Online registration has opened for the 2019 Shaftesbury Fringe. The weekend event is England’s third largest open performance festival and will run between 5thand 7thof July 2019.
Organisers say they’ve received many artist enquires already and as they’re keen to showcase Shaftesbury-area talent, they’re offering reduced rate registration for acts who sign up this month. “We have had so much interest, we could have started taking bookings right after the last Fringe finished,” said co-chairman Sue Allatt.
Sue says that she’s received more artist interest than during the equivalent period last year because the word about Shaftesbury Fringe has spread far and wide. “I think we did so well this year. People enjoyed it so much. We had twice as many performances as the year before. The venues are really behind this in Shaftesbury. It was a great turnout and lots of fun was had by all,” said Sue.
The manager the Mitre Inn agrees. Jana Hackova says that Shaftesbury Fringe has become an important event in the town’s calendar. “It’s such a big, big weekend. Just the amount of people who come through. It is so much fun to have a lot of people around, different performers, and getting to chat to the people. It is absolutely great,” Jana said.
Sue, and her co-chairman Rob Neely, want local performers to seize the opportunity to sign up for a lower fee. “We are giving an early bird discount. It’s £15 for the first month, especially for our local community, so they can get in first and book the spaces up.”
Prices will rise in the New Year. “From the 1stof January the cost of registering will go up to £25 per performance,” said Sue.
Shaftesbury Fringe still offers one of the lowest Fringe performance fees in England. All of the committee are unpaid volunteers, so the registration money goes towards staging, promoting and marketing the festival. The organisers arrange Fringe because they believe that it is important to host an event that encourages people to visit Shaftesbury and which, in turn, generates income for local shops and services.
When performers pay their £15 fee, they are entitled to a listing on the Fringe website and in the widely distributed programme and publicity material, which includes a free podcast interview. Artists who don’t register are not promoted, so the public may not hear about their shows.
Fringe is adding some new performance opportunities this year. Jana is building an outdoor stage at The Mitre. “We are going to put a stage on the bottom decking. Hopefully we will get some really cool bands in there. The higher two tiers are going to be for viewers and people to enjoy themselves,” Jana said.
Jana wants to hear from acts who can perform an upbeat song selection. “Pop, rock, something people can sing and dance to would be great.”
There’ll be slots available at The Mitre’s outdoor stage all over the Fringe weekend. “It’s going to be all through the day. I’m looking into getting people signed up for performing from Friday afternoon right through the weekend until Sunday afternoon and possibly early Sunday evening.”
The Mitre’s long back room will be available for comedians. “It’s going to be dedicated to mainly stand-up comedy and stage performances, which don’t include music. It’s more intimate.”
Artists will also be able to choose to perform on the front section of the Shaftesbury Arts Centre stage, for the first time. “This year we have the Shaftesbury Arts Centre main stage for the Friday and Saturday. That is very exciting for us,” said Sue.
Popular tenor, Thomas Cameron, has already booked a performance in the Arts Centre theatre. The Devon-based vocalist first performed his repertoire of songs from the musicals at the 2018 Shaftesbury Fringe. Thomas was impressed by the acoustics in the Arts Centre’s theatre space when he visited on Thursday. And he loves singing in Shaftesbury.
“I particularly love the audiences and the people. Last time the audience absolutely blew me away with their participation. It’s just a lovely place to be. It’s one of the nicest places I have been lucky enough to visit and I love it here. Especially now I have seen the Arts Centre. I can’t wait.”
Sue says that there is always time to add new venues to the Fringe list. More spaces will help the festival grow even more, but there will always be limits on expansion. “It would be great if we had some more venues come forward because that could increase the size. But I suppose we also have to remember we are only a small town. We can only fit so many people into the town at one time.”
Performers need to find a venue and make arrangements directly with the venue owner or manager before they register. A full list of venues is available on the Shaftesbury Fringe website, together with information on how to register.