Biggest Ever Shaftesbury Fringe In 2019

In 2018, Shaftesbury Fringe became England’s third-largest fringe festival. And the fourth event, taking place between 5th and 7th July 2019, will be even bigger than last year.

ThisIsAlfred spoke with the Co-Chairman of Shaftesbury Fringe, James Thrift.

James Thrift is a happy man. Under his chairmanship, Shaftesbury Fringe has reached new heights. “179 performances across 31 venues, which is considerably up on last year, when we had 155 performances for the weekend. It is a fantastic number,” said James.

James says the Shaftesbury Fringe’s reputation for quality has helped to increase the number of performances. “The performers who came here before liked coming here. It’s got the reputation of being a friendly fringe. Word is getting around. A lot of them are coming from afar to test out new material here, maybe before they take off to Edinburgh. But the other thing we’re seeing is more local people. Some of the last people you’d expect to see have come up with an idea for something they want to do. They have the opportunity to put on a show here,” said James.

James Thrift

Fringe-goers will have plenty of choice in 2019. Comedy lovers will be able to pick from 78 different comedians and comedy shows, many of them at the Shaston Club and The Mitre Inn. The event will bring some big comedy names too, including Q.I. panellist and former Shaftesbury schoolgirl Cally Beaton.

People with a love of language can choose from 16 spoken word or poetry performances. And although popular music appears to be to the dominant genre, with 31 events arranged, lovers of acoustic music will be pleased that 29 guitar-based gigs are separately listed. The Fringe also features two opera and classical performance as well as blues, jazz, choral, musical and cabaret shows. There are even six theatrical events to choose from.

The Sustainable Fashion Show is a new addition for this year. “This is going to be a one-off, beautiful, amazing event that Shaftesbury will have never seen before and hopefully people will just flock to it, love it, enjoy it and learn from it and be inspired by,” said Lucy Fosh, who is co-coordinating the Town Hall show at 8pm on Saturday 6th July with Georgie Faulkner-Bryant.

“Sustainable fashion is a massive topic at the moment,” said Georgie. “People are waking up to the fact that the fashion industry is quite bad for the environment and we’re trying to promote a more sustainable way of choosing clothes and reviving people’s wardrobes.”

She added, “We are going to be showing four different genres of sustainable fashion – vintage, secondhand from charity shops, re-fashioned clothing, and make-do-and mended clothing. And we’re going to be inviting locals to model their wares that they’ve created at some of our workshops as well.”

It will be slightly different from a normal kind of fashion show where you can expect to buy an item in your size. These clothes will be one-offs. “I think people are used to shopping like that now. People do love vintage stores and charity shops and it’s all about finding treasure. It’s finding that special item of clothing that fits you like a glove,” said Georgie.

Georgie Faulkner Bryant (right) and Lucy Fosh

The Shaftesbury Fringe is a not-for-profit event and the team has invested some of the performer registration fees in arranging and marketing a contest to promote the town. A free prize draw will find and ‘crown’ the ‘King and Queen’, ‘King and King’ or ‘Queen and Queen’ of Fringe. One lucky couple who have entered the contest on will win a luxury two-night weekend break, including a breakfast, dinner and drinks package and a ‘golden key’ giving the couple access to the Fringe shows of their choice.

“The Fringe is designed to bring people into this town, like anything we do here event-wise,” said James. “It is a fantastic town. We like to share it with people. So the idea of the competition was to give the chance for a couple to spend the weekend on us.”

The Fringe team is not accepting any additional performances for this year, as the schedule is now finalised and the volunteers are preparing the Fringe programme, which will be widely distributed at least one week before the event.

The website and a soon-to-be-launched app will also list every performance of the three-day festival. James is confident that the 2019 event will provide entertainment for locals and visitors and also offer a boost for our town’s economy. “It’s been a huge success for individual businesses in Shaftesbury but also it’s a huge success for Shaftesbury as a whole. The more we get people to come into the town, everyone benefits,” he said.