Wednesday 28 July 2021

It's a Wrap! Fringe Awards Ceremony 2021 Chair's Speech

Fringe chair Stephen Walker (credit: Ian J. Parkes)

The Fringe has come to an end, we have held our Awards Ceremony, packed up the Fringe Desk, and all gone for a well-deserved rest.

The awards and nominations are published, and the Chair's speech from Sunday is reproduced as follows:

Three weeks of fabulous Theatre and Art, Comedy and Music, and it all culminates in a speech by me. You deserve better.

One of the things I have been asked most this Fringe, and I guess it would be the same in any Fringe, is “How’s it going?”. My answer has been, “Well, it’s going, and I’m just happy that we have achieved that”.

But while I am delighted that we have been able to go ahead after 18 months of COVID (that’s going to be my only use of the C word), and that we have reached the end of the Fringe without major incident, which is something for us all to be very proud of, we have, or should I say, the performers have made this an excellent Fringe. Given the difficulties of getting together to rehearse and prepare shows, let alone finding anywhere to put them on, the quality of work on offer at this Fringe has been wonderful. We will recognise that in the awards very shortly (I promise), but first I want to thank everyone that has done anything to help make this event happen.

Before I get going, I’d like to thank Carole Garner for organising this venue for us, and the Serpentine Community Garden for hosting this awards ceremony. It is a great place to be, and nice to be in the open air. Thank you also to Ian Parkes who is doing photography of the Awards for us.
There are so many people I need to thank, but to start from the beginning, I want to thank the Fringe committee, as capable and enthusiastic a bunch of people as you could find. Over my two years as Chair, I have delegated more and more, and they just keep absorbing all the jobs that need doing. I am very grateful to each and every one of them.

It has been great to see the new initiatives that come up every year, even more so when I have nothing to do with them! So, thank you to Viv, Carole, Pam, Sandra, Linda and all those involved in our Orange floral hotspots this year. Thanks also to Rob Harrison, committee member and also Morrisons Community Champion who organised some flowers from Morrisons for us, Kinders Garden Little Shop of Flowers - the new Florist where the Fringe desk once was, and all the shops and businesses that have hosted Orange hotspots!

You’ll know that we didn’t publish listings in the programme this year, simply because the programme was so volatile right up until the Fringe started, but I would like to thank our designer Jon Tromans, who working with Steph, put together our new format guide, and has dealt patiently with lots of changes this year.

During the Fringe itself the face of the Fringe is the Fringe Desk, and as you will have seen we are in a new location this year. We are very grateful to Paul Kelsall and Parkwood Leisure for making this space available, it has worked very well.

Thank you to Gaye for leading the efforts to get set up in our new space, and to our desk managers Alice, Denise, and Cameron. You have made a great team, and I appreciate how much you have done this year. Also, to all the volunteers who also help out at the desk, some are members of the committee, but others are just here to help the Fringe and do their bit. Thank you.

Tomorrow we’ll be back there for the get out, and then Ian Hamilton has the job of getting our archive sorted out.

During the Fringe, there is a lot of work to keep the programme up to date with late changes, and making sure Reviews are covered and published on time so a special thank you to Steph, Ian and Robbie for staying abreast of everything, and particularly to our webmaster Dan, who deals with so many changes without complaint. Many thanks also to our army of Reviewers who have made sure we have covered every show once again.

This year has been particularly difficult for venues. The changing rules in the run up to the Fringe have been a constant challenge, not to mention the changing rules during the Fringe! I think we all appreciate the efforts that they have gone to to make their venues both safe and welcoming.

Underground Venues have come and built their theatre above the Old Clubhouse as usual, but it has been a massive commitment to come here in the circumstances. It meant a lot to the Fringe that you were here, so many, many thanks to Tom, Zoe, Dylan, Gemma, Nina, Oliver and all the team there.

The Green Man Gallery has become a real stalwart of the Fringe and a cultural hub all year round. Caroline at the gallery kept slots open for everyone who wanted to come in 2019 and wasn’t able to, and despite performers’ and artists’ changing plans, has kept a full programme of events going. Thank you to Caroline and all who have helped at the Green Man.

Buxton URC and the High Peak Bookstore have come into their own as venues this year and we have seen some great performances and healthy audiences at both. Thank you to Lesley and the URC, and Louisa at the Bookstore, and all our venues for your support this year.

Financially, the last couple of years have been difficult. We waived all entry fees last year, and have kept them low this year, and we have also lost some of our sources of funding, so I would like to thank High Peak Borough Council who continue to support us.

For two years now our Fringe Friends have been our main financial contributors. We are very grateful to all who support us in this way, and if anyone would like to become a Fringe Friend, please have a look at the forms within our Fringe guides, or have a look online. It is a small individual contribution, but collectively it means a lot to us. Thank you to Jeanette who looks after our Friends for us.

I know many people have not felt ready to go out to shows and it has had an impact on audience numbers, but we respect everybody’s individual decisions, we all have to make our own judgements on what we feel comfortable doing, and we hope to see all our regulars back in future years.

But I would especially like to thank all the audiences who did come out to see our events this year, and trusted our venues and performers to keep them safe. It has meant the world to us to see people at shows and engaging with the Fringe. As audience members ourselves we have been so glad to be able to go and see Theatre and Art, Comedy, Music and Spoken Word, and all the other events that have made up this Fringe.

Of course, none of this is possible without all the performers and artists who have created and performed for us this Fringe. It would of course be nothing without you. The last 18 months have been particularly difficult for the arts, as work has dried up, and many have gone without government support. In the run up to the Fringe it has been hard to meet and rehearse, there have not been as many opportunities to perform prior to Buxton, and of course you have had to perform in socially distanced conditions.

We are so grateful for your resilience and perseverance, and for bringing your work to us. In Buxton, we consider ourselves very lucky to be among the first to enjoy a festival of art this summer. We are about to recognise excellence at these awards, and of course, we can’t mention everyone, but more than ever, I would like to thank every single artist, performer, writer and backstage crew who contributed to this very special Fringe.

Thank you. Here’s to a continuing recovery in the arts, and to all the Fringes to come.

Buxton Fringe

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Wednesday 21 July 2021

Madam Renards presents Battle Cry by Matt Fox

Steve Cowley in Battle Cry

“For those who’ve witnessed the worst things imaginable, the world can never be the same again; and for those that haven’t the least we can do is listen”

High Peak Bookstore, July 23rd & 24th as part of the Buxton Fringe Festival, 7pm doors, 8pm performance

This is the story of Adam, a British soldier who after 25 years of service now suffers with PTSD. Finally, he has agreed to attend a support session…but why doesn’t he want to talk about it? Maybe discussing the details hasn’t helped in the past? Maybe he feels misunderstood? Maybe he’s just not a guy who talks about his feelings? Or…maybe talking and reliving it is part of the problem? Adam feels alone and alienated; he believes that no one can possibly understand the problem as they weren’t there. They didn’t see the things he saw…it doesn’t come flooding back to them every time they close their eyes…

Some wounds are invisible. Adam’s certainly are. But is this a story where all hope is lost. Or could there be a future for Adam?? Maybe being heard is the first step?

Battle Cry is a play which gives a chance for such voices to be heard. Adam tells a story that will strike a chord with every military sufferer of PTSD, based on the true story of real-life people whose lives have been torn apart by the condition. The play is stark, uncompromising and most importantly genuine…as only true authenticity is appropriate for such subject matter.

Through diligent research with PTSD sufferers, Matt Fox & Steve Cowley have distilled the poignant, universal truth from the voices of many who have and do suffer every day from the effects of this condition. Battle Cry creates an authentic fiction from fact that will speak to every PTSD sufferer. This play is desperately needed as even now, these sufferer’s voices are not being heard. Why? Is it part of the training? Is it culture? Or are military personnel just expected to keep this quiet? Maybe the world believes they wouldn’t make good soldiers if they dealt with the emotional ramifications of their day job? Battle Cry is not a political piece of work; we make no comment on why these people have had to do the job they do. Rather we look at the results of these decisions, to speak to a wide audience and bring about awareness of this most pressing of issues through storytelling. A true, emotive human story being the most powerful way to get this message out. These soldiers shouldn’t have to explain themselves, but the world needs to hear their story.

We are thrilled to be finally returning to a live theatre tour after an unimaginably difficult period for the industry. We have kept ourselves busy during the lockdown with writing and online performances, but nothing compares to the experience of standing in the same room as your audience and delivering a play.

Battle Cry is an intense, emotive piece that brings the audience right into the mind of a man on the brink. The pandemic has brought mental health to the front of everyone's mind, and we can't think of a better subject to kick off our touring schedule with.

We hope our audience revel in the unique experience of a live performance and remember why theatre matters so much to us all.

Matt Fox - Writer

Matt Fox has written plays, opera’s and musical adaptations, which have been performed in the UK, U.S, Canada, Mexico and Australia. His most recent piece, ‘Fred Ted, Jack & Harold” toured the UK in 2018/19 before transferring to the USA in Autumn 2019. Matt’s work is published by Roister Doister Publishing Ltd and Off the Wall Plays in the UK and JD Drama Publishing in the USA.

Matt started writing for the theatre as a teenager when he joined a writer’s group at Plymouth Theatre Royal. He was the founder of Swindon Fringe Festival, runs the production company Madam Renards Ltd and is trustee for the JTP Trust, a South West music education charity. He regularly lectures on playwriting and theatre production at a number of UK universities.

Matt has written extensively on subjects, which the world really needs to discuss; whether it’s the ever-growing issues of suicide (To Sleep 2013), poverty (Family Play 2015) or the way we deal with death (The Life We Lived 2016), he has always wanted to cast a light on those areas where real stories need to be told. During the writing process the tales told by the soldiers he interviewed struck such a chord with Matt that he became certain this was one of the most important writing projects he had ever undertaken.

Steve Cowley - Actor

Steve Cowley has enjoyed a long and varied career as an actor, director, lecturer, workshop practitioner and writer. His passion, love and belief in the value of theatre and performance remains as strong and firm as ever.

Steve’s theatre credits include; Michael in (Ab)solution, Macbeth in Macbeth, Landlord in Two, Michael in This is Living, John Proctor in The Crucible, John Merrick in The Elephant Man. Steve created the roles of Soldier in Listen and Man in Dummy House, both of which were solo performance plays.

Steve is passionate about supporting new writers and has been fortunate enough to tour the UK and abroad with many new pieces of work including To Sleep, The Life We Lived and Fred Ted Jack & Harold. In addition to this, Steve has also worked on numerous corporate films and events.

Steve is delighted to not only be working with Matt again, but to be given the opportunity and honour to be the voice of so many PTSD sufferers.

Buxton Fringe

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The Bus Stop

The Bus Stop

A one act play written and directed by Margaret Holbrook, The Bus Stop, is coming to Buxton Fringe.

The play focuses on two people whose paths cross at Bolton Interchange. It's Sunday lunchtime. Jacki and Keith strike up a conversation, share secrets and fears, become friends for the time they're at the bus stop. But that's just the beginning . . .

The Bus Stop will be performed twice at St Mary's Church, Dale Road, Buxton SK17 6NL on Thursday 22nd July a matinee at 2.45pm and in the evening at 7.45pm and there will be a short Q&A after the performances.

Tickets £8, £6, concessions, available from Buxton Opera House, telephone 01298 72190 or on the website: 

Alternatively reserve tickets by calling 07958 079583

Buxton Fringe

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Tuesday 20 July 2021

Fringe 10 to 5 how's it going?

Darren Poyzer

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the makeover we were giving Fringe at 5, which has now been transformed into Fringe 10 to 5. 

Luckily our call for performers and local artists has proved popular and visitors to Pavilion Gardens have been saved from my out of tune croaking.

I caught up with a couple of the buskers to find out what they thought of the new format.

Fringe regular Darren Poyzer was quick off the mark to book a slot; he tweeted me within hours of the blog being posted!

Darren explained that owing to Covid he would be performing his show online again this year. He really liked the idea of doing a busking session to promote his show.  Darren set up on a sunny Friday afternoon and was soon surrounded by a (socially distanced) foot-tapping crowd. "Its great to be performing live again"  and "What a wonderful welcome!", Darren told the audience, before thanking them in song for "the gift of their precious time".

In contrast, Nik Lowe stumbled onto the Busking Spot by pure chance.
Nik Lowe

Nik who's Mum was orginally from Buxton was visiting the town with his girlfriend Jo. As an event singer and songwriter, Nik always has his guitar with him. Given the nice weather he though he'd set up in front of the cafe and entertain the customers. He was quickly signed up to the ""official" Busking Spot by Fringe volunteer Sandra.  "I really love Buxton; it's such an attractive town. We used to visit a lot when I was kid", Nik told me. "The crowd are really lovely and the Fringe Festival is a great event".

The Busking Spot is right by the Fringe desk and volunteers have seen artists performing poetry, theatre, magic, classical and popular music.  Tommy Cooper even stopped by one day.  "It's a great way to promote your act and get people's attention", said desk manager Gaye. "And of course the new hours match the opening time of the Cafe and Gin Garden so you can be sure of an audience", she added.

And with another week of the Fringe to go and the sun set to shine, there's still plenty of time to grab a slot and add to the party atmosphere.

To book your slot call into our friendly Fringe desk at the Pavilion Gardens or email


Buxton Fringe

Thursday 8 July 2021

Buxton Art Trail takes to the Boulevard!

The Fringe Award-winning Buxton Art Trail is reinventing itself as an outdoor exhibition on Buxton’s beautiful Broad Walk this year.

The Pavilion Gardens event, entitled Art on the Railings, is designed to capture some of the atmosphere of the Montmartre art district in Paris, and takes place on Saturday July 10th from 10am to 4.30pm as part of the Buxton Fringe.

A host of local artists will be showing a wide variety of work on the railings and selling cards and artworks, often at bargain prices.

The Art Trail is free to attend but visitors are invited to contact if they would like to donate. Any funds raised will go towards what they hope will be a full Buxton Art Trail across the town for 2022.

Organiser Linda Rolland says, "It should be the biennial Buxton Art Trail this year but, because of Covid, we had to completely rethink what we could do. We have brought back Art on the Railings, one of our earlier ventures, which will be something really fun and low Covid-risk as it is all outdoors. Last time, in 2014, we basked in sunshine as people strolled, browsed and bought artworks in the beautiful ambience of the Broad Walk. With the Pavilion Gardens alongside and Fringe events, including the Sculpture Trail, happening  at the same time, it will be a promenade of delights for art lovers."

Linda added, "We even have alternative dates, 11th, 17th or 18th July if it should rain… but it won’t!"

Confidence... That's what we like to see!

Buxton Fringe

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Tuesday 6 July 2021

Snapshot Stories: Local Lockdown Project comes to the Fringe

‘Live & Local: LivingRoom’ was launched in early summer 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic when the UK was subject to lockdown. Created and managed by Live & Local, the project aimed to connect communities during this difficult time by pairing local community groups with professional artists to work on a creative project together. 

The community of Meon Vale (near Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire) was paired with spoken word artist Naomi Paul to create a collaborative film celebrating this new community’s sense of place, recent history and the importance of the environment during first lockdown period. 

‘Snapshot Stories’ was entirely filmed and recorded by members of the community, with poetry and music by both Naomi (based on interviews with residents) and residents. It features an entertaining ode to the village shop and a musical call to arms with a protest song ‘The Promise of the Woods’ as the community prepares to fight and save a well-loved area of land which is under threat from development. 

In December 2020, following a very active and public residents’ campaign, the community in Meon Vale learned that the development plans for the woodland had been withdrawn and that the woods would be safeguarded for the community. 

This spring the film was shown online at the Brighton Festival Fringe with the SpaceUK. It is now being shown online at Buxton Festival Fringe and is available for free viewing throughout the festival period 7-25th July. 

Find ‘Snapshot Stories’ in the film section here.

Donations to the Meon Vale Residents Association to support the community can be made here

Participants’ comments include:
  • ‘The final outcome is a wonderful piece of work, and like all good artwork, I keep returning to it and thinking.’
  • ‘It’s acted as a catalyst to make new friends on the estate.’
  • ‘It’s brilliant. Well done to you. I am happy to have been a part of it.’

Audience members’ comments include:
  • ‘I loved it - words, music, poetry. It really captured the essence of that slice of lockdown and the importance of woodland to our well- being.’
  • ‘Brilliant and very moving. Enhanced by the beautiful photography and the community voices in the background.’
  • ‘You have drawn together the statements so poetically. And your delivery and the photography is wonderful. Congratulations to all involved.’
Dionne Sambrook, Community Engagement Officer, Live & Local said, "The creative works produced by the community group and artist pairings through the LivingRoom projects have been utterly uplifting and inspiring. In many cases, the process has led to new relationships, new opportunities for learning and a lasting legacy for the communities involved."

Buxton Fringe

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What's making that buzz buzz buzzing noise?

Billy with their friend, the artist Pam Smart

It's the sound of Billie the Bilberry Bumble Bee and his friends! Billie has a bright orange tummy and he lives on the moors high above the town. He and his friends like to visit the town to eat the pollen from flowers in our gardens.

But Billie and his friends need our help. Sadly there aren't enough flowers to feed all the bees. We can help by planting lots more flowers and not cutting the grass too much because the wild flowers in the grass have lots of tasty nectar that the bees love.

In July Billie is visiting Buxton and he is going to be living in Potters department store and he'd love it if all the children came to see him!

What's more, lots of Billie's friends will also be in town; you can follow a trail to find them all.  Pick up a bee safari leaflet from the Pump Room, The Crescent,  if you would like to draw or make your own bee you can copy the photo below of Billie with his best friend artist Pam Smart.

While they are here on holiday, Billie and his friends are going to feast on all the orange flowers that the Buxton Fringe and our friends have been planting around the town. Can you spot any of the orange flowers?

We would love to see your drawings and your photos of bumble bees or orange flowers. Ask Mummy or Daddy to post photos and tag us in at @BuxtonFringe and #FriendsofBuxtonStation.