Monday 30 June 2014

Buxton Fringe - How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

My daughter tells me that today’s blogs need lists, numbered if possible.

Well, I’m not going to give you a top ten of shows –  we leave that to people like Fringe Guru. But  having recently been into Buxton Community School to do a Fringe information desk workshop with our intrepid sixth form volunteers, I realise I might be able to give you, as I started to give them, a top ten of the kind of people who pass through our information area next to the Opera House. What I told them is that each of these people represent an opportunity for them to “sell” the Fringe, but hey, if I tell the world who you are meant to be and how you are meant to respond to our eager young volunteers in orange T-shirts, things might go even more smoothly. So here goes (in no particular order):

  1. Toilet seeker – this is a generic breed but often tends to be very young or very old. If very young, the opportunity is there for our volunteers to produce a free balloon, badge and Fringe programme plus a beautiful smile while pointing the way to the toilets – through the conservatory and on the right to save you asking. If very old, well it stands to reason they will soon need somewhere to sit down – cue any number of Fringe shows – what about a harp quartet?
  2. Opera Festival goer – yes they are here by mistake, but what a fabulous chance to introduce them to the opera, music and literature that is also a wonderful part of the Fringe? In a spirit of generosity it is also OK to direct them to the Festival’s portakabin where no doubt a Festival rep will be simultaneously redirecting a Fringe goer.
  3. Celebrity – wow! Surely they need a Fringe badge and don’t those mobile phone thingies take photos now?
  4. The ‘it’s nice to chat’-er. This kind of person is usually very fond of the Fringe, so fond that they would probably like to become a Fringe Friend. Just £10 – with 10% off Fringe shows and lots of invitations to chat-worthy occasions through the year. What’s not to like?
  5. The Fringe performer –  so they think they have come to perform? Ergo they like the arts. Ergo they are probably wanting to become an audience member too – what would they like to see?
  6. The explorer – Buxton is a mystery. Nothing is where it looks as if it might be. Volunteers: open that Fringe programme at its centre spread with handy map and make sure you point out all the Fringe venues en route.
  7. The ticket seeker –  Comes in all shapes and sizes. Volunteers - we can offer information galore but actual tickets are sold at the Opera House (for events with a star) or over the road at Underground Venues (for UV acts) or see the act’s individual entry for booking info. Just how many shows are you wanting to see? Why not save some money by becoming a Fringe Friend?
  8. The critic – You can rely on this breed to point out that it’s not clear how to buy tickets, that this poster is wrong, that one is out of date and x,y,z is simply not clear enough.  First point, the customer is always right. Second point, this sounds like somebody who should be on the Fringe committee. In fact are you sure she isn’t already?
  9. The plant lover – Just what are those flowers in the corner behind the Fringe desk and how do you get bananas to grow like that in the conservatory and what the hell did you do with that fish? You know, the one we always liked to see – the one that floated on its back but really wasn’t dead? Volunteers, it is quite hard to spin this one, but what I would say is that some of our visual artists have done some lovely flower and fish paintings, plus have you ever thought of making a paper flower for our carnival float?
  10. The good Samaritan – Doughnuts and cups of coffee are always welcome at the desk. Should the desk be in drought mode, an ice cream is a nice thought. Should it be under a few feet of water (this is not a joke) mops and buckets are very appreciated. Volunteers – the correct response as it is in fact to every single person who comes to the Fringe desk is a great big:


Buxton Fringe

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Wednesday 25 June 2014

Up, Up and Away with Buxton Fringe

In between glamorous end of June tasks such as PAT testing our equipment and wiping the grass off the Fringe boards to be sited at entrances to town, I’ve been vicariously enjoying the meteoric careers of our talented Fringe performers and noticing just how many of them are bound for the Edinburgh Fringe and beyond.
For starters, the following are just the Underground Venues shows that are heading for Scotland. 

  •     Shakespearience (which will be Shakespeare For Breakfast in Edinburgh) and The Adventure Machine
  •     Shrew
  •     Southbound and Down
  •     Absolute Improv
  •     Phone Whore
  •     Nathan Cassidy
  •     Morgan & West
  •     First Class
  •     Feminism For Chaps
  •     This Way Madness Lies
  •     Alfie Moore
  •     Back Door
  •     Gein's Family Giftshop
  •     Alastair Clark
  •     Simon Feilder: All The Things I'm Not
  •     Orthodox
  •     Kelly Kingham
  •     Oliver Meech
  •     Do You Remember Rock n Roll Radio
  •     Too Cool To Care
  •     His And Hers Wild Vaudville

I also know happen to know that Dotdotdot Flamenco, based between Spain and the UK are heading for London in August and Ami Jones’s Shrew, a new piece of theatre exploring the heroine of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, will be enjoying a UK tour then transferring to New York for the United Solo Festival (uFest) in October 2014!

So that’s just what we know about – there is also the excitement of pondering who’s going to be where in the future. Buxton Film’s Open Shorts competition for example has found that past winners have gone on to make prize-winning features or in one case to direct Ken Branagh in the beautifully filmed Wallander. 

It is great for audiences to be able to see shows bound for Edinburgh and see artists before they hit the stratosphere, but for performers too Buxton represents a great opportunity to hone acts in a supportive and intimate environment. Sounds like a win win situation for all!  

Buxton Fringe

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Sunday 22 June 2014

Short Film Competition - jury choices

Our friends at Buxton Film have sent us the list of films selected for screening at the Pavilion Arts Centre Studio on Sunday July 13th (from 7.30-9.00pm). Buxton Film runs an annual short film competition called 'Open Shorts' and a selection from the entries has been screened as part of the Fringe for the past 3 years. Six films made the cut this year and they are (in planned order of screening):
1] A Day, A Life tells us about a middle-aged married couple. Apparently their marriage has been satisfying and successful but as the documentary-like film progresses it becomes clear that all is not as smooth as it might seem.
2] The Date is a well-crafted comedy. A man's marriage seemingly is over. He waits in a cafe for his date. As he waits he recalls his earlier relationship and observes those around him who seem to find it all so easy to enjoy the company of others.
3] Jo Southwell's second short film Cover Me tells the story of a young woman, Emily. She appears to be in a cell of some sort. But what happened in her life to put her there? With a powerful lead performance by Isis Davis Cover Me is compelling viewing.
4] Mark Callum's film One Way is a bravura piece of film-making. It runs for nearly 9 minutes and is a single take (including the credits). Two men are in some sort of warehouse. One is tied to a chair. The other is there to deal with him. They wait for a phone call.
5] Nothing More is the most overtly political film on offer this year. In a world where the rich and poor are at war how will it end?
6] The winning film in this year's competition is The Director made by Will Herbert. Two actors and a director meet up for the first rehearsal for a play. The director's style and demands are hard to take. Tightly scripted, acted and edited there is not a wasted frame or word in this very enjoyable film.

These films are not certificated but in our view the programme as a whole would be rated as '15' because of the violence in some of the films (Cover Me and Nothing More).

Buxton Fringe

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Wednesday 18 June 2014

Buxton Fringe goes back to school

Just been down to Buxton Community School to talk to its bulging sixth form about doing volunteer shifts for us at the Fringe Information Desk.

I must say there was a very positive atmosphere there. They have been helping us for many years now and I’m sure will rise to the challenge again. It’s also worth noting that performing at the Fringe has pretty much become part of the curriculum for drama so look out for BCS productions, Arthur Miller’s All My Sons performed by Spotlight Theatre and Asylum from Dilate Theatre, the youngest theatre group to come from the school. The school is also providing a venue for Soiree from Fiction, a company that won an award at the Fringe a few years ago.

Buxton’s other secondary school is St Thomas More’s, colloquially known as Tommies. That hasn’t always been picked up as a venue but this year boasts two productions, Les Miserables Schools’ Edition from children’s community choir Mad Hatters Music and Trial by Jury - G&S from the talented and experienced PB Theatricals Youth Theatre whose dedicated directors fly over from America each year to make this happen.

There is plenty more young drama at the Fringe so do support it – it’s exciting to watch young talents emerging. They grow up fast. My own daughter, a former BCS student, is back this year with a show called After Alice at The Market Place written by Fringe-nominated young writer Lilly Posnett. Doesn’t seem long ago that she was playing Juliet to David Cooper’s Romeo at the school – I last saw David as part of Buxton Drama League’s performance of Oh What a Lovely War. Time to stop before I start reminiscing about the famous BCS origins of those ever-green Fringe favourites Three’s Company…

One last thing – as I left the school this morning, they asked me for some Fringe posters for a wall display. What a lovely idea – if anyone would like to do something similar in their own school or workplace, do get in touch.

Buxton Fringe

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Thursday 12 June 2014

How good is Buxton Fringe this year?

Talking Stock Productions

People often forget that Buxton Festival Fringe is a charity (registered no 1017071 since you are asking) so we don't make money on the event. The modest entry fees we receive from our performers and event makers go into costs such as printing the Fringe programme and we are grateful for the support we receive from our sponsor the University of Derby, funders such as the Trevor Osborne Group and High Peak Borough Council, and our growing band of Fringe Friends – not to mention all those in the town who give support in kind in various ways.

Bit did you know that some of our Fringe performers are themselves raising money for charity? Catherine Pasek and Alan Stockdill (pictured above) of Talking Stock Productions came to our Fringe Programme Launch at the Green Man Gallery and told us how their one-act comedy Godfrey’s Last Stand (July 11 and 12 at Underground Venues) is raising money for Macmillan Cancer Relief. Freerange Theatre raised over £1000 for Children with Cancer in 2013 and hope to raise more in 2014. Their acclaimed show Spoonface Steinberg, a monologue from an autistic eight year old with cancer, returns to The Old Clubhouse this Fringe on July 10 and 11.

We note also that singer songwriter Cathy Rimer is giving all proceeds to charity as is the ever popular Shakespeare Jukebox. And if you take the free Grinlow Art and Storytelling Trail you will be asked if you would like to donate to Project Greenhands, a reforestation scheme.

Finally don’t forget that Buxton’s Carnival is all about raising money for worthy Wells Dressings charities. So give generously when you see people rattling tins on July 12 – especially if they are wearing orange and part of our heavily ballooned Fringe float. We know that Fringe performers are inherently good people but if you are using the Fringe to help raise money for something worthwhile, please let us know so we can tell the world in this quite possibly far-reaching blog.

Buxton Fringe

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Sunday 8 June 2014

A Basin Load of Fun

The Fringe 2014 Programme was well and truly launched in grand style at The Green Man Gallery on Friday night. Thanks to many people for providing us all with such fun in a splendid setting.
Special thanks to the Basin Street Jazz Band for the hugely enjoyable music throughout the evening.
Thanks to the staff at The Green Man for looking after us all so carefully.
Thanks to the Fringe performers who came to join us - Sam Slide, Chapel-en-le-Frith Morris Men, Talking Stock Production and Crowd of Two Theatre Company.
Thanks to Randall Shannon from the Buxton Festival who spoke for us all when he said how our Festivals helped make a great town into an extraordinary town for a few weeks every summer.
Thanks to Netta Christie for offering her 'Victorian Tram' as a Fringe venue.
Thanks to Amanda Penman - editor, designer and publisher of the deservedly award-winning Artsbeat magazine for making the time to join us.
Thanks to Buxton Brewery for the Moor Top and Jacob's Ladder.
Thanks to Bradbury's for supplying the delicious cheeses.
The Fringe launch party is just 30 days away - Tuesday July 8th at The Fringe Club, The Barrel Room in the Old Hall Hotel - we look forward to seeing you there.
Meanwhile start making your own set of cut-out Morris dancers!
Buxton Fringe

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Saturday 7 June 2014

Fringe Tickets - On Sale Now

Tickets for most Fringe 2014 events are now on sale - and for some shows it really matters that you get in early because they will sell out.
In our printed programme or on our website it will be clear that tickets for many events will be available either from the Buxton Opera House or from Underground Venues. It is not for us to recommend shows but experience tells us that, for example, the High Peak Magicians (23/24 July), Butterfly Theatre's Dracula's Women in Poole's Cavern (14-19 July) and the stand-up nights Barrel of Laughs (11, 18 & 25 July) will sell very well. We wouldn't want you to be disappointed.

Many Fringe events are free and no tickets are required. Use this link to check out all the fabulous events and shows that won't cost you a penny - Free Fringe

Buxton Fringe

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Thursday 5 June 2014

News from the Buxton Festival - for birdwatchers and the under 25s

A recent newsletter from the Buxton Festival includes two items that may well be of interest to readers of this Blog. The overlap between the two potential audiences for the pieces below may be small - but do please pass-on and share this news in whatever way you can.

"Many of you will currently be addicted to BBC2's annual nature-lovers' treasure chest, Springwatch. The expert providing the programme's 'Red Button' coverage is Brett Westwood who, with Stephen Moss, will be coming to Buxton on 27 July to talk about the book of Radio 4's phenomenally successful Tweet of the Day.

"Distilling two lifetimes’ knowledge, insight and enthusiasm, Brett and Stephen take you month-by-month through the year, evoking what it is like to be in the presence of each bird, and delighting you with extraordinary insights and amazing facts. From a baby cuckoo barely able to squeeze into its host’s nest, to swifts spending their entire lives on the wing, only landing to breed, Tweet of the Day is packed full of folklore, poetry and surprising ornithological observations.

"Brett Westwood & Stephen Moss will be talking at the Pavilion Arts Centre on Sunday 27 July at 2pm. To book your tickets now, click here.

"Also, on Friday at 18 July at 9am, Tim Birkhead, professor of zoology at the University of Sheffield, provides a thoroughly engaging and authoritative history of modern ornithology: from its beginnings as a museum-based discipline to its shift into the mainstream to become the popular pastime it has become today. He brings this history vividly to life through the work and achievements of those who advanced the field and reveals how research on birds has contributed more to our understanding of animal biology than the study of just about any other group of organisms. To book your tickets for what promises to be a fascinating history, click here."

Festival for a Fiver    
"Are you under 25? Would you like to dip your foot in the water of the huge variety Buxton Festival has on offer but are worried about price? Well, anyone under 25 can pick up tickets for any Buxton Festival event - Opera, Literature, Music, or other! - for just £5, thanks to the Festival for a Fiver scheme, supported by the Granada Foundation. Simply call in to the Buxton Opera House Box Office or phone 0845 127 2190, quoting Festival for a Fiver and book tickets for any performance you want (we regret this offer is not available online)."

Buxton Fringe

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Monday 2 June 2014

Pre-Fringe Training complete

Just as the England football team is 'warming-up' for the World Cup with some carefully chosen friendlies so we at Fringe HQ have been on tour sharpening our artistic and critical faculties in readiness for the 'big one'. We've not been to Miami wearing multiple layers in anticipation of debilitating humidity but our European tour has taken us to Paris, Bern and Doncaster!
At the Pompidou Centre (for just one more week) is an excellent and comprehensive exhibition of the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. For any visiting Brits the photos of the last Coronation are bound to be fascinating. I was there - sort of - my mother was 6 months through the pregnancy which ended with my delivery. Father was less than impressed apparently that an expectant mother should stand on the streets of London just for a fleeting glimpse of a bunch of parasites. Bresson chose to photograph the on-lookers - turning his back on the main attraction.
Bern is home to the Zentrum Paul Klee - a striking exhibition space by the motorway on the outskirts of the city. Apparently it holds thousands of pieces by Klee and only a few hundred are shown at any one time - inviting repeat visits. Currently there is a themed exhibition based on a sketching tour made to Tunisia in 1914 in the company of two other artists. A visit is certainly recommended - though it's about 900 miles from Buxton. Apparently 'still life' is rendered at 'nature morte' in French. What this says about the two languages or differing cultural artistic sensibilities I'm not sure. Comments are welcome.
Doncaster may be in the news a fair bit over the next 11 months - since its sitting MP hopes to be our next Prime Minister. Let's hope all the visiting journalists find time to visit the splendid new theatre - Cast in Doncaster. We saw the touring production of Sebastian Faulks' 'Birdsong'. This Original Theatre production is still to go to Colchester, Dundee, Leicester, Belfast, Swindon and Eastbourne. If you are anywhere near these towns do try to see it. The company is brilliantly led by George Banks and Carolin Stolz and the staging is excellent. Faulks' take on World War One won't get the approval of Michael Gove. Good. Expect to cry.
Anyway, training is complete and we're ready for the intensity of Buxton Festival Fringe 2014 - starting with the Programme Launch event on Friday night.

Buxton Fringe

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