Friday 22 December 2017

Merry Christmas to you all.

Still Life: Arbor Low, 21 December 2017

We're shutting up shop at Fringe Towers for the next week or so. Before we do there are a couple of messages we'd like to share.

We've had a great time in 2017 and owe thanks to many, many people who contributed so much and made it possible. If you are taking the trouble to read this then you are one of those people. So, sincerest thanks to you.

We have started to receive entries for Buxton Festival Fringe 2018 and we shall be updating the website as quickly as possible with entries as they arrive. We had a lovely time formally launching Fringe 2018 with a party at the Green Man Gallery on December 9th and we did our bit to keep some Derbyshire carols alive.

If you are planning your Fringe event for next July, and you need a good piano, you might be interested to know that the Broadwood grand (which dates back to the 1890s) owned by the United Reform Church is currently away for a total recondition. (Thanks to the Bingham Trust for the grant that makes this work possible). It will be back - in the Church rather than the function room - in time for the Fringe and should offer a splendid experience for musicians and audiences alike.

All of us at the Fringe wish you peace, health and happiness for Christmas and the New Year. We look forward to welcoming you to Buxton in July.

Buxton Fringe

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Friday 1 December 2017

We have a winner!

Joanna Allen and the artwork that will feature on Fringe publicity in 2018

Buxton Festival Fringe has announced the winner of its recent competition to design the cover of next year’s printed Fringe programme.

Joanna Allen, an artist and printmaker from New Mills with a textiles background, came up with the winning artwork, a vibrant collagraph print entitled Orange Festival Folk and incorporating features of Buxton’s architecture. She wins £100 in prize money and some 20,000 programmes featuring her artwork will be printed next summer.

Joint runners up were Amy Whelan with Festival Fun and Pam Smart with Buxton Circular. A selection of competition entries can be seen on the Fringe website

A Fringe enthusiast, Joanna says: “There is something for absolutely everyone at Buxton Fringe: music, drama, comedy, film… even life drawing! I have enjoyed all manner of Buxton Fringe events numerous times in the past. My musician brother Will Hawthorne and my sister Susie Hawthorne and brother-in-law George Telfer (both actors) have been involved in Fringe events over the years, so I am very excited to be able to contribute something myself at last!”

She adds: “My collagraph print Festival Folk celebrates the diversity of people of all types and ages who take part in the Fringe and make it so special. I tried to combine all the elements that make Buxton such a unique town: the historical importance of the natural mineral water, the spectacular architecture and the people. Each festival person has a ‘hat’ which references one of Buxton’s significant architectural features, mostly the town’s numerous domes, both big and small. And of course I had to include an image of spring water flowing from the lion’s mouth at St Ann’s Well!”

Joanna’s winning design will also feature on the Fringe’s flyer to be distributed early next year while more of her work and details of her workshops can be found on her website A recent member of Peak District Artisans, she will be exhibiting at The Dome in Buxton as part of Fringe 2018.

Keith Savage, Chair of the Buxton Festival Fringe states: “We love Joanna's design - it is imaginative, bold and burns with excitement. It shouts out 'Buxton' but is very different to our recent artwork. Everything we want Buxton during the Festival Fringe to be. We had no idea about the family connections - but are happy that the link is there!"

Buxton Fringe

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Wednesday 29 November 2017

Buxton Fringe 2018 - call for entries

In what has become an annual event, Buxton Fringe is inviting everyone to celebrate the opening of entries to the 2018 Fringe with a festive village carols sing-along. 

The exciting Christmas Party, hosted by Buxton’s Green Man Gallery, will take place on Saturday December 9 from 7 to 9.30pm with Derbyshire Village Carols from 7.30-9pm. Wine and light refreshments will be provided with all donations going to the Fringe. 

On the same day, there will also be a free Derbyshire Village Carols Workshop from 2.30-4.30pm at The Green Man led by Kaleidoscope Choir's Carol Bowns for anyone who would like to practise the carols beforehand. 

Both events are free and everyone is welcome. Those unable to attend the afternoon session can still join the party and singing is optional! 

The party marks the December 1 opening of entries for next summer’s eagerly anticipated Fringe festival and party-goers will have a chance to meet members of the Fringe team and learn how to get involved or become a Fringe Friend. Following suggestions from last year’s performers, the Take Part information on the Fringe website has been comprehensively updated to be even easier to understand whilst the widely-praised online process is as simple as ever. The attractively low entry fees remain the same as last year’s. 

As ever the Fringe, praised by one entrant as “the friendliest fringe in the fringiverse”, is always on hand to answer any queries on venues, technical matters or other issues. 

Keith Savage, Chair of the Buxton Festival Fringe states: “We all of us have Dr Ian Russell and others to thank for collecting and sharing the dozens of carols sung in many Derbyshire villages. We are pleased that Buxton, the Green Man Gallery and the Fringe are becoming part of the tradition that ensures that these carols are learned and heard." 

Buxton Fringe

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Monday 16 October 2017

Orange sky heralds return of Buxton Fringe

The morning skies over much of Britain today had an eerie orange tint about them. Social media sites carried all sorts of worried messages about the 'end of the world' and 'post-apocalyptic nightmares'. We are happy to report that it was a simple reminder to those of us responsible for these things to bring you up to date with news of your favourite orange tinted festival. And we have quite a lot of news.
1) Buxton Festival Fringe 2018 will run from Wednesday 4th through to Sunday 22nd July. For those of you that need to take account of the town Carnival and fair then please note that Carnival day is Saturday 14th. If nothing else this may mean that St John's Church will not be available for the first week of the Fringe while the wells dressing petalling takes place.
2) Your geodesic Dome Fringe venue of choice - The Rotunda - is already accepting bookings for shows next July and it will fill up quickly. If you have an interest in putting on a Fringe event at the Rotunda you are urged to contact them soon. (We will be open for entries for next year's Fringe on 1st  December - see point 5 below - but there is nothing to stop you sorting out dates and venues for your shows now).
3) We have an open competition for artwork for next year's programme cover. The closing date for entries is November 1st. We look forward to receiving your work. The Fringe programme at flyer gets seen by 30,000 people across the region and beyond and so it is a good opportunity for artists to get exposure - and a modest cash prize of £100.
4) Our AGM takes place on Wednesday 8th November at The Green Man Gallery starting at 7pm. There will be some informal time - for a drink and some nibbles and a chance to chat with friends and let the trustees and committee know your thoughts about how the Fringe might develop. If you want to become more closely involved in our work we always welcome new ideas and extra energy.
5) Also at The Green Man - on Saturday 9th December - we have a bit of a party in recognition of the fact that Fringe 2018 is open for entries - indeed by then the first batch may well be on our website. For the third year we will be joining local singers for some Derbyshire village carols. Food and drinks will be available from 7pm and we will be giving it our vocal all from 7.30-9.00 led by Carol Bowns. Food and drinks will continue until 9.30 - unless we run out earlier! Carol will also be running a workshop from 2.30-4.30pm for those that want to practice a bit in advance - but you don't have to do the workshop to join the party. Everyone is welcome for the evening -whether to sing, listen or meet up.

Buxton Fringe

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Tuesday 18 July 2017

Getting away from the telly

Super Hamlet 64

With the Fringe still in full swing, it is strange the thoughts that come to you. “This is just like Lost”, I mused while enjoying the REC Youth Theatre’s Lord of the Flies. Clearly the hit TV series was influenced by William Golding’s novel rather than the other way round but it was only when watching a modern stage adaptation that I made the connection.

Then later in the day, Edward Day’s zany videogame/Shakespeare mash up Super Hamlet 64: Parody DLC made me wonder whether the American TV thriller Mr. Robot, about a computer hacker haunted by the ghost of his father, was in fact a warped version of Hamlet - something that had never occurred to me before.

I reckon all sorts of strange synapses are firing in my brain right now thanks to the Fringe - I still haven’t got over sitting in the Rotunda at The Unknown Soldier and thinking: “This is like that Siegfried Sassoon poem”, five seconds before that very poem was recited on stage.

All these connections between different artistic mediums - plays, poetry, films, computer games, telly - make for a richer experience of each in my view.

What’s been going through your mind during the Fringe and which shows have really stimulated you? You can communicate with us via social media or by making comments on individual shows on

We’d also love it if you could find time to fill in our short audience survey form

Buxton Fringe

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On Behalf of the People - 19th July

We had some late entries for Buxton Festival Fringe 2017 - and they are not in  the printed programme. Tomorrow night (Wednesday) at the United Reformed Church you can see a touring production that has been impressing plenty of people already. On Behalf of the People starts at 7.30pm and tickets are just £8, available from the Opera House. Here is a review:

On Behalf of the People was commissioned from The Melting Shop by the National Coal Mining Museum as part of its commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the nationalisation of the mining industry. Ray Castleton claims that it’s about the people, not the politics, but in fact, it’s about the politics as well, though the agit-prop element is tempered by measuring every political development against its human effect.
The play covers the years 1945 to 1953, but most intensely the first two of these years. Castleton has deliberately gone for recognisable types that have a strong emotional resonance with many of the older audience members.
George Mason is a miner who survived the First World War to find the land fit for heroes was a deception. A dedicated union man, he is also committed to campaigning for the Labour Party in the 1945 election, despite the onset of emphysema which two years later will take him from his job at the coal face. Connie, his wife, is inclined to accept things as “just George’s way”, but has the strength of character to bring him into line when his single-minded obstinacy gets too much. Tom, their son, returning from the Second World War, and his girlfriend, Liz, are less set in the old ways, ready to consider alternative careers, modestly aspirational. 
So far, so predictable, but Castleton finds subtle variants without losing the sense of dropping in on a mining Everyman circa 1947. The relationship between father and son, almost destroyed by George blaming Tom for the elder, much-favoured son joining up and being killed, is convincingly handled. So is the role of women. Liz has to remind Tom, thinking of signing on as a regular, that the world has changed: she is a bread-winner. The play is not a simple paean to union power: Connie is shocked that George sees the loss of Jud even more as the loss of a good union man than as the loss of a much-loved son and an argument between George and Liz about the treatment of strike-breakers is remarkably even-handed.
For all that Castleton and Melting Shop’s political stance is clear enough and the audience at the Mining Museum empathised with it whole-heartedly. Charlie Kenber’s unobtrusively shrewd direction capitalises on this. The distinction between cast and audience is blurred, not by audience participation, but much more naturally. The acting area is a simple square, before the start the actors set out furniture and props, adjust the lights and chat a bit, items of clothing or props are left under audience seats for the cast to collect later.
Ray Ashcroft is outstanding as George, the authentic voice of four generations of miners, stubbornly uncompromising in good cause or bad, totally convincing in all he does, even to the manipulation of his spectacles. Kate Wood (Connie) bustles around like a less eccentric Hilda Ogden, Adam Horvath (Tom) and Lizzie Frain (Liz) both let us see their characters develop through the play. All four form a powerful ensemble, not least in the “This is my town” recital, an echo of the opening, that provides a moving finale.

Hear what other audiences said here

Buxton Fringe

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Thursday 13 July 2017

Youth Company Opera to premiere in Buxton on Sunday

There’s a chance for all the family to experience the thrill of the opera at this year’s Buxton Fringe as Opera North Youth Company head to Derbyshire to perform Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow, a musical version of Hilaire Belloc’s classic Cautionary Tales.  

The Opera North Youth Company comprises young singers and aspiring orchestral players from in and around Leeds. It grew out of the Opera North Youth Chorus, a group of 14 to 19-year-olds who meet weekly at Opera North, one of Europe’s leading arts organisations, to explore their creativity and gain practical experience in music, singing, drama, composition and direction under the guidance of professional artists. For this occasion, they have been joined by a more recently formed ensemble of young musicians who have been honing their skills on their chosen instruments under the guidance of highly experienced tutors and members of the Orchestra of Opera North.

The Youth Company will perform Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow at 5pm in The Pavilion Theatre on Sunday 16 July. Written by composer Stephen Deazley, the one act opera follows Dr Ferret and his Sweetheart as they set out to discover just how mischievous today’s children really are. As the couple’s adventure unfolds, the doctor tells the curious story of Matilda whose compulsive lies led to a terrible fire, Henry King who ate too much string, Jim who had a rather unfortunate encounter with a lion, and George, a small boy who manages to create a large amount of trouble.

Jacqui Cameron, Opera North Education Director, said:

“We’re delighted to be performing at such a highly-regarded festival as the Buxton Fringe. At Opera North, we aim to give young people as many opportunities as possible to become involved with music whether they prefer singing or playing an instrument - and to broaden their musical horizons by arranging performances not only in their home city but throughout the UK and overseas.

“By doing so, we hope to create lifelong memories and to inspire a lasting love of music among all the young people who take part.”

Tickets for the Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow performance in the Pavilion Theatre are available for £8 per person at The performance is suitable for ages 8+ and lasts around an hour.

After its premiere at Buxton Fringe, Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow will tour to Middleton Hall as part of Hull 2017 UK City of Culture, and to the Tête à Tête Festival at The Place in London. Later in the year, the young people are travelling to Denmark to join Den Jyske Opera Education for three performances in Aarhus, 2017 European Capital of Culture, as part of the 2017 GrowOp! Festival.

Opera North’s education programme is generously funded by Opera North Future Fund and The Whitaker Charitable Trust. Opera North Youth Chorus is supported by The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation and the Backstage Trust.
Buxton Fringe

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Wednesday 12 July 2017

If you go down to the park...

Pride picnic cake from Little Chekky Cakes

Stone and Water’s Gordon MacLellan recently spoke to The Buxton Advertiser about the group’s Fringe events including a Pride picnic and a children’s workshop. This is the full transcript of the interview, which was edited down for the paper's Festival and Fringe supplement. 

What is your role in Stone and Water and can you tell me more about what it does and the philosophy behind it? 

Stone and Water sets out to find ways of “celebrating the people, landscape and creativity of the Peaks”. Over the last 12 years we’ve led all sorts of projects from exploring the ancient worlds that gave us the Peak District limestone to having a whole series of picnics revolving around helping people get to know our local wild flowers, trees and insects. I am one of the founder-members of the group and do most of the fund-raising and project management

2. Tell me more about Tiny! and the thinking behind that. What's in store for families at the Fringe this year with Beasts, Birds and Butterflies? 

We’ve been doing “Tiny!” days as Stone and Water events for 6 or 7 years now. The idea behind it is that you make nothing larger than your hand and every year we have a different theme. There was a Tiny! Lantern Parade, Tiny! Pirates, Tiny! Dragons, Tiny! Princesses, dragons and monsters, more Tiny! Pirates. These sessions are free and open to anyone who wants to drop-by and join in. We set up on the grass near the children’s playground and usually are visited by 70 or 80 people during a day, mostly families. This year we’ll be making lots of little animals as finger puppets. We’re sort of planning garden wildlife: bumblebees, butterflies, ladybirds, mice and so on but we’ll help people in whatever direction they want to go so I am rather expecting there will be some Tiny! lions, wolves and dolphins, too!

3. Tell me more about the Pride Picnic and what people should expect? Can anyone come regardless of gender/sexual orientation? 

The Pride Picnic is part of our “celebrating people and creativity” theme. We would like to offer a picnic blanket where people can be themselves and where the diversity and richness of our High Peak people can be celebrated. The core of volunteers involved are of various genders and orientations and we’ll offer some queer poetry during the picnic and maybe some “instant slap” dramatic makeup. We are hoping for rainbow cakes as well and possibly rainbow sandwiches. The heart of this is a safe but public place and we will welcome anyone who comes with a warm heart and a cheerful smile, regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation - and who leaves sexism, hetero-sexism, racism and other unpleasantnesses behind!

4. Do you see it as a political gesture or just a bit of fun or both? 

The Pride Picnic is a bit of fun but it is also a political statement that says “we are all part of the people of the Peaks” and this is a small gesture on our part towards recognising some of that diversity and the creative richness it brings to the Peak.

5. Do you think these are good times for LGBT+ community or the opposite? 

Speaking personally (not as a S&W rep), I feel that in some ways these are good times for LGBT+ people: we are more public and more recognised and accepted than (perhaps) ever before. But almost because of that apparent acceptance, the wider public are less aware of the prejudice that LGBT+ people still experience. People are still thrown out of their homes, or “queer-bashed”, or heckled and harassed in the street.

6. Could you give me a potted biography of yourself - how did you become a storyteller and is that how you would define yourself? How long have you lived in Buxton and where are you from originally? 

I’ve been working as a full-time self-employed artist and storyteller since 1995. As “Creeping Toad” (my freelance identity), most of my work revolves around environmental themes and my work finds ways of celebrating the relationships between people, places and wildlife. I trained as a zoologist and a teacher and worked in environmental and formal (secondary) education for about 8 years before going freelance. I grew up in Cumbernauld, one of the Scottish new towns just outside Glasgow. Before arriving in Buxton, I also lived in Durham, Manchester and spent my first 3 years of teaching in Malawi in Africa. I’ve lived in Buxton for 16 years now and love this meeting place of a town: a crossroads where the wildness of the hills and dales intersects with the easy access to Manchester and a wider urban world.

7. What are you up to right now?  

Just now? I am up in the north of Scotland on a Creeping Toad projects: I have 4 weeks of storytelling in schools around the Highland Region and then a week on Orkney. Stone and Water is just a small part of my work and our projects are focussed on the Peaks.

8. How long have you been performing at the Fringe and what does the Fringe mean to you? 

I have been doing various things in the Fringe for maybe 14 years. There are the Tiny! sessions, and there have been storytelling for High Peak Community Arts and on the Grinlow Art and Storytelling Trail. I also coordinated the Grinlow Poetry Trail a couple of years ago. I like the Fringe: I like the sense of creativity that fills the town and the audiences that will come and cheerfully watch, join in or simply laugh. Events like the Trails have been great opportunities for local artists to collaborate, making new connections and friendships beyond the moment of our event.

9. How did you get to be called Toad?

I have been a Toad person since I could walk. Toads are my totem animals. The patient watchful consideration of a toad is a great skill to cultivate. And I just like them and have been called Toad for years. When i first set up my self-employed business 30 years ago “toad” had to be in the title and “Creeping Toad” just seemed to work. Now, I am even a Trustee for the delightful charity Froglife who are dedicated to the conservation of British reptiles and amphibians and research into their lives and education about how wonderful they are! At home, my house tends to become a refuge for exotic amphibians with nowhere else to go: fire-bellied toads, dwarf African frogs and axolotls at the moment!

Buxton Fringe

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Saturday 8 July 2017

Heard the one about the carrot, the soldier and the zombie?

The Carrot Nappers add fun on the carnival float

At the end of a perfect Carnival day, it feels as if the Lord of Misrule took a particular interest in the Fringe float - why else would we be visited by a giant carrot, a First World War soldier and a zombie? 

Maybe it was the sunshine, but this was probably the best performer involvement we have ever had so thank you Carrot Nappers, Luna C (producer of soldiers, monks and kings), Zombie Teacher and zombie child. We were also delighted to welcome improv comedian Mike Raffone from Brain Rinse, who nearly passed out with unexpected Buxton sunstroke, Shakespeare's Jukebox and the dapper Close Enough crowd, who wowed the float with their melodious barbershop singing. 

The fact that we were also joined by some lovely French lads in dresses is by the by. Suffice to say that it all added to the magic of an occasion that saw crowds of onlookers lining the streets, spontaneous African dancing (by the French boys), and orange Fringe balloons just about everywhere.

Without our trusty truck, none of this would be possible so thank you Lomas and a big thanks too to all our volunteers who donned orange T-shirts or fancy dress and blew up endless balloons,climbed up ladders, took photos and put up with me barking orders at them.

After a restorative glass of wine I was out again enjoying Whispering Woods' storytelling and acrobatics in the golden light of Grinlow Woods on a summer evening. What a fabulous day. Why not join in the fun and let us know what you've been seeing and doing at Buxton's biggest ever Fringe? We'd also love to see your pictures!

Buxton Fringe

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Tuesday 4 July 2017

New Orleans Blues & Boogie at the Hydro

One of the joys of Festivals like the Fringe is that so many venues in the town join in the fun. Among this year's treats is the return of New Orleans piano virtuoso Dale Storr - who is paying at the excellent Hydro Restaurant on Saturday 8th July from 8pm.

Dale has many friends in Buxton already, and makes more with every visit. Later this year he is playing at the Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival which writes this about Dale:

"Dale Storr's musical journey has taken him from his rural Lincolnshire upbringing to his own musical mecca, New Orleans. Dale's early musical interests were inspired by his parents' record collection of early rock'n'roll and country music. His interest grew deeper when he began playing the piano at the age of six, cocking an ear to the piano-based music of Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino. The slip-note piano of stylist Floyd Cramer was also another influence that had entered Dale's musical sub-consciousness. As a young boy, his emerging talent led to him winning numerous school and county music competitions as a solo instrumentalist. He also started performing live in local venues at the age of ten, playing organ.

Dale's ambition has always been to play the music of New Orleans, which can be anything from a classically influenced minuet, a latin rhumba, a back o' town junker blues to a frenzied boogie woogie. As seen with every Dale Storr performance, he's certainly fulfilling that ambition.'

He has continuously toured the UK as far and wide as Penzance to the Shetland Islands, whilst also taking in much of mainland Europe winning over a legion of fans overwhelmed by his mastery of New Orleans Piano. He has reached the finals of the British Blues Awards seven years in succession and also won the 2015 best musical performance award at the Buxton Fringe Festival."

“A Tour-de-force of Rockin' New Orleans Piano” - Blues Matters Magazine
“Dale is the best New Orleans player I've ever heard” - Richard Hawley
 “I've seen Dr.John's shadow” David Barard (bass player for Dr.John)

Buxton Fringe

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Sunday 2 July 2017

The Rotunda: the Buxton Fringe's newest venue

Ross Ericson in "The Unknown Soldier"

Ross Ericson, co-founder of theatre company Grist to the Mill, is the man behind Buxton’s newest managed venue, a 120-seat pop-up studio theatre housed in a geodesic dome. [A question for Ross when you see him: "What distinguishes a geodesic dome from a spiegeltent?]. Here is the full transcript of his recent interview with The Buxton Advertiser. The Rotunda - should be in place by tea-time on Monday, July 3rd. Do come and have a look and take some pics/

Please could you tell me something about your own background?

Very much like JD Salinger I'm not keen on the David Copperfield kind of thing, but let’s just say I have been a soldier, a theme park designer and even a teacher – but mostly an actor.  I started acting in my mid twenties, gave it a go for a while but then found more lucrative ways of spending my time.  Then, 8 years ago, I went back to it and haven't looked back – second time lucky as they say.  Now I am busier than ever and have had two plays published by Bloomsbury and a third on the way.

What is the motivation behind the Rotunda and why did you choose to launch it in Buxton?

We are losing many small and medium sized venues across the UK and due to the current economic squeeze those that survive are being used more and more for youth theatre or community outreach programmes – these projects receive more solid Arts Council support.  This means it can be incredibly difficult for touring companies like ourselves to find performance space or sensible dates. With the Rotunda we can now turn up with our own theatre and set up in the car park if needs be. We aren't competing with these venues but working with them, augmenting their space with a temporary studio theatre. We see this as a way of breathing new life into British touring theatre.

We wanted to bring our current productions – The Unknown Soldier, Gratiano and The Empress and Me – to the Buxton Fringe and as The Rotunda was going to be built by then we thought why not bring it with us and launch it there, and when we found we could pitch up in the Pavilion Gardens it was a no brainer. And to be frank we couldn't have picked a finer Fringe to launch at; everybody has been so helpful and it really feels as if the whole town is pulling together.

What are its special features as a venue?

Its flexibility as a space is its major selling point.  We will be using a straightforward, end on configuration for Buxton, but the seating can be set up in the round, or in traverse or any way you want – and quite quickly.  It also has a very flexible stage that can be expanded up to 40sqm if required.  There aren't many studio spaces that can boast that sort of space.

Your own theatre company has had a lot of success - could you tell me something about the reaction that The Unknown Soldier has had, both critically and with the public?

It has been quite overwhelming.  We knew that The Unknown Soldier was a good piece but we didn't expect it to take off as it did.  It took a while for people to realise it was not just another WW1 play, that it looked at that terrible conflict from a new viewpoint, but now that they have we are regularly selling out venues countrywide.  We even sold out at Edinburgh Fringe last year, which was incredible.

Could you offer a bit of a summary of some of the highlights of your programme in Buxton and what excites you about it?

I love our programme.  I think it is an exciting and eclectic mix of some really great productions. Besides our own shows there is the fantastic I Found My Horn, Jonathan Guy-Lewis' one man tour-de-force which is simply brilliant, and then we have the Wonderful Alison Skilbeck in Mrs Roosevelt Flies To London – she was on before us at the Assembly in Edinburgh and sold out too.  Tayo Aluko was also with us in Edinburgh and we are so pleased we've managed to persuade him to bring his shows Call Mr. Robeson and Just an Ordinary Lawyer to Buxton – he really is a seriously talented bloke.  The show I am really looking forward to seeing for the first time is James Hurn's one man Hancocks Half Hour. And for Pinter buffs we have Harry Burton introducing his Film Working With Pinter, and giving us some personal insights into his time working with the great man.

Do you have a vision for the kind of things you would like the Rotunda to put on and are you planning to return next year?

Yes, we are already planning next year.  We want to become a permanent fixture at Buxton and next year we will be bringing Red Dragonfly's new touring production of Monkey, based on the Chinese classic A Journey to The West.  

What do you think is the role of a managed venue and what can you offer performers that they wouldn't get if they just hired a church hall somewhere for example.

We are there to support our acts not just to rent space to them.  As a company we have been there, seen it, done it and got the T Shirt – there is nothing we haven't experienced – and we know a supportive venue is a successful venue, and as you know success breeds success. We will support our companies with marketing and production and do our utmost to make sure all their hard work pays off and they reach the audience they deserve.

Do you see yourselves as being in competition with Underground Venues?

Absolutely not.  I know some consider there to be a finite audience, but if that is the case then the Fringe is doomed to failure.  What we hope to do by throwing our hat into the ring is to help expand that audience, create a greater awareness of the Fringe and what it has to offer. All venues at any Festival are symbiotic and we expect to benefit the festival as much as benefiting from it. The more the merrier as they say.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Just that we are extremely excited to be launching The Rotunda at the Buxton Fringe and are looking forward to being part of, what we expect soon will be, England's biggest Fringe Festival.
Please note the Rotunda programme has been amended since the brochure was published. For the latest news please see the updated diary.

Buxton Fringe

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Saturday 1 July 2017

Talking to the Underground guys

Tom Crawshaw & Yaz Al-Shaater (with Michael Grady-Hall, left) as Three's Company

Tom Crawshaw and Yaz Al-Shaater, founders of Underground Venues, are
preparing for a completely different Fringe this year. Here we bring you the full
transcript of their interview with The Buxton Advertiser. [Wisely, the Advertiser cut some of this for the print edition - but Blog readers are made of sterner stuff and can cope with all of this].
1. Tell us about your new venue this year and the pros and cons of it
compared to The Old Hall
Yaz: After 10 years underneath The Old Hall, we’re setting up residency upstairs at The Old Clubhouse for 2017. It’s a wonderful set of rooms with plenty of space for both seeing shows, hanging out and soaking up the Fringe atmosphere.
Tom: I guess the main benefit might be that you can walk around at The Clubhouse without banging your head, and you can generally see where you’re going. The only drawback is needing to recreate the atmosphere we had before – but with the support of our artists, audiences and staff we think we’ve got a shot.
Yaz: It’s also even nearer our other venue at the Pavilion Arts Centre. While the Old Hall was a ‘stone’s throw’ away, the Clubhouse literally is a stone’s throw away – should we need to get any stones from one venue to another.
2. How important to you is the Pavilion Arts Centre as a venue?
Tom: It’s the perfect complement to what we have at the Clubhouse. If our two
venues were our two children, the Arts Centre would be the child… that can take
larger scale shows and seat more people.
Yaz: I don’t think that metaphor really works.
Tom: It’s allowed us to take some of our most exciting work so far – big names and big shows – and we’re very much continuing that this year.
3. Could you tell us why and how you are using a fridge as a venue - is it the
smallest venue the Fringe has ever had do you think?!
Yaz: We wanted to take advantage of our new space and offer something totally
different – a unique artistic moment and true Fringe experience. Buxton Fringe has always been about a close relationship between artists and audience.
Tom: We should probably point out, it isn’t the sort of fridge you have in your house, just to reassure people.
Yaz: It’s about the size of a small toilet. Or the average London flat. With a full
capacity of three audience members it probably is the smallest yet.
Tom: Didn’t someone use an actual toilet as a venue once?
Yaz: No, I think you imagined that.
4. Did you consider a new name now that you are upstairs rather than
Yaz: No, I like the name Yaz.
Tom: I don’t think that’s what she meant.
Yaz: Oh.
Tom: We did consider it, but we hope that Underground has enough of a name in Buxton now that no one is going to try digging under the Clubhouse to find the venue.
Yaz: Underground, to us, has always meant secret, undiscovered and out of the
ordinary. Our founding principle was to find new work that wasn’t getting a platform and bring it to a new audience, and to oppose censorship and celebrate diversity.
Hopefully Underground, the name and the venue, still stand for that.
5. Could you offer a bit of a summary of some of the highlights of your
programme in Buxton and what excites you about it?
Tom: Having fewer performance spaces this year has forced us to really focus on the shows that excite us the most, and we’ve been able to curate a programme that takes in voices from the whole of the UK and internationally. There’s And The Rope Still Tugging Her Feet set in Ireland, Beerey set on the Isle Of White, Eastern European folk and a new play about Nikola Tesla from Philadelphia.
Yaz: We’ve also actively recruited some of the best work we’ve seen around the
country, such as Labels which won a Fringe First in Edinburgh last year and rising star of musical comedy Harriet Braine.
Tom: It’s undoubtedly our best comedy line-up ever. If you don’t like stand-up
comedians, you should probably leave Buxton this July.
6. Do you see yourself as being in competition with the Rotunda, which is also
offering a managed venue experience this year?
Yaz: We hadn’t really thought of them as competition - we both have something very different to offer. I guess technically they are, in that we both want to get people through the doors. But mostly we share a goal: to convince everyone to take a three-week break from Netflix or the usual routine, and come see some live performance.
Tom: Managed venues raise the profile of the whole Fringe, so the more the merrier!
We’ve been amazed at how the Fringe has grown since we first got involved, as
children, back in 2002. Anything that helps that growth continue is good for
Yaz: It shows how respected the Fringe is that more and more people are attracted to set up venues here. There are so many great spaces. This little festival packs a lot of weight on the national circuit.
Tom: Actually I’ve changed my mind, a bitter rivalry would be good publicity.
Yaz: Oh ok. Um... “we’re awesome and circles are silly”.
Tom: Yeah. Nice.
7. What do you think is the role of a managed venue and what can you offer
performers that they wouldn't get if they just hired a church hall somewhere for example.
Yaz: When it’s done right, you get a smooth, enjoyable, true ‘Fringe’ experience.
That means great art, and great community. No-one’s on their own at a managed venue – there’s always fellow artists, the venue team, and a loyal audience who come back every year. A space where all those people come together is what makes a good managed venue.
Tom: But there are practical aspects as well. We can give acts advice and support on everything from where to sleep, where to put up posters, to what jokes to tell about mineral water.
Yaz: And we have some very cool tech equipment. That always helps.
8. Last year you celebrated your 10th anniversary - do you see this as the
beginning of a new era and what are your plans for the future?
Tom: Very much. We were always on borrowed time at the Old Hall – for ten years we expected them to move in with wrecking balls and water pumps at any moment.
Yaz: I mean I think they’d have waited till we got the audience out…
Tom: Now we have the chance to plan for the future with a bit more security. We’re very excited about continuing to grow the Buxton Fringe and focusing more on actively supporting some specific work. Buxton is already more cultural and open-minded than most towns its size and there’s no reason it can’t host programmes as exciting as cities ten (a hundred) times its size.
9. You have had some adventures with performers in the past (eg Mr Piffles).
Are you in trepidation re any of your acts this year?!
Yaz: Well Juliet Meyers also has a show with a dog in it – but we’re not expecting him to run on stage in the middle of someone else’s performance like Mr Piffles (the dog of Piff The Magic Dragon).
Tom: Who, incidentally, is performing nightly in Vegas now! Never let it be said the Buxton Fringe isn’t a fantastic stepping stone for talented young dogs who dream of stardom.
Yaz: Cameryn Moore always raises as few eyebrows with her erotica ‘smut stand’ on the Opera House forecourt. We also have a local drag act, an opera about Kim Kardashian, and a show called Throbbing Member – I think it will be a fun Fringe.
10. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Tom: We’d like to take the chance to thank the management and all the staff at The Old Clubhouse who’ve been so welcoming and accommodating in helping make our new venue a possibility. We can’t wait to work with them to make 2017 our best Fringe yet. And all the staff at the Opera House for continuing to support us at the Arts Centre.
Yaz: And to thank all our performers… and our audiences. And the Fringe
committee. And our mums.
Tom: Calm down now, this isn’t the Oscars.

Buxton Fringe

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Twitter: @buxtonfringe

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Buxton 'Pumps It Up' for World Fringe Day

Buxton Festival Fringe will join fringe festivals across the globe on Tuesday July 11th to celebrate the inaugural World Fringe Day. Buxton’s own event – “Pump It Up!” – will also be the first chance for many to see one of the town’s great old buildings re-opened.

2017 marks 70 years since the birth of the fringe concept, with the founding of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1947. The spark that was ignited in Edinburgh has circled the globe and there are now more than 200 fringes worldwide – and Buxton Festival Fringe, which began in 1980, is one of the oldest. This year’s Buxton Fringe runs from July 5-23 and World Fringe Day will be marked with 12 hours of events in Buxton’s historic Pump Room.

Keith Savage, from Buxton Fringe, said: “World Fringe Day is a fantastic opportunity for people to come together and celebrate all that is great about fringe. Fringes come in many different shapes and sizes but are united in their dedication to providing platforms for artists to bring their work to new audiences, allowing them to share their ideas and develop their skills. We can’t wait to join with our sister fringes for a very special day of worldwide fringe fun.

“We are especially excited to be able to tie this in with an important phase of Buxton’s re-development and the restoration of the Crescent and Pump Room. The Pump Room which will opening as a Visitor Experience in 2019 and run by the Buxton Crescent & Thermal Spa Heritage Trust, will be hosting events for World Fringe Day. We will be putting together a rich and varied programme of events including music, theatre, visual arts and spoken word from 10am till 10pm."

Liz Mackenzie – Engagement and Events Manager for the Buxton Crescent & Thermal Spa Heritage Trust– said: " We are thrilled to be part of World Fringe Day. Buxton Fringe has been so important for the town's cultural scene for many years and we look forward to working with the Fringe during the next exciting phase of the Pump Room and Crescent's history".

Full details of “Pump It Up!” will be published on the Fringe website shortly –

Buxton Fringe

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Losing some, winning one

Photo: Harold White Collection

It is in the nature of Festivals like ours that there will always be late changes to the programme originally announced. Sometimes shows get cancelled; sometimes shows are added late on.
See this page for our Fringe updates:
So far, this year, three shows have had to be cancelled: South African Voices; South African Gumboot Dance; and Tomorrow is Your Hope.

On the plus side we are pleased to announce a new show - On Behalf of the People which is presented by The Melting Shop who tell us that:

‘On Behalf of The People’ is a rich, engaging story of a post-war mining family coming to terms with their rapidly changing world and lives, commissioned by the National Coal Mining Museum. We follow miner George Mason and his wife Connie, parents to their returning solider son Tom, and his fiancée Liz, from the immediate aftermath of the war through the enormous social and political changes over the next few years which has a direct effect on them, their relationships and community.

The play has been created as part of the National Coal Mining Museum’s exhibition and activities marking 70 years since the nationalisation of the UK coal mining industry in 1947, and is a new and unique way of spreading the word of untold coal mining stories. The National Coal Mining Museum seeks to build their reputation by commissioning exclusive arts and culture events which will engage people in the history of coal mining and its stories.

The play, written by Ray Castleton, is based on his extensive research and the true stories of those who lived through the period. Through the Mason family ‘On Behalf of The People’ reveals how millions of people in mining communities in this country were affected by the end of the war, coal nationalisation and the huge period of social change which impacted on their lives, love, hopes and dreams. The play is laced with dry, northern humour and a sense of realism and seeks to keep stories of coal mining alive through all generations.

‘On Behalf of The People’ will tour in venues across Yorkshire and Derbyshire during July. Performances will be staged in a mix of spaces starting at the National Coal Mining Museum, Wakefield on 7th – 9th July and then moving onto a variety of village halls, social clubs, community centres and some established theatre venues.

Speaking about writing and researching the play, Ray Castleton said: “When I was asked to write a play about the nationalisation of the mining industry I knew it had to be about the people not the politics. To understand our history, it’s best to reveal it through the eyes and lives of those it affected the most – the workers and their families. Some of the content of the play is based on my own family’s true stories and also those of former miners who lived through the period and their sons and daughters.”

Commenting on the commission Mike Benson, Museum Director at the National Coal Mining Museum, said: “We are delighted to team up with The Melting Shop and Ray Castleton to produce a new piece of theatre which helps to tell the story of the human impact of the nationalisation of the mining industry on the lives of those it affected the most – the miners and their families. This play is part of our wider activity to engage with arts companies to perform their work at the museum and beyond to tell stories that connect us to our industrial past and future.”
‘On Behalf of The People’ is directed by Charlie Kenber, former resident assistant director, and director at Crucible Studio. The cast includes Sheffield-based actors Ray Ashcroft as George, who many will remember from his TV role in The Bill, and Kate Wood a well-known theatre performer with credits including a national tour of The Full Monty and Brassed Off at Derby Playhouse. Tom will be played by Adam Horvath from Derby and Doncaster’s Lizzie Frain will play Liz.

There is a single performance, at the United Reformed Church on July 19th at 7.30pm.

Buxton Fringe

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Twitter: @buxtonfringe