Shaftesbury Fringe Joint Chairmen Make Coronavirus Statement

It’s currently business as usual for Shaftesbury’s annual Fringe Festival. And the event’s joint chairmen have offered words of assurance for any performers who wish to register their show for July’s event.

“I think a lot of people are hovering at the moment. Be assured that the Fringe is going head as normal,” said Shaftesbury Fringe’s Rob Neely.

Rob, and his co-chairman James Thrift, know how important the festival is to local people and businesses. “We have a duty to keep an eye on what is going on. This is an event which is big in the town and which draws a lot of people into the town,” said James.

Fringe co-chairmen Rob Neeley (left) and James Thrift

National media has speculated that the UK government will soon announce a clamp down on large gatherings in England to contain the spread of coronavirus. Scotland has already banned events involving more than 500 people. Shaftesbury Fringe is scheduled for the weekend of the 3rd to 5th July 2020. Our North Dorset event is sandwiched between Glastonbury in late June and Edinburgh Fringe in August. Organisers of those two massive festivals have stated that they expect their shows will go on.

But Rob promises that if a government directive means Shaftesbury Fringe can’t be held this year, all performers will have their registration fee returned. “We’re not like Edinburgh where there are huge amounts of people coming to it. We are going to advise performers. If it doesn’t happen, they will be refunded,” said Rob.

Shaftesbury Fringe doesn’t pay for any performers. The acts make a small registration payment which covers the event’s promotion. The comedians, singers, bands and actors make their own arrangements with the approved venue which they feel best suits their type of show. That means that Fringe’s outgoings are relatively low. The committee will only incur significant costs when they commit to printing the programme and that’s a long way ahead. “Our cut off point is going to be the middle of May. Either we will make a decision, or it may be made for us,” said James.

He hopes that the money-back guarantee will allay performers’ concerns. “Yesterday I was with a load of comedians who are all going to Edinburgh and it was very much the topic of conversation for them,” added James. “It’s in the back of peoples’ minds. There is a cost element of registering their shows. From us, it’s a clear message. We have made that decision. If, for whatever reason, the Fringe doesn’t go ahead we will refund your registration fee,” said James.

Rob says if the not-for-profit festival can’t happen this year because of an official ruling, it will return in 2021. “Fringe will not be out of pocket. It’s not like a festival where we book people in. We simply give them the money back and start again next year.”

The closing date for acts to register their Shaftesbury Fringe performance is 13th April. You can sign up at