sax was born in 1814. That's got to be worth a party on 19 July.

New to the Fringe is Trace Taylor who will be singing with her band The Trees at the Spring Bank Arts Centre on 12 July. Trace will be singing a mixture of original songs and some that you may have heard before - mostly from her debut album due later this year. We're delighted that the Fringe has spread to New Mills again in 2014.

JM Youth Productions are putting on two very different theatre events. A 75-minute version of As You Like It can be seen at the United Reformed Church between 18-20 July. At the same venue between 11-13 July they present The Chairs - "in a house, on an island, a very old couple pass their time with private games and half remembered stories."

Finally, for now, two very different Visual Arts events. On 19 July our friends from the Burbage Art Group present their annual show - which is sure to be varied and the trip to the west end will be rewarded with splendid tea and cakes. On 23 July - at the Old Clubhouse - we have Dr Sketchy Sheffield providing you with the opportunity to draw with live models on hand. Not just any old models it should be added; "some of the UK's (and World's) best Burlesque, Cabaret & Circus style performers" will be posing (and performing). We anticipate a high-level of curiosity and interest. Previous events are documented here. Booking may be advisable. 

Underground running as normal

I gather from friends in London that the tube is subject to some disruptions. Sorry about that but generally speaking this blog takes the side of trade unions in any industrial action. If that bothers you - well apologies again. Anyway our main concern right now was to establish that Buxton's own Underground will be running as normal come July.

It has become something of a standing joke that 'this year' (any year from about 2010 onward) would be the final year for Underground Venues in the Pauper's Pit. Planned re-developments of Buxton's magnificent Crescent will eventually see the closure of the Pauper's Pit as a theatre and cinema for good.

There have been some delays to the Crescent redevelopment - but that project is now back on track and the newly refurbished luxury Spa Hotel may now open in mid-2016. This probably does mean that Fringe 2014 will really be the 9th and final outing for Underground Venues as we know it. [Though don't start packing away yet guys - 2015 could yet happen].

Close on half the Fringe events will take place in the three spaces operated by Underground Venues - the Barrel Room and The Pit itself (both in the Old Hall Hotel) and in the Pavilion Arts Centre Studio (which is behind the Opera House). Underground Venues is now open for booking for Buxton Fringe 2014. 

The team that manages Buxton also works at the Oxford Fringe which takes place from 24 May - 8 June. If you want to perform there you'd better check out the website and apply - you've got until the end of the month.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Saving an endangered species

Now if Morris Men (or women) were wild animals they'd probably be a protected species. Obviously not even their harshest critics would call Morris dancers 'wild animals' so we won't push the analogy too far (and I have sense of where that analogy might end up, so, no more).
Morris dancers provide a lot of entertainment dancing out throughout the summer months and they raise substantial sums of money for charity and they are, well, part of 'our' heritage. (What 'our' means here is a difficult question and so I'll leave that to one side with the wild animals thing).
Chapel-en-le-Frith Morris Men have been entertaining people in the High Peak  - and significantly beyond our borough - for nearly 40 years and they aren't prepared to face extinction without some sort of a fight.
Over the coming months expect the Chapel Morris to offer you the chance to dance with them and, if you like it, join them. From Easter onwards they'll be out dancing most Monday nights. They'll also be popping up for extra events - probably the Buxton Spring Fair on May 5th (more about that anon) - and are planning some introductory dance workshops.
They have already indicated that they hope to be at Fringe Sunday on July 13th and may also be entering the Buxton Film short film competition with a documentary about dancing.
As you can see these guys are in earnest - and there is a Wildean joke to be had there somewhere.
As of today I know 100% of the Morris Men resident in Buxton. If Chapel Morris get their way that proportion may well decline to 50%.
Chapel Morris will be hosting what may well be the biggest day of dancing in Buxton for many a year - on Saturday July 19th - with up to 20 different sides out, demonstrating the full range of Morris styles. It'll make you breathless.

Sunday 2 February 2014

Trams & Recorders

We're always happy to let you know about Fringe performers who are playing elsewhere. So, here is news of a concert by the Manchester Recorder Orchestra of contemporary music for recorder orchestra including pieces by Marshall and Schnabel conducted by David Walsh and Ian Chesters.  Will be a great concert and experience for recorder fans.  Licensed bar.
Venue: Spring Arts Centre, New Mills, High Peak, Derbyshire
Date: Sat. 22nd February 2014
Tickets: £8 / £6.50 conc
Time: 19:30 - 21:30
The MRO are regulars at the Fringe and the New Mills Arts Centre is a lovely venue.

The Fringe has a new venue that will suit some performers. According to Trip Advisor Buxton's No.1 tourist attraction is the 'Victorian' Tram which is run by Discover Buxton. Well the Tram is available for Fringe shows in July. In can accommodate an audience of 10 only so it won't suit everyone - but it will be really special!