This year, thanks to the support of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, for the first time we’re going to be able to try this out. It’s another new experiment and we’ve asked a whole range of folk to help us realise it, from brilliant organisations such as Artsadmin and Residence to artists like Third Angel, H Plewis and Non Zero One. We also hope that you’ll all offer your thoughts and ideas and help us as we try and build something new.
So how will it work?
Between 12pm and 5pm every day there’ll be something happening to engage with. Miniature encounters, conversations, inspiration exchanges, living archives and sound libraries. Things you can alight upon fleetingly or devote your whole day to.
Future Editions – A collaboration between Artsadmin and Forest Fringe
Wednesday 11 & Thursday 12 August
An interactive archive of visions, involving a dizzying array of people from across Edinburgh and beyond. A chance to find yourself in the most surprising and inspiring of conversations, sharing somebody’s dream of the future. More details coming very soon.
Hold Hands / Lock Horns (Non Zero One)
Thursday 12 & Friday 13
Join in / pass up; stick / twist; follow / lead; win a friend / gain an enemy.
Non zero one have some decisions for you to make. You do want the choice, don’t you?
Residence in Residence
Residence are a loose collective of artists and companies based in Bristol who we’ve worked with regularly over the last few years and are generally very inspired by. Their number include Action Hero, Jo Bannon, Tom Marshman and both Tinned Fingers and Search Party who will be performing at Forest Fringe in the week following this event. We wanted to give Residence the opportunity of a space to simply be in residence, with what that might entail left entirely up to them. You can come along at any time and join them, getting yourself embroiled in whatever it is they might be planning.
Travelling Sounds Library
Monday 16 & Tuesday 17
The Travelling Sounds Library is a wandering collection of audio experiences, captured on MP3 player and hidden inside hollowed out hard back books. A chance to escape from the festival and drift away into somebody else’s world. Featuring Stan’s Café, Blast Theory, Duncan Speakman & Unlimited Theatre, Ian Campbell many more.
We wanted to play with the idea of getting yourself a slot in Edinburgh by offering people a chunk of time, stripped of all the proscriptions and baggage normally associated with it. We offered anyone the opportunity to apply for a slot, and indeed the chance to apply is still open. We’ll pick the names randomly out of a hat and those selected will be given an entirely free hour in which to do whatever they want – put on a show, have a rehearsal, hold a discussion or just sit and have a think for a while. If you’d like your name in the hat just email andy[at]forestfringe.co.uk.
Cabinet of Ideas (H Plewis)
You are invited to buy or sell an idea. Prices range from 1p – £1. Ideas range from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Developed out of an original idea by Alex Kelly from Third Angel, the inspiration exchange is an opportunity to hear a beautiful collection of stories detailing what has inspired some Forest Fringe’s artists and friends. In return we also want you to let us know what you’ve inspired by – whether it be a book, or a film, or a drunken conversation at 2 in the morning. Featuring Alex Kelly, James Stenhouse of Action Hero, Forest Fringe’s Deborah Pearson and Laura McDermott, joint artistic director of Fierce Festival, Birmingham.
What I Heard About the World: Research Map (Third Angel & mala voadora)
Created out of Forest Fringe’s Microfestival in Glasgow as part of the development process for their new piece What I Heard About the World, this project is a 12 hour durational performance by Third Angel and Lisbon-based mala voadora. Over the course of the day they will attempt to map the world in stories collected from the audience.
Carpe Minuta Prima is just one of the pieces that form part of the Forest Fringe Microfestival, an offshoot of the successful Edinburgh outfit that has rethought the festival model as an artist-led initiative. Out on tour to four venues in London, Glasgow, Bristol and Swansea, the Microfestival offers a mixture of works-in-progress, intimate experiences and surprises from national and local artists over a pick’n’mix evening of art and entertainment.
The artist-led producing team known as Forest Fringe has grown into one of the Edinburgh Festival’s brightest success stories. Now the people behind it are taking their loose but loveable brand of theatrical magic on tour…
The microfestival at BAC was a vibrant and buzzing combination of short experiences, fuller scripted pieces, sound work, music, installations and intimate performances. Some of the pieces were more ‘finished’, whilst others just setting out on their first period of R&D. The whole event fitted into the nooks and crannies of the BAC building, and filled the spaces in between with live music and discoveries aplenty – one highlight being the items of clothing dotted around, inviting you to take them in exchange for you’re an item of your own, and it story. Like any good festival, there was more than you could see in one night, and each attendee built their own experience.
The Forest Fringe is now on tour! Another remarkable achievement by it’s two co-directors Andy Field and Debbie Pearson, who have now created Forest Fringe Mircofestival – a smaller version taking residence in a number of cities before August in Edinburgh once more. The Microfestival gives the chance for a festival atmosphere to be replicated in various locations, bringing theatre to the people, and above all – a space for creativity and audiences to meet, play and experience.
So thank you kindly to all those folk.
So the Microfestivals are now properly go. This is both frightening and deliriously exciting.
In London on the 2 & 3 April we’ll be working with our long-time supporters BAC, using a dizzying array of spaces scattered across the beautiful Old Town Hall in Battersea.In Glasgow on the 16 & 17 April we’ll be with The Arches in their epic subterranean maze of railway arches beneath Central Station.In Swansea on the 24 & 25 April we’ll be sharing an unusual space with National Theatre Wales’ Assembly programme as part of their month of events in the city.And Finally in Bristol on the 8 & 9 May we’ll be helping launch the brilliant Mayfest by taking over the whole of Bristol’s legendary Old Vic Theatre, from stages to workshops to backstage corridors and other hidden corners of the building.
Some delightful news for the beginning of maybe the year’s most depressing month (it’s cold, it’s not Christmas and the only thing to celebrate is the ineptitude of some 400 year old Catholics) – today Forest Fringe became the 20th winners of the Peter Brook Empty Space Award.
Who knows how this decade will come to be written about in the years ahead? It may well be viewed as a wretched one but perhaps it might be seen as positively halcyon compared to what will follow. One thing’s for sure – it started with anxiety about a tech-driven financial bust that proved unfounded and ended with the real deal, the kind of recession that carves itself into people’s lives for a long time. In the end, the big theme wasn’t war or the clash of civilisations but the one that’s never really been out of currency – money.Money was the making of theatre this decade – there was a lot more of it to prop up the subsidised sector, and even if you couldn’t exactly point to a golden time in the West End in terms of art, it was certainly a gilded one. Yet now that the whole house of cards has fallen down, it’s probably time for theatre-makers further down the chain, who are most exposed to the vagaries of the economic climate, to say that if they’re being forced to beg, borrow or even steal to survive, then ’twas ever thus – because so-called boom years had their downside, too, in keeping costs high, and curtailing unprofitable experimentation.Nowhere was this more apparent than at the Edinburgh Fringe where spiralling rental charges have conspired to restrict the affordability of a festival that is supposed to be the greatest artistic free-for-all on earth. I’ve seen at first hand how deranged the economics of bringing up just a relatively straightforward monologue are, even during a downturn; the risks of working on a more ambitious scale seem to grow by the year.Which is where one has to salute with all the force of a Tattoo gun at midnight the efforts of the team behind Forest Fringe, which has in the space of a few years become an essential fixture at Edinburgh without actually joining itself to the Fringe as such. In its adopted church hall venue at Bristo Place, it operates not merely, prosaically, as a festival within a festival – but as a sort of other world, a boundary-pushing playground where, thanks to multiple volunteer efforts it’s not the money that counts at all, but the stuff that happens between performers and their makeshift surroundings and between performers and curious visitors. If I could have wished away the hundreds of other chores that descend on a journalist while covering the festival, I’d have happily hung out at Forest Fringe for the entirety of its duration.It seems to me that in its back-to-basics approach, it is totally forward-thinking – and potentially revolutionary in scope. Whatever the next decade holds, the seeds of the next wave of theatre – and probably even of our recover itself, lie in the expansive, inexpensive miracle that is Forest Fringe.
Ok. So picture this.
If you’re around in London on Tuesday I’d recommend you get down to BAC to see Nic Green’s complete Trilogy. She performed some sections of it at Forest Fringe last summer and it was one of the most delightful moments of the festival.
Recently Tim Etchell’s rightly said on his blog that politics ‘shouldn’t be left to the realists’. And Nic Green’s epic, three part show – historical re-enactment, direct address, singing, dancing, euphoric collective action – is an incredibly inspiring demonstration of what political performance work could and should be. Honest, engaged, funny, inspiring, heartfelt and beautifully realised.
Nic’s taking over BAC’s enormous Grand Hall for one night and I think it’s going to be quite a special moment. I recommend you drop pretty much anything and get a ticket.
If you’re not based out of South of England though there’s going to be ample opportunity to see (and maybe even be involved) in the show in Edinburgh this summer as brilliantly, the Arches (normally to be found in Glasgow) are going to be presenting it all month out of St Stephen’s church as part of their new festival programme. Forest Fringe has all kinds of love for the Arches and we’re really excited to have them across town from us.
Oh, and apparently it’s going to be a long hot summer. Everything’s coming up roses.
The road to Edinburgh is long and winding, symptoms an almost unending series of stomach-churning ups and downs.
This is quite literally true, if you’ve ever had the joy of travelling through the minefield of speed cameras, hillocks and sheep that make up the Scottish lowlands. If you can make it through on time, without three points on your licence or a woolly trophy skewered on the front of your car, you’re already three quarters of the way to success.
That road is also, rather less interestingly, long and winding and very uppy downy in the metaphorical sense.
Take for example this last week.
At BAC we skidded to an incredible high with our Forest Fringe weekend. Thanks to the support of Harun Morrison and the team at BAC we were able to put on two incredible nights that genuinely felt as if a small lump of the festival had worked its way loose and landed in South London. A thrilling number of people flitted round the building to see various exciting pieces, old and new. Both nights the generosity and enthusiasm of the audiences in the face of a bombardment of strange encounters and unfamiliar experiences was a joy to behold. I was genuinely warmed.
And yet at the same time as I was practically doing cartwheels across the red tiled roof of BAC, I was also discovering a fresh attack on our already fragile budget.
You see, the hall above the Forest Café (Forest Fringe’s home in Edinburgh) is a beautiful building. A high-ceilinged church hall full of aging wood and ramshackle charm. Nestled somewhere between grand and comfortable, it is just perfect. It is a space that has its own personality, inviting shows to spend time with it, rather than just in it. And that, for me, is wonderful – that brings a sense of presence and event and belonging to the shows at Forest Fringe which I love.
And yet with the old and the fragile there are always costs. Recently Forest discovered quite a monumental one, when it was deemed that the entire building had to be rewired, theatre lights and all. It turns out this costs a lot of money. A LOT.
We weren’t quite expecting that.
Now we’re a hardy operation. The very fact I’m typing this to you demonstrates that we haven’t collapsed in paralysing fear of our imminent demise. I’m saving my all my hyperventilating panic for the news that Batman isn’t real. Forest Fringe is still dead on course to hit Edinburgh in with all its might on the 17th August. So don’t go spreading any rumours.
However, we are going to have to raise a bit more money than we anticipated. Which is where you (hopefully) come in.
Forest Fringe has always relied on the generosity of its friends. We exist in order to demonstrate that incredible, exciting, slightly magical things can still happen in Edinburgh without the crushing financial burden that the festival normally brings with it. We survive because artists volunteer their time to help organise and run the venue, and because audiences give generously even when they don’t have to. We believe that by sharing out the costs of Edinburgh everyone can benefit.
So for that reason we’re appealing to you to help us raise enough money to rewire our theatre lights and ensure that Forest Fringe this summer is every bit as exciting as it should be with the incredible line-up of artists we already have confirmed.
All you need to do to donate is go to our website and click on the paypal link on the front page. Anything you can afford to give is massively, massively appreciated.
What with the world apparently going to hell in a very big handcart, there have definitely been better times to be asking people for a little bit of their hard earned change, and undoubtedly there are worthier causes than us. But if you can afford to spare even a few pennies, you’ll be helping send a little beam of safely-wired light through Forest Fringe and hopefully out into the festival beyond it.
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