Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Fringe's History of the 20th Century

Now we aren't going to pretend that this is comprehensive - and much of the globe isn't included but there is a partial history of events and cultural landmarks to be found at this year's Fringe.

Comedian Abi Roberts (22nd & 23rd) lived in Russia in the 1990s. Now we can't guarantee that she will provide a detailed analysis of the break-up of the Soviet Union and how Gorbachev's seemingly liberal approach resulted in the grim spectacle of Putin - but sometimes laughter is the only sensible option. Another comedian hoping to inform us on East-West relationships is Nick Hall (9th). His show - "Szgrabble" - is a one-man Cold War thriller.

Parochial - and we don't mean this as a term of abuse - is Buxton Film's programme of archive film (16th). The Media Archive for Central England holds hours and hours of film and a 45-minute selection showing aspects of life in and around Buxton between 1901-1974 will be screened. Some of this will not have been seen publicly for many, many years if at all.

Jazz and Blues may be the most important art form to emerge in the 20th century and a whole bunch of musicians will be on hand to play some for you. Dale Storr (16th) is an excellent pianist in the New Orleans tradition. He has a new album out and will be playing two, two-hours sets previewing the album.

Basin Street Jazz & Blues (10th & 20th) will sing and play a strong set of standards (and some original numbers) that will help display the breadth and variety of the music. If BSJ&B are 'coolish' then the Herding Catz Blues Band (16th & 22nd) are at the other end of the scale - a cracking electric blues band, fun to listen to. More, authoritative Blues will come from Mike Francis (17th) who has been touring for 40 years and is in Buxton as part of the European Blues Awards showcase weekend. All of these gigs are at the Old Clubhouse - opposite the Opera House.

Among women singers of jazz and blues few are more eminent than Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Annette Reis (6th, 17th & 20th) will be drawing on their legacies and repertoire. She will be accompanied by Will Hawthorne (18th) whose band is presenting a collection of songs from the 20th century unified by their subject matter - all feature Mr or Ms Jones.   

We have more on the subject of the Cold War from Stephen Roberts (10th & 17th) who will be talking about Le Carre, the Cambridge Spies as well as singing some of his songs on the subject. The theatre company Rusted Dust bring a new play to Buxton. "The Communist Threat" (7th, 8th & 15th) is set in Vienna in 1950 where two agents await orders to execute a communist traitor.

Shostakovich 'enjoyed' a difficult relationship with his political masters. In Leningrad in 1941 as the city is under siege he struggles to write his seventh symphony. "The Conductor" (20th, 22nd-24th) is based on the gripping novel by Sarah Quigley.

Among the 20th-century composers whose work is being performed on the Fringe this July are: Martinu (Rachel Johnson & Jemima Palfreyman, 14th and Cheshire Chamber Collective, 12th); Walton (High Peak Orchestra, 10th); Britten and Barber (Peak District String Orchestra and Wind Band, 8th) and Rodrigo (Ed Billingham, 17th).

The figure of Adolf Hitler looms over European 20th-century history and Patricia Hartshorne in a new play "In the Fuehrer's Face" (19th-22nd) mixes the surreal, comic, the poignant and the dark as she reflects on that grim period.

Vera Brittain lived and worked in Buxton for a short while. Famously she didn't much care for the town but the experience was influential. In 1915 she completed VAD nurse training at the Devonshire Royal Hospital. Hear the story of her work with soldiers returning from the Front (13th). Not so very far away - geographically - but very different politically lived Rosa Luxemburg, one of the few heroines of the political Left. Her story is told by poet Jim MacCool (6th).

Aulos Productions are always welcome Fringe visitors and their work is always intelligent, thoughtful and good. "Lest We Forget" (14th, 15th & 17th) is a new play about a family that struggles to make sense of memories of their son and the truth of events in the trenches of the Somme. More new drama set in the First World War comes from Breathe Out Theatre. "War Stories" (7th, 12th & 21st) brings together Australian nurse Elsie and Manchester soldier Bernard.

Buxton Fringe

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Saturday, 21 May 2016

Women's Voices and Experiences at Buxton Fringe

"By Gotham Curve" - Adrienne Brown (

Despite all the social progress in our lifetimes it remains the case that women's voices are frequently unheard and women's experiences are discounted or trivialised. Buxton Festival Fringe does not choose or actively produce the events that make up the programme - that is down to people wanting to be part of our summer. It is good to see that this July the different voices of women will be well represented. What follows is not a comprehensive list and neither do we suggest that these events will present a coherent version of what it is to be a woman in 21st century western Europe. These and other shows in Buxton will, however, offer versions of women's lives for us all to share and learn from.

Among the comedy events are Abbie Roberts (22 & 23 July); Charmian Hughes (14 & 16); Harriet Kemsley (9, 12 & 13); Lucille Cailly (10-12); and Juliet Meyers (11 & 12). It looks like they will be drawing on their rich and varied life experiences - Abbie on her time in 1990s Russia, Charmian reflects on what life looks like at 60, Harriet's career has begun brightly but is she 'on the wrong train'? Lucille's experiences include poker and cocaine - she has had money but blown it; for Juliet an unexpected love has entered her life - a rescue dog.

Next Door Dance (20-22) is a group of five women and their show - The Beautiful Game - is a tribute to many aspects of football and the lives of its fans. In the music programme soprano Margaret Ferguson (15) will be delivering a recital of song of all sorts and Alice Kirwan (10, 17 & 19) will present a variety of solo harp music. Rachel Johnson & Jemima Palfreyman (14) return with duets for flute and piano and Elin Pritchard (19) sings eight arias that imagine how Anne Hathaway faced up to life as a widow on Shakespeare's death.

Les Trois Amies (23) are - three friends! Soprano Carol and piano duet Marianne and Heather return with a programme of song and music suitable for a summer evening. Three of the great voices of 20th century song were Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Nina Simone. Annette Reis (6, 17 & 20) will be singing some of the songs most closely associated with this trio. The lives of Rosa Luxemburg and Vera Brittain overlapped for a period at the beginning of the 20th century. The similarities in their experiences are slight, however. Hear something of their lives - Rosa (6) and Vera (13).

In the theatre section you could see "Dolly's Playlist" (15 & 16) in which a young woman makes sense of her life through songs that matter to her. In "Jane and Lizzy" (16, 17, 20 & 21), Ms Austen looks to her creation Lizzy Bennet for guidance. Constance Lloyd did marry Oscar Wilde but she achieved much more in a richly interesting life, "Mrs Oscar Wilde" (9 & 21) fills some of the gaps in the story. Geraldine Aron's play "My Brilliant Divorce" (15 & 16) tells of how Angela finds happiness after Max leaves her for a younger woman.

Little Glimpses Theatre Company brings the intriguingly titled "Nipple Tassles and Nursing Bras" (7, 13 & 21). Claire and Lucy meet at pre-natal classes in a story of "friendship, motherhood and burlesque". Actor and story-teller Joanne Tremarco has performed her show "Women Who Wank" (16, 18 & 19) a couple of hundred times - including some at Buxton Fringe 2015. The show is semi-improvised and may well work best with an audience that is willing to engage with questions of women's sexual experiences (rather than one that imagines that it is daring to say 'clitoris' in public). Joanne is a wonderful performer and can make you laugh and cry within moments.

Finally, among the visual artists displaying their work are Louise Jannetta (8-10, 15-17, 22-24), Paula Hobdey (9,10, 16, 17, 23 & 24), Adrienne Brown (6-8 & 10-13) and Ilsa Elford (16-20 & 22). These artists use a range of media and subject matter - but all will be willing to talk about their work and what inspires it.

Buxton Fringe

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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

There's been a murrrrder!

"Breaking the Rules" - The Marian Consort are at St John's Church on 22nd July

Now, we are not in favour of murder - or killing of any sort, but at the heart of many a good story there is an unlawful killing. At this year's Fringe we have experts on hand to help us understand how murders happen and how they transform the lives of affected survivors.

Stephen Booth is one of the country's top writers of crime fiction. Derbyshire detectives Ben Cooper and Diane Fry have tracked down murderers across the Peak District. Booth's well-established series of novels have gradually deepened our understanding of the personalities of Cooper and Fry and how their private lives impact on their professional work. Stephen will be in Buxton (July 14th) to talk about his new book ("Secrets of Death").

Comedian Alfie Moore was a Detective Sergeant and in his new one-hour show (10th & 14th) "Getting away with Murder" he will reveal how to choose your weapon and dispose of the body. This is comedy remember. See Alfie on the 10th and test out Stephen on the 14th we recommend.

The Dead Secrets also insist that murder is a laughing matter and their equally new show "Hickory Dickory Murder" (9th & 23rd) is an improvised Golden Age detective story.

In the real world Polish-born Communist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg was murdered in Germany in 1919. Poet Jim MacCool tells the story of Rosa on the opening day of the Fringe (July 6th).

The composer Carlo Gesualdo was born 450 years ago. Apart from composing some of the most glorious music for the human voice Gesualdo is remembered for murdering his first wife and her lover having found them together in bed. The Marian Consort with actor Finbar Lynch tell the story of Gesualdo's last day. "Breaking the Rules" can be heard in St John's Church (22nd) and is likely to be a highlight of the Fringe.

There will probably be other murders. I'm told that Romeo & Juliet love story is grim in spots. Don't tell us though. Find an expert.

Buxton Fringe

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Monday, 16 May 2016

Loving Buxton!

Buxton Festival Fringe starts in 52 days. The programme is now with the printer - see above - and 20,000 full-colour copies will be delivered on May 27th. We'll start immediate distribution of the programme on the 27th. There are 148 separate shows or events listed with nearly 500 performances over 19 days. We have much to look forward to. But before we turn our attention exclusively to our own Festival it seems right to flag up some other things that you'll want to know about Buxton.

These days many of us turn to Internet as the first source for information. So far as Buxton goes there are dozens of sites that are helpful. One that offers an broad overview of the town and its attractions is Visit Buxton. If you want an up-to-date calendar of what is going on in town then try Explore Buxton.
Between now and July 6th - when the Fringe starts - there is plenty going on in and around Buxton to give you reason to visit the town.

The Drama League presents "One Man, Two Guvnors" at the Opera House from this Thursday (19th) through to Saturday (21st). Richard Bean's comedy was a huge success in the West End and on Broadway and these are the first performances in Buxton.

Over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend (28-30 May) sees the 10th Derbyshire Open Arts Anniversary when dozens of artists will be showing their work across the whole county - from Glossop in the north-west, to Bolsover in the north-east and down to Long Eaton in the south. As you would expect there is plenty to see in Buxton and Whaley Bridge - including work at the Green Man Gallery and Louise Jannetta's Studio.

From 11-12 June a couple of dozen Buxton Gardens will be open - trail maps are available from the Tourist Information Centre and from Poole's Cavern.

The Buxton Spa Prize is now closed for entries - but expect to see dozens of artists out and about the town in the next few weeks working on their images of the town. Work has to be submitted by 24th June and will be displayed at The Green Man Gallery from 1st July.

Sales for the The Buxton Festival are good - some events sold out weeks ago - but from 1st June if you are lucky enough to be under-30 you can get tickets for £5. You'll need to book at the Box Office in person or by phone.

Right, from now on it will be Fringe, Fringe, Fringe.

Buxton Fringe

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Monday, 25 April 2016

Busy Making Magic at Buxton Fringe

It is one of those Fringe paradoxes that the more is going on, the less we find time to tell you all about it on our blog! Right now we are busy compiling the printed Fringe programme and there is always a feeling of wonder about quite how it all manages to come together!

Since our last blog, the deadline for the printed programme has passed and we have a healthy 148 entries so a big thank you to all those performers and event-makers who have brought their own magic to this year’s Fringe, ensuring that we have an exciting array of events in every category.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be telling you in more detail about some of the shows that are coming our way but for starters, it struck me how much actual magic is being offered. We are very excited to have some magic of the psychopathic variety from veteran comedian and magician extraordinaire, Jerry Sadwowitz performing at the Arts Centre Auditorium. Hambledon Productions meanwhile pay tribute to the legendary Tommy Cooper while the REC Youth Theatre Company go back much further in time to bring us the magic of the Arabian Nights.

High Peak Community Arts invite you into their magical story-telling yurt and there is more family-friendly magic from High Peak Magic Society (offering close-up magic at your table), Seska, with tricks and cookies galore, and Beneath the Star, with magical, all-ages storytelling at the Green Man Gallery.

We’re confident also that our own offerings - Fringe at Five and Fringe Sunday will be magical in all senses of the word.

You can see exactly what’s going on by checking out our revamped Events and Diary pages. We’d also love to meet you in person - visit our stand at Buxton’s Spring Fair on May 2nd near the Turner Memorial or join us at our programme launch party at The Green Man Gallery on Sunday June 5th, 6.30pm for 9.30pm with light refreshments, music and… well you can bring the magic!


Buxton Fringe

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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

70 Buxton Fringe entries and counting!

Community School students decorating a Fringe-themed Wells Dressing in 2009

With the end of March deadline for discounted entries fast approaching, we already have an impressive 70 entries and are finding a lot to excite us!

With Fringe chair Keith Savage currently immersed in the Buxton Festival of World Cinema this week (go see!), here are just a few of the shows that have caught my eye. On the comedy front, look out for Radio 4 News Quiz writer Mike Shephard and over at the Green Man Gallery, Chris Norton Walker's it-shouldn't-happen-to-a-comedian reminiscences about backstage accidents as a gigging stand up. Kids have all the best fun and this year's offerings include two brand new events - Baby Loves Disco - a chance for tots to boogie at Buxton's Level 2 nightclub - and Buxton Drama League's unseasonal panto, Theseus and the Maze of the Minotaur. Incidentally, auditions for the latter take place on April 27 and 29 at 7.30pm at the Old Hall Hotel. Buxton Carnival (with our amazing float) is always fun for all the family and is run by the Buxton Wells Dressing Festival. They are looking for volunteers so do pop along to the Old Hall at 7.30pm on April 19 if you think you can help, particularly with the intricate process of decorating the wells with flower petals.

Some fresh new Spoken Word includes comic poet and singer Rob Barratt and Circus of Poets veterans The Glummer Twins, while eagerly awaited theatre includes new shows from Shadow Syndicate and The Off-Off-Off-Broadway Company plus Romeo and Juliet Underground at Poole's Cavern from Butterfly.

A spectacular Music section includes many returning favourites from Amaretti Chamber Orchestra to early music specialists Partita and Africa's Lady of Song, Margaret Ferguson, to New Orleans pianist Dale Storr. Seasoned Fringe-goers will also welcome the return of folk singer Hojo after 10 years accompanied by flautist Richard Jurgens. There's also a chance to enjoy a flavour of European Blues Awards Showcase Weekend with Bluesman Mike Francis and something to please those still mourning the end of TV's The Night Manager as Stephen Roberts presents Cold War Music and discusses spy novelists including Le Carre. Listed under Dance but also featuring fantastic guitar playing, COZY with Japanese dancer Yozy Yu Zhang and Canadian musician Colin Garvey is also likely to be a crowd-pleaser.

Visual Arts are looking strong too with new exhibitions from Fringe Award winners Adrienne and Langley Brown and from Ilsa Elford of the award-winning Grinlow Art and Story Telling Trail. For those who can't wait for the Fringe to start, don't miss new artistic venture, the Buxton Garden Trail which takes place on the 11th and 12th of June and already has 14 confirmed gardens taking part with art on display.

We are likely to have a surge of entries in the next day or two so do keep checking back to see what's on. Underground Venues have reported more applications than ever so we look forward to seeing what's in store at this popular managed venue, enjoying residency downstairs at the Old Hall, probably for the last year as work on the Crescent begins in earnest. Entries for the printed programme close on April 17 and Keith and I will be busy proof-reading and preparing for the printer's deadline in the coming weeks so don't delay if you would still like to put something on at the Fringe! 


Buxton Fringe

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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Welcome to landscapes in Buxton

Photo by Charlie Waite - talking at Buxton Festival Fringe on 21st July

Our Festival is a little over 4 months away now and the programme is beginning to take shape. About 25 shows and events are now listed - expect a bit of a rush in the next few days as the cheapest entry rate comes to an end. More than 100 further events are to be anticipated before we close for entries on 17 April, of course.

Already we know that some tremendous artists from previous Fringes will be back - New Orleans-style pianist Dale Storr, the High Peak Magicians, the Jacques Brel musical among many. There are some newcomers who we will be delighted to welcome to Buxton. Celebrated landscape photographer Charlie Waite will be talking about his work and career as well as offering 20-minute 1:1 tutorials to photographers who would like to learn from him.

Just in case you have missed the news - and you are a Buxton regular - Underground Venues will be open for business 'as usual' for 2016. The annual guessing game - 'will it, won't it' with regard to the availability of The Pauper's Pit in The Old Hall Hotel - has been resolved. Work on the redevelopment of The Crescent as a 5* spa hotel starts in earnest later this year - and this should mean that the Pauper's Pit will not be a theatre or cinema in 2017. Performers who want to be at part of the Underground Venue show for 2016 have just a few weeks to submit their bids. It is bound to be an exciting and emotional party - so get to it!

The Buxton Spa Prize is one of the newer events in the Buxton calendar - 2016 is the third running but it is firmly established in the visual arts season. The Prize is for artists working in any 2D media (except photography) who are over the age of 17 on 31st August 2016. The winning artist will receive a grand prize of £5000. The Buxton Spa Prize 2016 is proudly sponsored by ‘The Trevor Osborne Charitable Trust’. ​People can enter on the website from the 1st April 2016 or at the Buxton Office from the 6th May 2016. Winners will be judged by a panel of experts from the town and art world. The exhibition includes sale of work and runs from Friday 1st July until Sunday 31st July 2016 at The Green Man Gallery – Hardwick Hall, Hardwick Square South, Buxton.

On the subject of The Green Man Gallery we had sad news recently. One of the founding members of the Gallery, Doug Agnew, died following a short final illness. Doug had been head of the art department at a High Peak school and after retirement continued to work as an artist and a teacher. With his late wife, Chris, he was instrumental in founding Funny Wonders the Buxton-based puppet theatre group. Doug and Chris were much loved, respected and admired by all those who had the pleasure of working with them. Doug's funeral service will be held at Buxton Methodist Church on Friday February 26th at 10.30. The church will surely be full and there will truly be a tremendous life to celebrate.

Buxton Fringe

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