Anyone who visits Shaftesbury Town Centre over the next few weeks will be in no doubt that the fourth Shaftesbury Fringe is on from 5-7th July.
That’s because Rob Neely, the co-chair of England’s third largest fringe festival has turned event listing into an art form. Alfred’s Keri Jones went to view his ‘Fringebury Towers’.
Few Shaftesbury residents were aware of the creative skills of Rob Neely, co-owner of The Dorset Store, until his recent Shaftesbury Arts Centre Gallery show. Rob, who gained a first in his Fine Arts degree at university, has created an eye-catching and imaginative way to display posters for the various music, comedy and spoken word performances around town during Fringe weekend.
“In the past, we’ve always provided somewhere for performers to put their posters and information about their acts. These have always been large eight by four poster boards. They’ve been put in different positions around the town – Swan’s Yard, Bell Street car park and near Tesco. I thought that this time, it’d be nice to do something that was a bit of a change,” explained Rob.
Rob has built eight-foot tall, four-sided, black-painted display boards to host the artists’ fliers. The towers are topped with mannequin parts that he had stored in his studio for future art projects. “I happened to have half a torso of a man, which I put a lot of bandages around and painted pink. I’ve got lots of legs hanging about the place too. I painted them in the colours of the Fringe, so we have a pair of legs sticking up in the air from the top one and we have half a torso of a man painted pink on the other side. I thought they look quite unusual and slightly surreal. I’m hoping it’ll grab the attention of the general public and they will wonder what on earth they are,” said Rob.
“We’re going to put them outside the Town Hall,” added Rob. “It’ll be a focal point, because that’s the same place as the Fringe HQ. They will be placed over bollards, so they have some stability.”
Co-chairman of Shaftesbury Fringe, James Thrift, says the installation, which Rob has named ‘Fringebury Towers’, will help promote the event. “When you wander around the town and there are two eight-foot black towers, one with a set of legs hanging out the top and the other one with the mannequin, you’re going to stop and say ‘hang on a minute. There’s something going on here’,” said James.
“Rob is a creative genius. It’s always with slight trepidation when you sit there and Rob suddenly says, ‘hang on chaps, I’ve had an idea’. Rob has come up with these and they are absolutely amazing,” he added
The Fringe team has agreed to put up posters on the towers on behalf of performers who are travelling to Shaftesbury. Few fringe festivals offer this as a free service, but it’s part of Shaftesbury Fringe’s mission to become known as ‘the friendly fringe’. “We do get other people putting things on the boards that they shouldn’t put on there, but they will be removed,” said Rob. “We had lost dogs last time and other bits and pieces. They can put them somewhere else, actually.”
The 48-page Shaftesbury Fringe programme is being delivered to all homes in the SP7 and SP8 postal areas. It contains full event listings. An app for Apple devices is also available for free download from the Apple App Store. The times and locations of all shows can also be found on ShaftesburyFringe.co.uk, but it’s hoped that the towers will encourage passers-by and visitors, unaware of the event, to visit some of the shows.
“It is astonishing that Shaftesbury, this little town in Dorset, has got 179 shows over three days. The challenge is now set for the people of Shaftesbury. We’re putting on the biggest fringe, and it’s now down to them to bring out the biggest audience,” said James.