Final Countdown To This Weekend’s Biggest Shaftesbury Fringe Yet

A new Fringe app, sustainable fashion, improved car-parking arrangement and a chance to win cash with your photos are new additions to Shaftesbury Fringe.

England’s third-largest festival will fill Shaftesbury’s streets with music, dance and colour this weekend, 5th- 7th July. Many events are free or allow the audience to pay what they think the performance is worth.

Co-Chairman James Thrift hopes that visitors from across the region will come and experience ‘the friendly fringe’. “Come here for a day for a fraction of the cost of spending your day somewhere else,” said James.

Rob Neely (left) and James Thrift

Co-Chairman Rob Neely is excited by this year’s programme. “I think we will put on a very, very good Fringe this year,” he said.

This weekend’s Fringe will be the biggest in the festival’s four-year history. Performances range from comedy to acoustic music, choral to cabaret and theatre to poetry. All the venues are within walking distance of each other, which adds to the celebratory festival atmosphere.

Revellers sporting decorated hats will dazzle Fringe-goers. Organisers of Fringe’s first sustainable fashion show, Lucy Fosh and Georgie Faulkner-Bryant, have asked people to ‘bling-up’ headwear for their new Town Hall show at 8pm on Saturday.

The women have also been rummaging through the town’s charity shops finding clothes to imaginatively re-fashion for their inspiring presentation.

Georgie Faulkner Bryant (right) and Lucy Fosh

The Fringe volunteers are keen to show the wider world what an incredible event our small Dorset market town can put on. Shaftesbury-based cameraman Jason Coop has volunteered to capture the essence of Fringe weekend in a short film for social media.

Movie making is in Jason’s blood. “My granddad was an Oscar-winning cameraman and my dad still is a cameraman. I’ve been in the business for 25 years working as a camera assistant, camera operator, working on lighting and making my own documentaries,” Jason said.

Jason’s CV features a wide range of projects, from charity films in Swaziland to pop music videos, BBC dramas, Star Wars and Harry Potter. “I did film number two, ‘Chamber of Secrets’ and some of number four, ‘The Goblet of Fire’. That was amazing,” he said.

Jason Coop

Jason is looking forward to filming Fringe acts in such an interesting variety of performance spaces, including the Trinity Centre, St Peter’s Church and the Abbey.

“We’re going to start on Friday afternoon and I’m going on until the wrap party on Sunday. There are hundreds of people appearing and it’s going to be impossible to catch everybody. What we want to get is a real diverse, cross-section of what’s happening, a real sense of the amazing venues.”

Jason’s finished film will help promote Fringe 2020, but Fringe volunteers hope to encourage more visitors this weekend with a social media picture contest. Fringe-goers will be encouraged to post photos, using the hashtag #ShaftesburyFringe.

“Everybody in Shaftesbury knows about the Fringe and they know what to expect. This is looking at the people who live 30-minutes or an hour away. Why should they spend their time coming here and what’s in it for them?” said James.

It’s hoped that pictures of the Fringe fun should encourage people living nearby to head to Shaftesbury and join in. “Take your pictures at the events with your family and friends. We’re going to pick out the really good ones. We will give £100 to the best picture,” said James.

The public will be able to vote for their favourite snap on the Shaftesbury Fringe Facebook page before Monday’s draw.

The Fringe team is introducing an information desk outside Shaftesbury Town Hall this year. It will be next to a noticeboard for sharing urgent announcements and lost items.

And this year, for the first time, Fringe-goers can access all they need to know about the festival on their phones. A new, free Shaftesbury Fringe app has been designed and built by Shaftesbury student Matthew Evans. It is now available for download from the Apple and Google Play stores.

The app contains a complete Fringe guide with times and show details. The app’s maps can guide users to the car parks and venues. The app includes a handy function for choosing shows and creating an event planner schedule.

With the growth of this year’s event, Fringe volunteers have also organised an additional 300 parking spaces. “As the Fringe is getting bigger, more and more people will be coming into town. We had to have more parking,” said Rob.

The green space at Barton Hill will be used for parking for the first time during Fringe. “There’s a large field up there, which is at the back of the existing car park. There will be a number of Fringe parking signs to direct you.” Members of Kipling Carnival Club will be on hand to guide drivers to free parking spaces.

“We’ve got access to Shaftesbury School on Salisbury Street, too. It’s limited parking there. It’ll only probably take 70 cars at the most. Parking there will be signposted from the town rather than from Royal Chase, because it’ll fill up too quickly,” said Rob.

On Sunday, the traditional Gold Hill Fair car parking on Castle Hill will be available. The regular town centre car parks will all be open but Shaftesbury High Street will be closed to traffic on Sunday, July 7th.

The Fringe committee has been working non-stop for the past months planning this weekend and James is delighted to hear that people from outside Shaftesbury have also planned ahead. He bumped into a group from Chicksgrove who hope to make the most of their Saturday visit.

“They’ve hired a minibus to come over. They are going to go around events and they will be ending the night watching Andy Brice’s band, Flashmob, in Ye Olde Two Brewers,” said James.

James asked the party how they heard about Fringe. “I thought that was actually quite a sensible question. They looked at me as if I was born yesterday and said, ‘didn’t you know that everyone was talking about Fringe’.”

For more information visit ShaftesburyFringe.co.uk.