Bookings For Quirky New Shaftesbury Fringe Venue Will Be ‘Filling’ Fast

Dozens of acts have already signed up for Shaftesbury Fringe 2019. More artists have registered than at the same point last year. Entertainers have more venues to pick from too during this summer’s three-day festival, which runs from 5thto 7th July. And there’s a new and rather unusual performance space on offer – a dentist!

Keri Jones from ThisIsAlfred went to find out more.

Trudy Phillips is the Practice Manager of Shaftesbury’s BUPA Dental Surgery. She has been thinking about the sort of acts that might suit her venue. I joked that if comedians book her space and they are unfunny, they could turn on the laughing gas. “Only if they perform at two-thirty,” replied Trudy. Her split-second ‘tooth-hurty!’ gag made me laugh although it did work better when spoken, rather than written down. “Sorry. It’s a joke that we get all the time,” Trudy laughed.

Fringe acts won’t need to yell over the sound of the hygienist polishing the patients’ pearly whites. Trudy is offering the impressive outdoor space behind the dentist and no patients will be booked in over the weekend. “I don’t think that the sound of the drill against the music would really be compatible. I’d rather listen to the music,” said Trudy.

Trudy Phillips

It’s a large area with a level patio at the top of a two-tiered terraced lawn. The long garden gently slopes down from the surgery, offering views across Motcombe and towards the Wiltshire and Somerset hills in the distance.

“I went to the Shaftesbury Fringe Festival last year, to the last night. It was such an amazing atmosphere,” said Trudy. And that gave her the idea of offering her employers’ lawns. “This garden is very rarely used. Occasionally we have meetings of the practice out here, but we don’t actually use it much. And it just lends itself, with the backdrop of the Blackmore Vale. It’s just like a little empty theatre and I thought what a wonderful idea.”

Trudy thinks that the space would work particularly well for a theatrical performance. “I think that people could actually sit down on the grass at the bottom, watch the acts and have a picnic.”

Trudy is kindly offering this outdoor space for free, to help the Fringe Festival. Performers may be able to arrange a small marquee or cover, if they’re worried about the weather. Acts can see the space on offer on the Shaftesbury Fringe website. “They’ll see a beautiful picture of the garden from the bottom. And then they can get in touch with me,” said Trudy.

Site access will be easy. The acts and the audience won’t have to go through the surgery. “We have a side opening and we are also going to open the garage so that people can walk through,” said Trudy.

The surgery building itself is impressive, with balconies that would once have offered its lucky residents commanding views over the Vale. “One of my dental nurses, Heidi, has been here for 27 years this year,” said Trudy. “And she remembers when one of the dentists lived here. At the very bottom of the garden they used to have geese and chickens in a little hen run. I’ve been here fifteen years. The whole of the building has been a dental practice since I’ve been here.”

It’s the first time a dentist has been used for a Shaftesbury Fringe performance but it’s not the first time acts have entertained in unusual spaces. Sloane’s Hair Salon and the offices of Gilyard Scarth estate agents have both hosted Fringe events in previous years.

Trudy says her Fringe offer has become a talking point amongst staff and patients. “Everybody’s really looking forward to it and the patients are even getting on board. Some of them know people who could perform and play music. They’re saying that they will tell everybody.”

If you want to sign up as a Fringe performer and arrange to use Trudy’s space, visit ShaftesburyFringe.co.uk and follow the instructions on the registration page.