Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Peter Low

The Buxton Festival began in 1979. The Fringe followed the following year. Among the Fringe supporters from the very beginning were Malcolm Fraser, Alan Bailey and Peter Low. Malcolm died in 2012, Alan last year and with the sad news of Peter's death on October 11th we have lost the last part of the link to the origins of the Fringe.

Peter was an enthusiastic and loyal supporter of the Fringe from the very beginning and his keen and active part this July only encouraged us to believe that he would go on forever. His sudden death aged 79 leaves us shocked - but we must be thankful for all that he gave us.

Peter was well-educated, traveled widely (and he was always a traveler, never a tourist), and read keenly and critically. One of his great loves in life was music - especially that of the great composers. Peter attended many concerts and recitals in Buxton throughout the year and often contributed thoughtful and well-informed reviews to the Buxton Advertiser. We were lucky that he gave so generously to the Fringe in reviewing many performances and always helping when it came to the difficult task of determining awards. It was Peter who famously told us that comparing a symphony orchestra with a jazz quartet was "like comparing a stick insect with a gerbil."

Peter also 'performed' in the Fringe each year - being part of the series of 'Fringe Readings' that are delivered in the Old Hall at weekends. This year Peter read a less-than-flattering portrait of Prince Charles. It wasn't his intended reading - he had hoped to borrow some technology to allow the projection of images to illustrate his chosen text but that fell through. Peter may have seemed, at first sight, to be culturally conservative but what turned out to be his final Fringe reading is a reminder of his intellectual independence.

Peter was a gentle man; he always smiled when he talked and listened to you; he carried his learning lightly - never using his knowledge or experience to put anyone down. These qualities made him him an admirable chair of the Fringe committee, a role he performed for 15 years up until 2004. These were not always easy times financially but Peter ensured the survival of the Fringe and did all that he could to encourage new and young performers.

Those of us that knew Peter well and felt able to call him our friend feel lucky and blessed. We loved him and we miss him. Peter gave much to the artistic and cultural life of Buxton in many ways, over many years. Many of us owe him much.

So, thank you Peter. Our thoughts are of him and our sympathies with his wife, Janet, and their daughters at their loss. We hope that the knowledge of the love and admiration felt for Peter is of some comfort at this painful time.

Keith Savage

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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Thanks & Farewell Fringe 2014

This might be the last Buxton Fringe blog for a while - there is unlikely to be much of any great significance happening over the next 5 weeks or so.

It would be ill-mannered - and we hope we are not that - to sign-off for the summer without thanking everyone who made this Fringe so memorable. Everyone includes thousands of people and most of them are unknown to us so we can't do a roll-call. It would include, however, all those people who opened-up the venues and served tea and biscuits. It would include all the front of house staff, box office staff, technicians and venue managers. It would include our lovely audiences who were unfailingly generous and enthusiastic. It would include the thousands of dancers, comedians, artists, musicians, storytellers, filmmakers and singers who brought their skills and enthusiasm to the Fringe to share with us all.

The Fringe as an organisation is ever grateful to its sponsor, the University of Derby, and all those others that provide practical and financial support, such as: High Peak Borough Council, the Osborne Group, AM Bromley Ltd, the Buckingham Hotel, Buxton Brewery, Buxton Festival, Buxton Opera House, the Green Man Gallery, the Old Hall Hotel and the Pavilion Gardens.

Next year's Buxton Festival is scheduled to take place between 10-26 July. The Fringe dates have yet to be agreed but provisionally they are likely to be 8-26 July. Confirmation of the dates will be posted on the Fringe website as soon as they are confirmed.

Have a fabulous summer everyone and hope to see you all back in Buxton next July.

Buxton Fringe

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The end of another great Fringe

Shakespeare's Jukebox collect their Street Theatre award

Keith has been so efficient at blogging during the Fringe that I haven’t felt the need to intrude. Well it’s all over now and in danger of feeling a little flat so perhaps it is time to round things off with a few words.

It was great to see so many performers and Fringe supporters at the Awards Ceremony on Sunday, a super occasion upstairs at The Old Clubhouse - the venue beautifully Fringeified with bunting and table decorations. While a few will have been disappointed not to receive awards, it was lovely to see the smiling faces of those acts such as Shakespeare's Jukebox (pictured above) who did come away with something. And there were tears of joy from some of the winners with the John Beecher Memorial Award in particular bringing up many emotions. The highly creative Off-Off-Off Broadway Company picked up this award, telling me later that John had been their dear friend and was an inspiration in everything that they do.

Over the coming weeks, certificates will be sent out and the website's gallery pages refreshed. Some of the photos are just fantastic and we should thank our volunteer photographers – Ian J Parkes, Donald Judge, James Bissett and the webmaster Dan Osborne (the latter performing various unwise acrobatics on top of the Fringe float to get the right shot). We are lacking video however so do get in touch if you can plug this gap by posting something on Youtube to which we can link.

The thank you game is a dangerous one as it sometimes seems that the whole town is in on the task of making the Fringe successful, but three cheers for Fringe chair Keith, a ubiquitous figure seeing around 45 shows as well as organising new venture Fringe at Five, and to the tireless Fringe desk managers and volunteers who helped paint the town orange.

See you all next year!

Buxton Fringe

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Friday, 25 July 2014

Last weekend of 35th Buxton Festival Fringe

Well it’s the ‘last chance saloon’ for all Festival Fringe events as the final weekend of the 35th Fringe approaches. Blessed with brilliant weather – apart from the poor old Morris men – there will be much to remember. But first what still can you see and hear?

On Saturday only you could a musical feast: the fabulous K’antu Ensemble bring early music up-to-date with a concert of Shakespeare’s Music at the United Reformed Church at 12.30. At 2pm in St Mary’s Church the Bel Canto Singers will be presenting a programme of songs in joyful summer celebration including a tribute to First World War heroes.

At the Methodist Church at 3pm John Kilpatrick brings the Sheffield Lydian Ensemble for what he says will be his final concert. High standards of musicianship and fun in equal measure is guaranteed in a choral collage that includes John’s Jumblies Suite (‘they went to sea in a sieve they did’).

You could complete a tour of Buxton churches by going to St John’s at 7.30pm to hear the City of Manchester Opera singing some of your favourite arias and choruses. Fringe regulars COMO never let their appreciative audiences down.

If it is folkier, more contemporary, music that you are looking for there is a straight choice at Underground Venues. At 3.45pm The Raintown Seers draw on songs from both sides of the Atlantic in a mix of traditional and original compositions. At 4pm Darren Poyzer delivers the final performance of ‘The War To End All Wars’ – his moving reflections on the First World War.

The excellent Mart Rodger Manchester Jazz will be delivering their own brand of Dixieland and trad jazz at the Methodist Church at 7.30pm

There is a raft of comedy in town. Radio and TV presenter Terry Christian is presenting his ‘Naked Confessions of A Recovering Alcoholic’ which has been touring to great reviews. He is at the 300-seat Arts Centre Auditorium at 8pm. At 9.45 in the Arts Centre Studio is Lolie Ware with ‘Too Cool To Care’ in which she finds humour in her account of life caring for two elderly parents. She totally won-over audiences when she was in Buxton earlier this Fringe.

At Underground Venues you have a choice of late night comedy. Alfie Moore draws on his experience as a police officer for his show ‘The Naked Stun’ which has at its heart the business of trying to catch a flasher. There is plenty of humour but also plenty of exasperation in Alfie’s stories. Simon Feilder starts last at 10.30pm with ‘All the things I’m not’ in which he examines his life so far with the aid of flip charts, histograms and some songs. Simon is worried that much in life he finds difficult – such as relationships – but can he work out ways of coping?

There is plenty available on both Saturday and Sunday. If you haven’t yet seen the free art exhibitions at the Art CafĂ© in the Pavilion Gardens, the town Museum & Art Gallery or The Green Man Gallery then Sunday may be a good opportunity to make good that omission. The galleries are open all day.

Buxton has seen a number of premieres this Fringe. Possibly none has been better than ‘Shrew’ a new play written by, and starring, Ami Jones. The play revisits Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ from the point of view of Kate. She is still angry, hurt, resentful – but she also questions herself and her complicity which led to a life that was not what she wanted or hoped for. This is a totally gripping performance and Ami Jones is a name to watch out for. The last performances are on Saturday at 6.15pm and Sunday at 1pm.

The amiable Doug Devaney is back this weekend with ‘The Angina Monologue’ in which he considers how fags, booze and a fat-filled diet led him to surgery, death’s door and life-style choices. Doug clearly has a message but the story is told in an engaging way and not without humour. Doug finishes at Underground Venues on Sunday at 2.30pm.

Dreamshed Theatre is in town with two very different shows. ‘The Theo The Mouse Show’ is unambiguously a show aimed at children – and their mums, dads or grandparents – and the enthusiastic Fringe reviewer wrote: Although the show had echoes of Basil Brush in its format, it reminded me more of the best kind of panto with singing, dancing, magic and even some ‘Oh no there wasn’t! Oh yes there was!’ moments. There was just the right amount of interactivity, no longueurs, spot on comedy for adults and children alike and not a hint of condescension to younger members of the audience. See Theo at the United Reformed Church at 2pm Saturday and Sunday.

At 7.30pm Dreamshed are back with a very different show – ‘His Letters’. This is a moving one-man play about a man who makes an unusual discovery when clearing out his late mother’s possessions. The reviewer urging you to see the show said: His Letters is an excellent example of story telling that explores family relationships and how we interact with people once they are gone. It strengths were in “how” the story was told rather than “what” story was being told. How the story was told is down to a combination of both the actor and the writing.

The last two events at this year’s Fringe are ‘Swan Canaries’ – also at the United Reformed Church – which tells the story of factory workers in Nottingham who made munitions during the First World War. With a song or two this tells an important story in an accessible way.

Seeing the Fringe out in grand style are the Word Wizards who have put on 16 performance poetry events at the Buckingham Hotel. The last one – starting at 8.15 – includes Derbyshire’s first poet laureate Cathy Grindrod.

Buxton Fringe

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The weekend starts here - Friday 25th July

With forty shows and events to choose from today – including half a dozen new ones – there’s plenty to keep Fringe enthusiasts going all day.

New arrivals in town include the K’antu Ensemble who scooped a music award last year. They are doing two separate events at the lovely St Peter’s Church, Fairfield today. At 4pm they are running a workshop for children and in the evening they are doing a concert ‘Dancing & the Divine’. They are brilliant and engaging musicians – playing early music instruments such as viols and theorbo – do make an effort to see them.

At 4.15pm in Underground Venues is the second show this Fringe with a cricketing link - a whole new genre. Slow Left Arm are Mark - an optimistic Northern slacker - and Dom - a tortured soul. Their new show 'Orthodox' is a mixture of songs, sketches and monologues.

PB Youth Theatricals are doing three performances of Gilbert & Sullivan’s one-act opera ‘Trial By Jury’ at St Thomas More School – at 6.30, 7.30 and 8.30 – so no excuses for missing this one!

‘Swan Canaries’ is a new musical play about the women who filled shells fired during the First World War in a factory in Chilwell, Nottinghamshire. In 1918 eight tonnes of explosives detonated but the workers proved themselves heroes. A bit of nostalgia but also a fascinating and important story at the United Reformed Church at 7.30pm.

There is more First World War related theatre at the Arts Centre Studio with Patricia Hartshorne and her new show ‘When the band begins to play’. Patricia will be accompanied by pianist Peter Dobson in a mixture of letters, poems and saucy songs relating the horrors and humour of wartime.

Jonathan Ellis was in Buxton earlier in the Fringe for a much-acclaimed recital with violinist Duncan Reid. Tonight at 7.30pm Jonathan is playing solo at the Methodist Church. His programme includes popular and well-known works by Beethoven Chopin, Bach and Mussorgsky. He is a splendid and exciting pianist to watch and hear.

At the Buckingham Hotel there will be two performance poetry events – at 7pm and 8.15pm. Get free tickets from the hotel from 6pm. This is part of a run of 16 events with different poets at every show – so variety is guaranteed. More shows right through to the very end of the Fringe on Sunday 27th.

Among the shows ending their run at the Fringe is the brilliant Dotdotdot Flamenco Company with ‘No Frills’ at the Arts Centre Studio at 9pm. They chose Buxton to premiere this show and the dance, song and music has got standing ovations. It really is a thrilling show.

It is also ‘goodbye’ to Professor Harry Stottle’s Music Hall Extravaganza (Old Clubhouse at 3pm and 8pm) and the Library Theatre Touring Company’s production of Alan Bennett’s much-loved monologue ‘Soldiering On’ – 7.30pm at the United Reformed Church.

Buxton Fringe

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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Coming and Going at Fringe 2014: 'The Great War' and 'Shrew'

Darren Poyzer has made many new friends at the Fringe. His show is great but more than that he has supported the Fringe by opening Fringe Sunday and playing at Fringe at Five. His final appearance with his show 'The War to End All Wars' is on Saturday 26 July at 4pm the centenary of the start of the 'Great War'.

"an excellent musician who performs with kindness, honesty and a smile in his eyes ... his music and 
song writing is beautiful ... one of my Fringe highlights" - Toni Saxton, Buxton Festival Fringe 2014

Aged just 18, Darren Poyzer was on the Royal Navy's front line during the Falklands Conflict of 1982. 
Now as he reaches his 50th year, he has written to deliver a genuinely unique, heartfelt and soul-searching WW1 Commemoration performance. Described as an up close and personal, alternative to Pomp and Ceremony, The War To End All Wars charts Darren’s own story and, using a selection of self-penned songs landscaped by authentic video footage, pays breathtaking respect to the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of 'The Great War'.

Known and respected as one of the finest songwriters in the North West, he has performed live at many prestigious festivals and venues across the UK, including Glastonbury, Edinburgh Fringe, Acoustic Festival Of Britain and The International Guitar Festival of Great Britain.

Originally from Glossop and having spent his childhood in The Peak District, Darren makes a very special return to Buxton, having previously played the Opera House stage in 2009.

Opening on 24 July and playing for four nights is a new play 'Shrew' by Ami Jones. Based loosely on Shakespeare see and read more here: 
The Shrew team spent a day on the Thames Path in London painting walls white, tearing up books and bouncing tennis balls.   

Watch the trailer here:

Shrew will be appearing at the Buxton Fringe (24th-27th July) and the Edinburgh Fringe (31st July - 25th August) before heading to New York for the United Solo Festival (uFest) in October.

For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @shrewtheplay  

Buxton Fringe

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Thursday 24 July: Horror, the Shrew and shades of Hitchcock!

Not quite the lull before the storm – but a dozen new shows will premiere over the last weekend of Fringe 2014. Before then there are still 30 shows and events to choose from today – starting at 9.30am and finishing at 11.15pm. That’s big for a ‘school night’.

Among the new shows is a play at Scrivener’s bookshop. Starting at 7.30pm ‘The Good Lady Ducayne’ is based on a Victorian horror story written by Mrs Elizabeth Braddon in 1896 – the year before ‘Dracula’ was published. The creepy nooks and creaky crannies of the shop will make an ideal setting.

Drawing loosely on Shakespeare is Ami Jones’ new play ‘Shrew’. Kate is trapped. She drinks, does housework and reminisces. She’d like her life to add up to much more. This play is going to New York soon – save yourselves the airfare and see it at 6.15 in Underground Venues.

Staring a three-night run tonight is ‘Back Door’ a dramatic re-working of Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’. Tabitha has broken a leg and is vulnerable; she receives reports that her new neighbour is a cross-dressing enigma who may have murdered her dance partner. ‘Back Door’ is at 9pm in Underground Venues.

Leaving the Fringe today is comedian John Cooper with his show ‘Picture of Cats’. The Fringe Review reported of the first night: You never really know what to expect as a Fringe reviewer, descriptions in programmes can be misleading on occasions. This is, however, one of those shows that ‘does what it says on the tin’. Cats and pictures of cats is what you get. Pictures of cats – cute cats, sad cats, angry cats, weird cats, love cats – they were all there and had the audience ooooing and ahhhhhing.

It’s also ‘goodbye’ to poet Mark Gwynne Jones with his family show on the magic of language ‘Wordworms’ which is at the Pavilion Arts Centre at 6.15pm. Mark will happily sell you the book for £5 and sign it for you. The poems should excite any young reader and Mark’s performance will live in the memory.

Tonight sees the final performance of a new play – ‘Boy on a bed’ which explores the relationship between an athlete – Adam – and a painter – Benedict – through the different perspectives of a number of friends. ‘Boy on a bed’ is at 7.30 in the Arts Centre Studio.

‘Completely bonkers’ said the Fringe Reviewer of ‘One was nude and one wore tails’ – a farce about social class. This is ‘bonkers’ in the best possible way; we think she liked the play and it has its last showing at 5pm today.

Buxton Fringe

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