Saturday 31 December 2016

Wishing for a happy 2017

We know that 2016 was a difficult year for many people in so many ways and that the 'difficulties' experienced in Britain pale into insignificance compared with those endured by citizens of Aleppo, for example. However, we add our hopes and wishes to those for a happier 2017 wherever you live.

For Buxton Fringe 2017 holds out some exciting prospects and developments. New venues, new performers and some new shows are in the pipeline and news on all these will be published in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile we are delighted to share with you a taster of the artwork created for us for 2017 by Tom Mason - we love his playful image that draws on Buxton's past as well as capturing the joy and excitement of living in the moment.
The flyer for Fringe 2017 will be distributed in the coming months and Tom's work will be used on the cover of the programme published late in May.
For now, peace, health and happiness.

Buxton Fringe

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Monday 5 December 2016

Carols, Carrots, Conductors, Christmas

This artfully composed photo is evidence that the Buxton Festival Fringe 2017 is well and truly launched. We gathered at the Green Man Gallery (represented here by Caroline Small, left) on Saturday December 3rd and skillfully and enthusiastically led by Carol Bowns (middle above) we sung lustily, and sometimes tenderly, half a dozen carols associated with Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. Thanks to everyone who made the event happen. We'll be doing it again next year (assuming the planet survives that long) - Saturday, December 2nd, 2017.

But what would a launch be if there was no Festival? Happily we have some definite entries already (with plenty being planned and almost ready to confirm). First out of the blocks this year was Keith Large of Carrot Napper Productions. Keith and his team have brought comedy, drama and film to the Fringe in the past and it will be great to welcome them all back. Keith describes his latest work: Oh the lure of the Love-shed as out-of-work nightclub bouncer Vinnie Hollis attempts to recover a 17 foot prize carrot. Recently published in print to raise funds for the Stroke Association, this allotment aphrodisiac brings guaranteed laughs and love among the onions.
You'll be able to see The Carrot Nappers at the Lee Wood Hotel on Sunday, 9th July.

A big success - with audiences and critics - at Fringe 2016 was The Conductor which is an adaptation of Sarah Quigley's marvellous novel about a performance of Shostakovitch's 7th Symphony in besieged Leningrad. Performances take place this week in Rotherhithe, south east London. Only £5; if you can get there please do so.

Free, and closer to hand if you live in the Peak District, this Friday, 9th December is Navidad Nuestra which is a folk-drama based on the Christian nativity story written by Argentinian composer Ariel Ramirez. Starts at 6pm and lasts an hour - in the cathedral of the Peak, St John the Baptist church.

Buxton Fringe

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Thursday 1 December 2016

We're Back!

Not quite Christmas! Underground Venues last July - photo by Sofia Huxford Rodriguez

We don't exactly sleep through the autumn here at Fringe mansions but there isn't much day-to-day stuff to report. But now it is winter and things start to happen quite quickly.

For new readers a brief recap: the Buxton Festival was launched in 1979, the Fringe followed in 1980 and has taken place every July since. So the 2017 Buxton Festival Fringe will be the 38th - making it one of the longest-running Fringes on Planet Earth (we don't discount other worlds - though the Trustees haven't voted on the subject yet).

Buxton Festival Fringe is probably the biggest open access summer arts festival in England. Every year, over a period of 19 days, there are more than 500 separate performances and events, presented by 150 different artists or groups. All this in a town with a population of around 23,000. We are very proud of our town and the part we play in making it such a good place to live.

Buxton Festival Fringe 2017 runs from Wednesday July 5th through to Sunday July 23rd and as of today we are open for entries for next year's Festival. The Fringe does not book acts or performers - if you want to be part of the fun you are invited to set up a show. Our website gives information on how to do that but if you have any questions do write to us and we'll do our very best to help:

Meanwhile we begin the fun this coming Saturday, December 3rd. Buxton's Town Team has organised a procession with singing through the the town centre and finishing up in the Pavilion Gardens - but wrapped around that is our own Derbyshire Village Carols event at the Green Man Gallery. From 2-4pm - brilliantly led by Carol Bowns - we'll be learning half-a-dozen or so traditional Derbyshire (some might be from Yorkshire!) carols. Then from 6.30-9.30pm - after the procession - we'll be back for a party. There will be mulled wine - and something to drink, for those that don't fancy warm wine - food and the chance to sing and sing. If you'd rather listen - well we'd love to see you at the Green Man Gallery.

We have just about got the artwork for the 2017 programme cover sorted - and we're very excited about that. Look out for news about that (and other seasonal events - Tideswell, December 9th, St Mary's Church, Buxton - December 14th) here in the coming days.

See you on Saturday - everyone is welcome! 

Buxton Fringe

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Wednesday 27 July 2016

Fringe 2016 - Moments to cherish

Carnival cup moment (credit: Sophia Huxford Rodriguez)

All over again for another year and it felt particularly poignant as we bid farewell to the Paupers Pit as a Fringe venue. We very much hope to see Underground Venues in a new home for 2017.

Thanks to those who have made it all work so seamlessly, from our sponsor the University of Derby to all our other other supporters, Fringe Friends, venues, reviewers and volunteers. Most of all, a big thank you to our Fringe entrants and enthusiastic audiences!

Every year I personally end up seeing or doing something extraordinary. Here are some special Fringe moments to cherish.

-         Waving our huge prize cup to appreciative crowds cheering us on at the Fringe carnival.
-         Writing a sex scene for the first time in my life and in five minutes flat at a FED writing workshop
-         Watching a child spontaneously produce the missing invisible hippo blanket In Dr Zeiffal, De Zeigal and the Hippo That Can Never Be Caught
-         Squirming on my husband’s behalf as he submitted to manhandling from the glorious Kagouls
-         Presenting the Spirit of the Fringe award to a gob-smacked Sam Slide
-         Realising what a beautiful place we live in at The Wild Peak exhibition
-         Choking back tears singing Jacob’s Distant Peaks song at our Kaleidoscope Choir performance
-         Crying over fake raspberry jam in War Stories
-     Realising that Jerry Sadowitz was not going to give the Fringe reviewer his notes back…
-     Feeling relief that dancer Lewys Holt was going to get his trousers back on...

That’s just a few of mine – why not tweet us your favourite #FringeMoments @buxtonfringe?

Marketing Officer

Buxton Fringe

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Tuesday 5 July 2016

Buxton Festival Fringe 2016 - We're Ready, Are You?

The 37th Buxton Festival Fringe begins on Wednesday, July 6th. Our Information Desk is all ready and our volunteers are on hand to help you plan to get the most from the 19-day Festival.  The Desk is in the Conservatory - adjacent to the Opera House and the starting point for the Discover Buxton tram tour of the town which leaves hourly. The Desk and the tram both open for business at 10.00 hours.

The team at Underground Venues is also working hard to be ready for a launch party on Tuesday night (5th) - join us from 8pm if you are in town. There will be plenty of free entertainment to get you in the mood.

Fringe Sunday 2015 - "Jacques Brel: A Life A Thousand Times"

Fringe Sunday - our free party in the Pavilion Gardens - is this weekend, July 10th from 2.00-4.30pm. We have 9 performers lined-up for your enjoyment. The provisional timetable is as follows:
1] 2.00pm: Jacques Brel: A Life A Thousand Times
2] 2:15pm: Next Door Dance: The Beautiful Game
3] 2.25pm: Cozy
4] 2.40pm: Ed Billingham
5] 3.00pm: Belly Dance Flames
6] 3.20pm: Granny Grump
7] 3.35pm: Opera Seria
8] 3.50pm: Darren Poyzer
9] 4.10pm: Will Hawthorne and Band
Our thanks to all the performers who are freely giving their time.
We look forward to seeing you all on Sunday.

Buxton Fringe

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Sunday 3 July 2016

Chelmorton Village Festival - 11-17 July

There wasn't space in the Fringe programme or on the website to give all the details of the Chelmorton Village Festival: so here are the latest details we have. Chelmorton is about 4 miles south of Buxton - take the A515 (Ashbourne Road) as far as the Brierlow Bar Bookstore and turn left and follow the signs.

The Brierlow Bar Bookstore is well worth a visit and is open seven days a week.

Chelmorton Village Festival dates: Monday 11th – Sunday 17th July 2016.
Preliminary details are as follows, but please keep checking the website as more details will be added.

Monday  11th July 2016
  • Scarecrow Judging (more details will follow)
  • Festival Pub quiz – garish shirts are positively encouraged for quiz goers.
Tuesday 12th July 2016
  • Crime Writers panel with Sarah Ward (Village Author)  6pm – 7.45pm
  • Comic Poet Rob Barratt (Village Institute) 8pm – 9pm
Wednesday 13th July 2016
  • Family Film at the Institute
Thursday 14th July 2016
  • Local walk around the village conducted by Harry Mayo
  • Hollinsclough Band (in the Church)
Saturday 16th July 2016
  • Village Day – where everyone is invited to have stalls in the village
  • Evening Disco -featuring music through the eras e.g 60’s, 70’s, 80′s and so on.
Everyone is invited to dress up in the music era of their choice and join the fun! Requests can be made when you buy your ticket.
Sunday 17th July 2016
  • Songs of Praise in the Church
In addition:
  • Teas and coffee will be served at the Institute throughout the week from Monday to Friday. Refreshments will be available at village stalls on the Saturday.
  • There will be a craft stall in the village institute from Monday through to Friday, selling crafts and gifts made by local people from the village. A great opportunity to grab some early Christmas shopping!
  • On the Monday through Saturday there will be an exhibition in the Church. Opening hours to be confirmed, with more details about the exhibition to follow.
  • Following the success and popularity of last years treasure hunt, Jan and Richard are currently hard at work devising one for this year! More details to follow when we know more….
  • We are also hoping that the pop up book shop which was located in our very own phone box, will also be available this year. Confirmation will be posted, as we finalise details.

Buxton Fringe

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Meet the Experts - Free events at the Buxton Museum

Buxton Museum has a programme of 13 free lunchtime lectures taking place throughout the Fringe. They start at 1pm and the outline programme is as follows:
Friday 8 July: Fascinating Derbyshire Finds with Alastair Willis of the Portable Antiquities Scheme
Sunday 10 July: The Earliest Derbyshire Pottery with Pauline Beswick from the Derbyshire Archaeological Journal
Tuesday 12 July: The Derwent Valley: the artists' perspective with historian Doreen Buxton
Wednesday 13 July: A walk through the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with John Barnett from the Peak District National Park
Thursday 14 July: Buxton Diamonds with geologist Roy Starkey
Friday 15 July: Money, Money, Money with Anja Rhode from the University of Nottingham Museum
Saturday 16 July: Peak District Pre-history: Dowel and Fox Hole caves with Umberto Alberello from the University of Sheffield
Sunday 17 July: Joseph Wright's Derbyshire with Jonathan Wallis from Derby Museums
Tuesday 19 July: Are there really mermaids in Derbyshire? with conservator Anita Hollinshead
Wednesday 20 July: Ashford Black Marble: not black, or marble with Ros Westwood from Buxton Museum
Thursday 21 July: Lismore Fields: evidence of early visitors to Buxton with archaeologist Daryl Garton
Friday 22 July: Cave lions in Derbyshire and abroad with Dr Jill Cook from the British Museum
Saturday 23 July: Bear detective: the history of Britain's largest carnivore with Dr Hannah O'Reagan from the University of Nottingham.

You'll want to visit the Museum anyway to see the excellent Derbyshire Open art exhibition so it makes sense to time your visit for a free lecture.

Buxton Fringe

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Saturday 2 July 2016

Darren Poyzer's Bloody Love Songs

Darren Poyzer brings the third in his series of 'Human Condition' shows to Fringe 2016, and once again he looks forward to Buxton with an open mind and great enthusiasm ...

Darren, you must think of Buxton as a 'home game' now ...
Yes, I'm very confident in the format and the team at Underground Venues, and I've come to totally love the performance space in The Paupers Pit. Fringe time as a whole finds me wishing I was in Buxton every day from start to finish.

Tell us a little about 'Bloody Love Songs' ...
For those new to my gig, I take a theme and apply some 'outside the box' images and music that I hope encourages people to re-think one or two important aspects of life. There's nothing too scary going on though, I look throughout to entertain and create a reassuring feel good factor for those who come to my shows.

Are all the songs your own writing?I usually write these shows with allowances for unscripted moments and flow, so it's fair to say that every song will be either an original, or an original interpretation of a song people might already know.

Why the title 'Bloody Love Songs'?I wanted something a little edgy, to reassure people that this wasn't a stroll through cliche. Love can be painful and messy, and not everyone believes in it, even though it really is all around us. This was one of many potential titles, and it just happened to fit my mood on press deadline day!

Your two previous shows here were very well received and you have a 'Human Condition' theme. How many shows will there be?As life goes on there will always be a reason to write a new show, and as it happens these themes I hope are always relevant in the current day, in our hopes for the future, and in our historical research. When I came here with 'The War To End All Wars' in 2014, I was transformed by some of the research I undertook into World War 1 ... it's that epiphany moment I found then that I hope I can deliver with each new show.

It may be a little early, but if all goes well, is there a show theme for 2017?
Provisionally yes, the theme and title will be 'Home', and I intend to research what home means to different people in different places, and deliver songs that tell their stories. We'll see though, one step at a time ...

And finally, will you be visiting any other shows during Fringe 2016?Yes, I am scheduling visits to see Steve Roberts and Sam Slide for sure, and hopefully Jerry Sadowitz. I will likely take a punt on something different and unknown, and of course I'll be around for some 'Fringe @ 5' and 'Fringe Sunday' on the bandstand.

Thank you Darren, see you during Fringe 2016
Thank you too, it will all be fabulous for sure!

Darren will be performing on 9, 14 & 20 July at Underground Venues as well as at Fringe Sunday on July 10th and Fringe@5 on 12, 13 & 19.

Buxton Fringe

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Thursday 30 June 2016

"Cloaks" - a new play

"Cloaks" is a new play by Alison Dunne. It is set in a theatre cloakroom where customers' coats become characters. It stars Lesley Emery and Charlotte Bond. Alison kindly agreed to answer our questions about her play and fishhouse theatre. You can see "Cloaks" at the Lee Wood Hotel on 7, 8 and 10 July.
"The coats in the cloakroom come to life to represent various characters in Kath's life, the donkey jacket is her first boyfriend in the 80's, Kev, while the parka is her sister, Marie. So each coat she interacts with is reminding her of someone in her past. Sometimes the coats are inhabited by Sam, who takes on the character and sometimes the coats are puppets almost, or even empty. So while the coats are not necessarily their owners they are a person suggested by the nature of the coat.
"Cloaks wasn't written with Lesley and Charlotte in mind. I wrote the play for an East Midlands competition and then developed it further with the advice and guidance of the Derby Theatre Writers Group. When Lesley, who had been to Buxton Fringe previously with her show What Would Sharron Davies Do? and had a brilliant time, approached me and Charlotte to see if we'd be interested in taking something to the Fringe this year it seemed as though all the stars aligned. I just happened to have a play right there that needed an older and a younger actor and so I sent it to them and they liked it. Having them in the roles has definitely deepened my understanding of the characters. We've done a lot of character development for the main characters, Kath and Sam but also the many roles Charlotte has to step into, including Kath's mum and dad. Accents have come with characters and Charlotte ranges across the country from Wales to a Cockney Ann Summers's party host.

"I'm hoping that the play will appeal to women of all ages but also to men. The play focuses on a relationship between an older and a younger woman, where each are missing things, fathers, lovers and crucially, parent child relationships. So I think anyone who has had a parent or a child might find something to engage them in the play. I'm not sure I can speculate about men might learn about women from watching the play but I'd very like to hear from them if they do learn something!
"fishhouse is a brand new theatre company. Whilst I have been writing for what feels like forever I was barrelled into the world of writing for stage by the 1448 Festival in Leicester in 2013 and as a result have become part of a thriving theatre community in the city and beyond. fishhouse was conceived in response to my own experiences and my feeling that I wanted to make work about women that was by women though not entirely for a female audience. I felt I wanted to represent women's experience on stage and in particular older women's experience as this seems underrepresented in the worlds I move in, full as they are of wonderful, vibrant and new work by young companies. We are not a young company in terms of our make up, although we are new.
"We ran a successful crowd funding campaign to raise funds for building our set as our company is as yet unfunded which was an experience and very heartening. In fact our generous funders gave us more than we asked for. None of us had been involved in crowd funding before, other than in giving donations and were very pleased with the results. It meant we were able to have our set built and then painted by the very lovely set designer Emma Jane Pegg. The whole experience has been collaborative for the company with everything from sourcing props to making badges and singing thank you songs for crowd funders being shared between us. We're very much looking forward to getting to Buxton Fringe, not only to perform but to get to see some other things too."

Buxton Fringe

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Monday 27 June 2016

Getting Close-up and Personal with Sam Slide

Here is the latest in our series of exclusive Fringe Blog interviews. Sam Slide is well-known in Buxton and to Fringe audiences. A great friend of the Fringe - when he's not performing you'll catch him at other events. Here are our questions and Sam's answers - we don't think he is giving much away. Trombonists for you!

People are said to resemble their pets. Do musicians resemble their instruments?
Interesting to mention pets - musicians get attached to their instruments, which do have their own personalities.  Violin players talk about that a lot but it's the same for brass instruments, small differences in weights, dimensions and even the type of metal can make an instrument feel very different.
I don't know if there's a trombone personality, but you need to be comfortable with your chosen instrument.  I think a lot of musicians have similar personalities, at least as far as the music goes.  I've always got on well with musical people I've met over the years, although there have been a couple of exceptions!

The trombone isn't a sexy instrument - like the trumpet or saxophone. Why did you choose the 'bone' - or did it choose you?

Sounds like a question for Cameryn Moore [Of Phone Whore fame - Fringe 2014/2015. ed.]  I think that's only because the sax and trumpet are more common.  The trombone covers the same range as the human voice, with the same ability to bend and slide notes and produce a wide range of tones - so it's the winner for me.  The story of my musical background is all part of the show but I can't remember exactly how I came to play the trombone - It was over 40 years ago. 

Sam - you've got a lot of friends many of whom will come to your shows. Do you find it reassuring or worrying when you see those familiar faces out there?

A bit of both - it's reassuring to see familiar faces, but then there's more pressure to play well.  Once I've started playing I'm less aware of who is there, I just do my best to entertain them all.  The worst thing would be having a really good trombone player in the room.  Actually, that has happened.

You seem comfortable in a range of musical settings - brass bands, jamming with jazz musicians - do you have any preferences.
That's right, I enjoy playing a variety of music.  I've never been a dyed-in-the-wool brass band enthusiast but I do enjoy the occasional outing with our local Burbage Band.  This usually involves getting cold and wet playing Christmas carols or getting warm and wet in the Carnival parade - look out for Sam Slide in a red jacket on the 9th July.  I do admire the work Burbage do in training young players.
Jazz is different, there's no written music in front of you - it's all about listening to the other players.  Once you get used to that it's surprising how quickly a group of strangers can get it together.  It's also a pleasure to meet so many different people with a common interest.
I've no desire to play orchestral music, bagpipes or the banjo but I'm happy to have a go at most other things.  Thanks to Buxton Fringe I've even played with the Morris dancers which was great fun.     
Sam - this is the third year you've done this show. What new tunes and revelations can we look forward to?

That's a secret - you'll have to come along!  Obviously, the autobiographical theme is what it is, but I've added some new stories.  The last two shows had similar playlists so I've tried to change as many tunes as possible this time, keeping some of the old favourites.  There will be a few surprises, which may include a guest vocalist!

Sam and Friends will be entertaining at The Old Clubhouse on 12th and 19th July.

If you want your Fringe 2016 show featured on this Blog contact us at: and we'll set-up an interview for you.

Buxton Fringe

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Friday 24 June 2016

Jacques Brel: A Life A Thousand Times

Far West Theatre premiered "Jacques Brel: A Life A Thousand Times" in Buxton last year. It was very well received at The Green Man Gallery. You can see a revised production - also at The Green Man - this Fringe on 8, 13, 17, 23 & 24 July. Simon Pennicott-Hall, the driving force behind the show and who takes the part of Brel, answered some questions for us.

1] Jacques Brel? Why should we care about him anymore?
I would argue that, in the English-speaking world, we never really got to caring about him in the first place. Brel never wrote or sang in English and only performed in the UK and US a handful of times. Even then the audiences admitted they hadn’t a clue what his songs were about. We didn’t have the cultural appreciation for foreign artists then that we do today. When he started to become really famous here, it was not because of an appreciation of his talent, it was from how that talent was translated into songs the English public could understand. Many artists (Aznavour & Distel in particular) chose to sing in English to expand their appeal. Brel absolutely refused to do this, and it was only really when Mort Shuman, Terry Jacks and Scott Walker took the matter into their own hands that people started to identify with Brel’s work.
The problem is that this, I would say, has given us a false impression of Brel. As popular and successful as some of the translations were, they are nothing like the originals, they lack the intensity and imagery that Brel chose. He was very brave, passionate, and sometimes controversial in his choices of subjects and words. In France, Belgium and around the rest of the world he was and is still celebrated as a master songwriter, storyteller and explosive performer. You cannot get this from “Seasons in the Sun”, “If You Go Away” and (in “Alive and Well and Living in Paris”) regardless of who performs them.  
The Brel that we think we cared about then, is not the Brel that the rest of the world knows. Brel did not write songs to be commercial, and I think it is important that we strip away the commerciality we have wrapped his songs up in, in the past. There is so much more to discover if we do this.   
2] Brel was a flawed figure. Not necessarily a good family man - do you feel at all uncomfortable playing him?
I’ve played a number of questionable characters in the past, so I wouldn’t say it makes me feel uncomfortable. To me it makes it more exciting. Bear in mind that when we say he wasn’t a good family man, we are talking from a standpoint of now, where there are almost set moral rules of how men should behave. Back then it wasn’t uncommon for men to behave the way he did. Even his daughter France admits that much of his behaviour wasn’t abnormal for the time.
Whilst I don’t agree with all his views, and certainly not on how he treated the women in his life, the more you research the man, the more you can kind of understand why he was who he was. It’s important for an actor to find a connection with whomever you are playing, an understanding of what made the person tick and why they held the views that they did. And there is so much to work with in Brel’s life.  
Imagine dropping out of school, taking a chance on a music career, and all of sudden record companies are throwing money at you and women are throwing themselves at you too. Who wouldn’t be taken in by this? That was Jacques. Yes, he was flawed but it shows he was human too. Many people say after seeing the show that they can’t decide whether they like him or not and I think that’s fair.  However, we could just as well be talking about any number of modern artists when we make this conclusion.     
3] You've rewritten the show from last year's premiere. What changes have you made and why?
We have updated translations of many of the songs and there are also some additional sections of dialogue. The translations are the key thing; last year, although we had retranslated many of the songs, we were still using some historical versions I wasn’t happy with. Now I can finally say that all of the translations we use are our own. There is also one brand new song and some of the songs have been switched between performers. It has been a lot of work, but I think it gives the show more balance and gets us closer than ever to the original Brel tracks.
My research into Brel is an on-going thing, so as I’ve been doing this I’ve found additional bits of text I think are important to include. There are lots of sources out there, but the majority of these are in French so it takes a while to translate and digest them. I’ve received a load of information from Editions Brel since last time, so this has helped put a lot more meat on the bone.  
4] Brel - was he a Belgian or a European?
A very good question. Brel considered himself to be Belgian and whenever he was quizzed in interviews, he would never hide from this.  As he said “Brussels is not Paris, but wherever I go in the world, Brussels is never far from me”. I think he was being genuine about this. His songs are littered with Belgian imagery, places and in a few cases, Belgian language. The only reason he wrote and sang in French was that his family, although Flemish, spoke French at home. He sang about the beautiful and not so beautiful aspects of his home country, in a way you just don’t get from his songs of other places. He was proud of the land he was born in, warts and all.
The French may believe him to be theirs, but I can’t think for a minute Brel would have agreed.  Even when he’d finished his singing career, Brel premiered the French version of “Man from La Mancha” in Brussels when - I guess - he could have done it anywhere in Europe. That speaks volumes.    
5] It is easier to feel personal sympathy for his daughter (France) rather than for Jacques - is that how you feel about the two of them?
Actually, no. With France narrating the show and not being restricted just to things she has said in real life, it is easier to make a connection with her and be sympathetic about her relationship with her father. But France has accepted her father for who he was. She is at peace with it. She was, in fact, the one who set up Editions Brel, so that her fathers’ work could be celebrated and promoted. However bitter we might feel France should be, we project a lot of that on her. She does not ask for our sympathy.  
Of course, it cannot have been easy with her father being away so often, with the rumours of affairs and the very limited communication between them. But then it can’t have been easy either for Jacques being away from the family, working ridiculous hours to make his career. When Jacques was tempted, whilst inexcusable, the fact that his wife knew and stayed with him must have been like torture. Once again Jacques does not ask for our sympathy. But in a strange way, I feel we owe it to him.

If you would like us to report on your Buxton Fringe 2016 show contact us at: and we'll set that up.
Buxton Fringe

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Wednesday 22 June 2016

Lest We Forget - a Buxton Fringe premiere

Aulos Productions have become regulars at Buxton Fringe and their shows are always keenly anticipated by out audiences. James Beagon from Aulos took up our offer to answer questions about their Fringe 2016 show which is being performed at Underground Venues on 14, 15 & 17 July.

1] Lest We Forget is about the aftermath and the effects of the First World War. When you started writing it did you ever have a sense that there was nothing more to say about the War - or turning the question around what did you want to say that would seem fresh?

It was pointed out to me a couple of years ago that nobody really questions what happened after the First World War. In schools, pupils only tend to learn about the Treaty of Versailles and then the so-called Interwar period, usually within the context of "The Road to Hitler" and so forth. Nobody ever asks how they cleaned up the battlefields of WW1; nobody really wants to consider the nasty details. 

Similarly, nobody questions why we have the cemeteries and memorials that we know and visit today either. We just assume it was a foregone conclusion - most people consider them to be respectful and therefore a natural by-product of the war. Yet in 1920 it was anything but a foregone conclusion that they would happen, with a fierce parliamentary debate (and indeed, a national debate) on the subject in May that year. 

The closest thing a 21st century person has to relating to this idea is that famous line from Alan Bennett's play "The History Boys", where the boy's controversial and cynical young teacher cryptically suggests that the words on the memorials should not read 'Lest We Forget' but instead 'Lest We Remember'; he suggests that the appearance of clean stone memorials is there to hide the dirt about what really happened and where blame for the conflict truly fell. But even that falls far from the tree. The opposition to the memorials was not based on cynicism, but on a passionate belief that the government were essentially stealing the bodies of their sons. On the other hand, support for the memorials were fuelled by an odd alliance of those with patriotism for the British Empire and yet surprisingly liberal views on the equality of the fallen men.  

Suffice to say, the debate was not nearly as clear-cut as modern audiences might consider it to have been. Therefore, we felt there was new ground to be broken by exploring the stories of how these memorials came to be through the lens of a single family, and what sort of new ideological battles were unpleasantly fought as a result.

2] Without giving too much away do you want to tell us something about the new play and what you are looking to achieve?

Lest We Forget focuses on the story of the Ashwood family. It's 1920 and Edith Ashwood is at loggerheads with the Imperial War Graves Commission about their refusal to return the body of her son, Harry, to her from the battleground of the Somme. The five characters in the play have very different perspectives and memories of Harry, and gradually we come to see how both he and the war influenced their lives differently in turn.

When writing the play, I wanted to challenge both of the assumptions I mentioned before, the respectful and the cynical. By highlighting one family's struggle to bury their son where they want to, we hope to show that history is never a foregone conclusion. It's not about whether the war was a bad thing, a tragic thing or even a good thing, which is so often the subject of our post-war literature. It's about how it shaped and influenced society in the years immediately after it, how it influences OUR modern society and how the debates it provoked about conflict and remembrance are still as relevant today as they ever were.

3] Aulos has a strong reputation and its work is keenly anticipated. Do you have a sense of that? Do you worry about letting people down?

Constantly! But I think I'd still feel like that even if we didn't have a reputation for our previous work. If anything, that reputation is quite encouraging. It shows that audiences are engaging with our style and also our choice of topics which aren't always the most mainstream of subjects. It makes us more confident that people will always find ways to connect with our work whatever it may be, regardless of how obscure our subject matter is.

4] Is there an "Aulos Productions" style? Looking back over your work are there themes or methods that are in the DNA?

Some might say that we're a bit grim and depressing at times! But I think also we do strive to find some measure of hope in things as well. I'm an ancient historian myself and thus all of the plays I've done with Aulos have had some sort of historical or mythical link. But I'd say our true style is something which is focused primarily on character. That's certainly something we emphasise with our rehearsal process, where we will spend a lot of time doing short and long-form improvisation as well as generally devising new ideas about the characters before we engage in script-work. 

I like to think of it as having an ultimate emphasis on personal histories, not just traditional history, and particularly histories or perspectives that don't often get much popular representation. 'First Class' started off that trend with its split monologue style across the three different time periods and then 'Women of the Mourning Fields' was all about telling the stories of real women misrepresented by history. 

'Lest We Forget' in turn deals with a fictional family but in the midst of a historical event which many may not be familiar with. Therefore an introduction to this family also conveniently serves as an introduction to the question at hand. Whatever the answer to that question may be is however entirely up to you; we're just serving up additional sympathetic perspectives for your consideration. 

5] You are performing in the 40-seat Pauper's Pit. This really will be the last year for the Pit and so the final time you get to put a show on there. Any memories of the Pit you'd like to share?

It's been great performing in the space for the past 2 years. Personally, I've still got my fingers crossed that it won't truly be the end once more, but I know that's unlikely. 

I think my best memory of the Pauper's Pit was the reaction we got after the first performance of 'First Class', which went down really well. Our first performance in Buxton is always our first anywhere in the world for our Fringe shows, so up until that point, we really had no idea whether people would like it or not.

Also, the reactions of my successive technical operators to seeing the little tech cubby-hole and the swing-around lighting desk for the first time has always been consistently funny!

If you want to talk to us about your Fringe 2016 show write to: and we'll set it up.

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Saturday 18 June 2016

Invitation to meet Shakespearean Superheroes

Invitation just in - thought we'd better pass it on. Gatecrashers welcome - so long as you buy a ticket.

You are invited to a touring comedy play Shakespeare's Avengers Assembleth: Age of Oberon by Drake's Drummers Theatre Company.
Written and directed by Pelham Grosvenor-Stevenson, Callum Moffat and Adam Toon.

Audiences in Buxton will be treated to an hour of acclaimed new comedy writing this summer as Shakespeare's Avengers Assembleth: Age of Oberon is due to hit for five days. In a world where all of Shakespeare's characters exist simultaneously, Oberon of A Midsummer Nights Dream has gone mad. We're talking full-on Hamlet. The fairy king has kidnapped William Shakespeare, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Shakespearean Heroes International Evil Lessening Division) and his mischievous sidekick Puck has brought him the Infinity Quill. A quill unlike any other, for the Infinity Quill has the power to rewrite history itself and forge a new future at the will of its master.
Anxious of the scenario that is unfolding, Shakespeare's greatest heroes; Hamlet, Macbeth, Ophelia and Brutus decide that they should do something to stop the oncoming apocalypse. Under dubious instruction's from Puck they head to Midsummers Forest to confront Oberon and the fairies. Shakespeare's Avengers have assemblethed.

Shakespeare's Avengers Assembleth: Age of Oberon has received high praise at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 and is currently on national tour. It offers an alternative take on classical Shakespeare and entertains audiences with its fast paced, tongue-in-cheek delivery and writing. Rod Cotton, independent theatre producer said, 'A young, imaginative company whose work, especially at the Edinburgh Fringe [Shakespeare's Avengers Assembleth: Age Of Oberon], has developed their talents into thoroughly entertaining theatre that is highly inventive.'

About The Company:
Drake's Drummers Theatre Company is a new writing company based out of Plymouth.
Having been formed in 2014 by a group of three writers and actors, the company has gone on to have success at a number of festivals as well as produce theatre for a local and national stage. It is in the process of planning and curating the first outdoors waterfront theatre festival in the South-West. Its production of Shakespeare's Avengers Assembleth: Age of Oberon is currently touring the UK. You can see the play in Buxton this July at Underground Venues between 13-17th.

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Wednesday 15 June 2016

After We Danced: Five Star Romance comes to Buxton

One of the shows at Underground Venues this coming Fringe is "After We Danced." Presented by NoLogoProductions the play is on from 12-14 July. Andy Moseley who wrote the piece took some time out to tell us something of the background to "After We Danced."

The play was inspired by two real events, the first was a couple in America, Helen and Kenneth Felumlee, who spent seventy years together, held hands every morning, never spent a night apart and died within 15 hours of each other in 2014 as Kenneth couldn't bear to live without his wife. Rather than write a play about a couple like that (because who wants a story where people are always happy!) we went with the idea of a couple who should have been together, but fate kept them apart. That brought us to the second event which is the Lynmouth Floods in 1952 that destroyed more than 100 buildings and killed 34 people in August of that year. The play is about a couple that met then, and how that event caused them to separate and not see each other again for sixty years.

I think of it as sweet and romantic but also tragic. Most of the 1952 scenes are sweet and romantic, you have a couple who are clearly meant to be together at the start of what should be a long and happy life with each other. The tragedy is that they end up spending so long apart. I made a conscious decision to give the play a happy ending and hopefully make it uplifting, which is why they are back together sixty years later. That their love has lasted is sweet and romantic, but also sad because of all the time they spent apart. 

Setting the play in the immediate post-war past was almost coincidental rather than deliberate as the idea was to have a relationship that could span a lifetime which automatically meant that it would start somewhere around 1952, but that did make a big difference to their relationship. In 1952 the country was still living in the shadow of the war with the last parts of rationing yet to end, and a lot of the things that defined the 50s, and started to shape the world beyond it, yet to emerge.  It was a different world, and I liked what that meant when it came to writing the story. Had they met in the late 50s or 60s it would have been a less innocent time and maybe their relationship would have been very different and never have meant so much to either of them. The early 50s probably also adds to the sweet and romantic element of the play because of the innocence it adds to it.

We took the play to Edinburgh last year where it got five star reviews and sell out shows, and having been to Buxton twice before in 2010 and 2013, we wanted to come back again to keep our record of doing the fringe every three years! As the last time we came was billed as the last year of Pauper's Pit, it's also nice, but sad to know, that this year is also the last year of Pauper's Pit.

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Monday 13 June 2016

Burbage Art Group Makes Material Gains

Red Admiral by Rachel Slaney

Burbage Art Group’s 2016 Art Exhibition, a popular highlight of the Buxton Fringe, is featuring more variety than ever this year with several artists choosing to work with fabric for the first time. 

Says organiser Rachel Slaney: “We hope to have examples of weaving as well as various fabric and embroidery collages this summer as well as our usual mix of watercolours, acrylics, mixed media and pen and inks.”

Works come in every size and medium with one of Burbage’s artists, Laura Critchlow, having had a painting exhibited by the Royal Society of Miniature Painters in London. Although the friendly group caters for all abilities, several of the artists have been nominated for Fringe Awards in the past. 

With subject matter including local views, animals, portraiture, abstracts and exotic landscapes, there is something to suit every taste at the exhibition, which takes place on Saturday July 16th from 11am to 3pm at the Burbage Institute. A free event, the show includes cakes and refreshments plus a children’s quiz with a certificate and balloon for all completed sheets!

Burbage Art Group meets weekly during school term times on Wednesday nights at Burbage Institute in Buxton and has both male and female members with ages currently ranging from 21 to 80 plus. It also sponsors young artists from Buxton Community School, usually featuring their exciting work at the exhibition.

Says Rachel: “We always welcome newcomers and if you join us now you can look forward to having your work exhibited with us in July. People generally bring something they are working on to the class but I’m there to offer advice and inspiration.”
Anyone wanting further information about the exhibition or pay-as-you-go classes should contact Rachel Slaney on 01538 266220.

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Sunday 12 June 2016

Meet Bluesman Mike Francis

Mike Francis was a welcome guest at our launch party last weekend and he sang a couple of songs for us before he had to head off for a meeting. Mike also agreed to answer some questions for us.

1] You've been on the road for 40 years. What changes have you seen in that time - in terms of audiences, the music, gigs, other musicians?

A tough answer to condense but I’ll do my best. Much of the original blues influence in Europe had come via US forces bases established after World War II. Over the last 40 years travel, communication and media has shrunk the world and the scene has become much more international. Since 1990 even though the UK has gradually become host to the tribute band, in terms of spreading the message of the blues there has been a healthy evolution of dedicated events and festivals. Amongst the forest of trilby hats a whole new
generations are able to experience an exciting piece of cultural history. Digital media has taken the music industry from the cassette to the likes of YouTube, streaming and down-loading enabling an artist to reach the whole world with much greater ease. Indeed traditional music genres and artists have also benefitted from these developments.

The likes of google search has become king and in my own case actually caused an unexpected problem. In 2009 a singer of the same name passed away in Italy somewhat ironically massively boosting their google presence. By 2011 I took the risky decision to rebrand as Bluesman Mike Francis as it was causing a substantial problem when gigging in Europe. Although in some ways it meant starting again, in all honesty it has been a pretty amazing few years and luckily I haven’t looked back since.

2] How has your music, or your approach to it, changed?

Quite simply taking advantage of a situation following a comment made by Rolling Stone's author Martin Elliott. He identified a link with my contemporary material and traditional roots of people like the late Woody Guthrie and Robert Johnson. Essentially what I have done is taken that a stage further and put together the show Story of the Blues, which will be at Old Clubhouse Buxton twice on Sunday 17th July as part of the Festival. It has an element of education but is not by any means a science lesson, just fun. I’m really enjoying being all acoustic again and even playing bottleneck slide on 12 string guitar that I so loved doing in my early days. If I can inspire and interest a new audience then the job is done.

3] Which other musicians do you most admire? Are you conscious of borrowing from them?

Sounds a cliché but over the years there has been so many. I consider myself very lucky to have toured and played with some truly brilliant performers that have provided very special influences. Naturally I have learned an awful lot and hope to demonstrate a little of my own evolution on the 17th July. Other than that I don’t want to give too much away. That would be telling…

4] Want to tell us more about the European Blues Awards as an event?

Although there’s been many different music awards springing up over recent years, the European Blues Awards celebrate their 35th anniversary in 2016. In recognition of this they are featuring a number of showcase events throughout Europe to raise the profile of the organisation and blues music in general. The first one was in Holland during May and I believe they continue throughout this summer. As well as pianist Dale Storr who will be playing shows at Buxton the same weekend on Saturday 16th I was also nominated in the awards process during 2013 and am both delighted and honoured to be involved.

5] Can white men sing the blues? An old chestnut I know but...

That’s an easy one. Of course they can! OK in some countries of Europe the dialect can sometimes sound a little unusual, but that’s the beauty of the blues. It can be performed by anyone and is essentially a very simple form of expression. Even back in the day, blues music was not solely the exclusive domain of black performers (one of the myths that I attempt to explain and dispel during the Story of the Blues show). Despite the general belief at the time, 1970’s punk rock was not the first music genre that enabled absolutely everyone to express themselves and their emotions musically.

6] If Robert Johnson was alive today would he still be singing blues or would he find another way of giving expression to being poor and black?

Haha, a great question, I like that. If Robert Johnson was alive today he would certainly still be playing and singing the blues, most importantly on a good ole acoustic guitar. Despite the advent of technology, acoustic instruments are as popular as ever before. OK he’d probably be looping the odd riff but I suspect like me, he’d be singing about the likes of Donald Trump through the finest music genre in the world, telling the Story of the Blues.

Bluesman Mike Francis will be at The Old Clubhouse on Sunday 17th July. Tickets are available in advance from Buxton Opera House.

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