Sunday, 13 May 2012

Blog is a four letter word

If you haven’t read Fringe Press Officer Steve Walker’s first foray into the blogosphere, then stay behind after class. He’s asking the possibly unanswerable question 'What the hell is Fringeanyway?'

One thing Fringe often claims or aspires to be, is a hotbed of controversy. This year seems to be no exception, if you’ve been following SO IT GOES. For those of you who are unfamiliar with John Fleming’s blog, check it out for interesting insights into the world of comedy, tv and occasionally, North Korea. Before jetting off to observe rocket launches in rogue states, John Fleming produced Helen Keen’s show It Is RocketScience! V2, which she brought to Buxton in 2010 before heading north to Edinburgh and then on to Radio 4.

Lately (amongst the posts about his trip to North Korea) he’s been talking about the touchy issue of censorship in Edinburgh. The mother of all fringes began way back in 1947 when a group of artists turned up to the Edinburgh International Festival, and refused to let the obstacle of not being part of the programme stop them from staging their shows. Since then it has forged a reputation for the new and challenging and developed into the largest arts festival in the world.

But the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society have managed to disgruntle a good few comedians by using an overly heavy-handed approach in editing the Fringe Programme, the comedians claim. The word 'Puritanical' has been thrown around, following some notable asterisks being inserted pretty much anywhere they’ll fit.

Richard Herring’s show Talking C*ck is one of the casualties, and he points out that in this case it’s the pretty tame phrase 'cock and bull story' from which the title originates. Jackson Voohar commented on his own run in with the editors:

A quote in my blurb was actually censored to ‘the b*st*rd offspring of Eddie Izzard and Noel Fielding’. Surely in that context bastard is a perfectly legitimate and inoffensive term?

One half of Underground Venues, Tom Crawshaw has been musing on the issue:

I’m not sure if this is relevant” he says, “but since Eddie Izzard and Noel Fielding can’t biologically conceive a bastard child by natural means, perhaps people would automatically take the word in its other meaning…

he adds “No, that’s silly.

Censorship is a pretty emotive issue anywhere, but in the context of Fringe, which often trades on its reputation as a home for the experimental and the outrageous, it can get even trickier.

Going back to Steve’s question – 'what does fringe even mean?' it’s important to note that even fringes can’t really claim to know. In Edinburgh, performers pay an entry fee for inclusion in the programme, and sort pretty much everything else out themselves. This unprogrammed model is the one Buxton has adopted, but other Fringe Festivals (or Festival Fringes – we’ll get onto that another time) are selective, and handpick their programme from the artists who apply, meaning only a selected few actually perform.

Buxton Fringe’s hands off approach is staunch in its anti-selection policy. Former Committee Chair and Fringe enthusiast John Wilson said “Art is for and by everybody. It is not for us or anybody else to decide in advance what will or will not be good nor to decide what should or should not be done nor what anybody should or should not see.

Well great. But what about age-suitability, and good old-fashioned decency? Are the Great British public to be subjected to and endless parade of expletives, double entendres and posters depicting obscene gestures? I’m not one to stand in the way of a double entendre, but does the Fringe have a responsibility to the public to ensure that publications such as their brochure are suitable for all ages, and tastes for that matter?

John says “It is a matter of politeness to make clear the nature or the event on offer and we encourage entrants to be clear in their description and their advice on suitability. We cannot and do not insist on this however. Some entrants, for example, refuse on principle to offer advice on age suitability.

Seems like a common sense approach, and Tom is in agreement:

The important part of the Fringe is that anyone can take part and have complete freedom as to the content of their show. When it comes to the printed programme, which is a huge administrative undertaking, the house style should also ensure the brochure is accessible to everyone. If there are shows suitable for or specifically aimed at children, the brochure should be inclusive to this group, so it can’t be x-rated. As long as the style guide is clear about what is suitable content for the programme, then acts can work within the guidelines – the issue of freedom of expression should be about the show, rather than the marketing.

Now I love a good style guide, and I love research. So just you try and stop me researching the Edinburgh Fringe style guide. On explicit titles they have this to say:

Explicit words may be included in a show’s title or copy by replacing key characters in the word with symbols: eg, f$*k or s*%t. The Fringe Programme team will use its own discretion to adjust explicit words within show titles or copy as it deems necessary.

They’re pretty well covered then, although changing all swear words into comic book sound effects as in the case of 'f$*k' and 's8%t' is possibly going a little far, tending closer to the unreadable than the inoffensive.

So is the Edinburgh Fringe morphing into a draconian, Orwellian nightmare seeking to control artistic expression? Has, as the Daily Mail claims, PC gone mad? I would warn any free-spirited and boundary-pushing comedian that sounding even a little like the Daily Mail is a sign that something, somewhere has gone wrong.

If you’re in the business of challenging taboos, restrictions can be, well, restrictive, obviously. Although, if you’re a glass half full type of guy, you might prefer to look at it as a bit of a freebie – firstly, asterisks may be passed off as a star rating, and secondly, comedy fans tend not to be easily offended and I doubt the news that a title has been altered will scare many away. More likely is that people will go along to see what all the fuss is about, controversy means publicity. Probably not a good idea to say that publicly, though. That makes you sound like a money-hungry %*!< (in the spirit of free expression, feel free to read that as any word you deem suitable).

But is the commotion justified? Isn’t a bit of perspective and some understanding of the complexity of the Edinburgh Programme team’s task a much more sensible way to go?

Well, yes – but it isn’t half as funny, is it?

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Another Thrilling Installment of Keith Savage's Blog

This is what happens when you google Keith Savage. Also, you probably have some time on your hands. You might think that googling Keith Savage would suggest that you’re not exactly run off your feet at the moment, but making a collage of things that aren’t Keith Savage is taking things a little further. A little too far, you may say, but a fitting way to mark the first installment of Keith Savage’s Blog Not Written By Keith Savage.

Keith himself probably called it the Buxton Fringe blog, because he’s a humble sort of chap and that was what he used to write about. I’ll also be mentioning the Fringe from time to time, but I’ll probably be calling this Keith Savage’s Blog, and including more pictures that aren’t of him (although he did a lot of that himself to be fair – just look at that one that’s of fruit in the previous post, he’s nowhere to be seen).

But Keith’s Blog wasn’t just an endless parade of pomegranates, breaking some of the biggest news stories of January 2012 including the totally awesome news that the Olympic torch will be heading through Buxton just ahead of the Fringe. When I read that, I got excited in the hope that it would change public feeling towards the Olympics from something that’s going to cost a lot of money, into a way to feel superior to Bakewell. But it turns out that that torch is also going through Bakewell, so we can really only feel superior to Dove Holes, and we probably didn’t need to spend £9 billion quid on that.

As it has become customary on Keith Savage's Blog to mention the Fringe from time to time, I'll close with this exciting/startling/alarming fact - there’s a whopping 170 entries this year, and less than two months before Buxton gets a bit oranger. We better get a move on!

Glasses half full in Buxton

The baton of Fringe Blogger (or should that be Binge Flogger?) is not an easy one to pass on. Not so much the baton, perhaps, as this particular Blog site which is not always the easiest or most intuitive one you'll ever find. For the time being no pics but just a few words.

In three months time we'll be in the midst of Buxton Fringe and Festival 2012. Tickets for the main Festival are now on public sale and some events are sold out already. We can't know who or what floats your boat but to avoid disappointment check it out soon.

The Fringe now has over 100 entries and 300 performances or events listed. Entries close in less than 2 weeks but it is likely that we'll have a Fringe of similar size to 2010 and 2011 - that is around 150 entries and 600 performances. Whatever gloomy news there may be, The Arts in Buxton are flourishing. This optimism on the part of musicians, actors, writers, artists and performers of all sorts is welcome and exciting.

Mind you the mindset in Buxton is pretty positive right now. Regular visitors will be aware that the architectural jewel and centrepiece of the town - the Crescent - has been closed for the best part of 20 years and umpteen proposals for its development have been aired. Finally contracts have been signed for its development as a Spa Hotel. Work starts soon and completion in 2014 is scheduled.

Whatever you might think about the Olympics - and it is fair to say that reports of unconfined excitement would be premature - the fact is that the Olympic torch will be carried through the streets of just one town in the High Peak - Buxton on June 29th. That will be excuse enough for widespread jollity and the Fringe will be playing its part.

Finally, for now, local traders and businesses in the town have put together a bid for funding through the Portas Project to begin some developments that would help 'rebrand' the town and bring a stonger sense of purpose to town life. Even if the funding bid fails there are grounds for optimism that Buxton will thrive rather than wither. So we look forward to seeing you in Buxton in July confident that you'll find us with our glasses more than half full.

by Keith Savage - Published 09/24/2012

Welcome to Fringe 2012

Oranges (naturally) and Pomegranates (oh, well).
Just because it's been quiet here for the past six months it doesn't mean that nothing has happened but it is time to break our silence. It's mild and windy - hibernation is over.

Fringe 2012 is well and truly up-and-running and there are some cracking events to look forward to. The Military Tattoo is back - for the third year. It is the biggest indoor event in town and tickets are already selling fast at the Opera House. It sold out in 2010 and 2011 so don't hang around - get your tickets NOW! Saturday July 7th at the Dome.

The biggest event underground last year was the rapid version of Macbeth in Poole's Cavern. All nine shows sold out in double quick time. I for one missed out. Anyway the same company - Butterfly -  is returning in July. A Midsummer Night's Dream this time - with a software busting 27 performances. That will be over 1000 tickets but it will still be sold-out if the excitement of last year is repeated. First performance on Wednesday July 4th which, it so happens, is Day 1 of Fringe 2012.

Other things to put straight in the diary are: the Jet Collective's music offering The Derbyshire Suite. A jazzy affair at the Methodist Church on July 18th - for one night only. A new musical - Prophet - is at the Burbage Institute on July 14/15. Looks good for all the family.

Finally, for now, the Olympic torch will be carried through Buxton on Friday June 29th. It will be a day of celebration and some chaos (which can be a good thing). Contributing to the event will be some sort of musical offering on the Bandstand in the Pavilion Gardens. A whole host and plethora of local musicians will be entertaining early evening - come rain or shine. Keep looking out for more news.

by Keith Savage - Published 21/01/2012

Fringe Sunday Programme - exclusive!

Fringe Sunday is now firmly established as one of Buxton's entertainment highlights for the whole family - and it's free!. Fringe Sunday is on the first Sunday (no surprise there) of every Fringe - so this year's event is just a week away. Join us in the Pavilion Gardens around the Bandstand from 2.00 on 10th July to be entertained by:

On the Bandstand - Local Vocals (Buxton's own community choir); Ed Billingham - a virtuos classical guitarist; Kooky Babooshka - a comic quartet from Manchester; the Belly Dance Flames - crowd-pleasers making a welcome return to Fringe Sunday; Richard Taylor - a guitarist on a Harmony Tour; Perry Huntsman and Hilary Felstead - a popular local folk duo; the Ashrow Theatre Company with extracts from Being Nice a play by Mark Niel who performed on Fringe Sunday in 2010; Glass Ankle a band from Manchester with Japanese influences; Victor Barstool (pictured above) with songs from Flat on my back seeing stars will close the show from the Bandstand.

Elsewhere - in the Gazebo you can see/hear: Birdy Chick Chick doing time travelling comedic nonsense (their words); extracts from physical theatre by Nose2Nose which promises tears and cheers; there will be close-up magic from High Peak Magicians; GC Morgan will performing excerpts from Witzelsucht & Moria a new play.

Finally - and perhaps bravest of all - a number of performers will be promenading around the Gardens looking for an audience and performimng wherever they find one, so look out for: jwpoetry with Our Little Green Book of Children's Verse; little GIANT productions with The Enormous Turnip and Other Stories; High Peak Magicians will be stopping and amazing all around the place; Catfoot Theatre Compnay will be doing bits from their show Cowboy Baby; members of the Arden Theatre cast will be introducing us to their play Gold Flower's Story which retells events from the Chinese revolution. Three of these acts come from the For Families category in the Fringe programme and we're delighted that free entertainment will be so widely available for children and their carers.

Did I say 'finally'? - what was I thinking of! In the children's tent their will be balloon modelling and face painting - two different people, but who is to know, they might change places.
Let's leave the final word with Victor Barstool, who - if he can stay on his feet - will bring the whole thing to what can only be described as an unforgettable climax:

Victor Barstool’s long-running dispute with his girl backing singers goes public when Barstool and his band appear at Buxton bandstand on Fringe Sunday.
The girls Bubble & Squeak are fed up of doing Sha La La’s and Doobie Doos and want stardom themselves.
Victor and the girls will be promoting ‘Flat on My Back and Seeing Stars’ the third successive Buxton Festival Fringe Show for Dolls House productions. It stars Deirdre Costello as Victor’s long suffering girlfriend Wanda K Lutz, backing singers Emma Shanks and Victoria Plum. Music is by Jim Lampard, who also plays sax and Alan Charnley who also plays Victor.
The story of Barstool who claims to have influenced music all time greats including Bowie and Kraftwerk, but struggles with his personal life, is showing at Buxton’s Grove Hotel on Saturday July 23, 8pm.
Last year Alan played Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Karen Carpenter in ‘Come Back To Blackpool Karen Carpenter’ which sold out at the Fringe and transferred very successfully to the Pavilion Arts Theatre.
Deirdre has had a long career in television, film and radio and is best known for her performance in ‘The Fully Monty.’ Jim plays sax locally in the Boogiemen.
Flat on My Back Seeing Stars is a flashback through Victor’s life and features original songs about his battles with paranoia, drink, serial-killer girlfriends, stage fright and fear of nursery rhymes. Tickets are available from the Opera House or by calling 07960 647 814.

by Keith Savage - Published 03/07/2011

Crime in the Gardens

Those of you local to Buxton have probably been scouring the pages of the Advertiser looking for news of this Blogger's death. Disappointed to find no news no doubt you've tossed the paper into the re-cycling box. Well don't do that to this week's paper for it contains a 16-page bumper pull-out feature on your favourite Festival and its attendant Fringe. I'm glad not to be in the obituary pages of course. It's all been busy, busy, busy.
Part of the busyness has been in getting out and about promoting the Fringe. A week today and we'll be on Day 2 of Fringe 2011 already - Day 1 forever just a memory fading like a favoured old tee-shirt. But enough of this poetry.
Buxton is emphatically not the crime-capital of the universe but the pinching of posters from public railings was never going to make the headlines even here. However, apparently it is true. Honest people have been putting up clean and decent posters promoting local events only to find that the next day some scoundrel has removed them. You could call it tidiness; some prefer to brand it theft.
Anyway here we present photographic evidence - not of theft - but of lawful postering. Stephanie Billen - our glamorous and ever-youthful Chairperson -  has been out and about talking to people about the Fringe in general and Fringe Sunday (July 10th) in particular. Currently posters advertising Fringe Sunday are to be seen in the Pavilion Gardens. A very full programme for Fringe Sunday is promised - details to follow very soon. We can also promise a sensational new feature - the Bandstand will be decorated with its own Orange Fringe, the product of art workshops held with young people across the High Peak in recent weeks.

A couple of events open next Wednesday on Day 1 of the Fringe and don't hang around for long. So make sure you don't miss:
  • Music and the Muse at the Methodist Church from 6-8 July. Singer Susie Self joins cellist Michael Christie in an exploration of life in England at the time of George V 
  • Our Little Green Book of Children's Verse can be heard at the United Reformed Church from 6-13 July (and on Fringe Sunday too).

No doubt you've been keeping up-to-date with our trendier, younger friends on Buxton Fringe Facebook where there are links too many to mention to video and music clips from some of the many artists about to transform Buxton.

The Fringe Information Desk will be set-up in the entrance to the Conservatory adjacent to the Opera House next Monday, 4th July. See you there!

by Keith Savage - Published 30/06/2011

2011 Programme Complete

Chapel-en-le-Frith Morris Men - Coombs, June 2010
The Buxton Fringe 2011 programme is now pretty much complete and the proof-read design is now with the printers. The programme will be ready in about 2 weeks and the formal launch takes place at the Pavilion Arts Centre of Friday June 10th. Tickets are still available for the Fringe First show featuring some recent Fringe favourites. Sam Dunkley comperes and there will be music by Fordante, comedy from Gerry Howell, magic from Piff the Magic Dragon plus proper acting from the Shakespeare Jukebox, Shadow Syndicate and After Dark Entertainment. Tickets are £8/£10. Friends of Buxton Fringe get discounts of £1.50 - so there'e an early reward for all Fringe Friends. To book go to the Opera House Box Office. You should also be able to get tickets for some Fringe shows from the Opera House Box Office now.

Fringe 2011 has over 160 shows and events and more than 550 performances to entice you over a period of just 19 days (6-24 July). Among the smaller categories are Film and Dance - so let's review your options here. There is just one entry in Dance this year - if that is disappointing, the good news that dance will be taking to the streets of Buxton on Saturday July 23rd. Our good friends from Chapel-en-le-Frith Morris Men are organising their annual day of morris and there will be 8 or so sides dancing around the town. Yes, people laugh at morris dancers and the dancers are hard enough to take it. All I can say is if you think it laughable try it out and see what hard work it is. Most Morris sides will rehearse through the autumn and winter and dance out many weekends in the spring and summer - often for local charities.

Much of the film on show has been chosen or presented by Buxton Film. There are half a dozen full length features - all uplifting in their own way. They range from Mike Leigh's most recent (with national treasure Jim Broadbent), a darkish comedy (Skeletons) filmed in the dales around Bonsall (20 miles south east of Buxton) to a high-energy Bollywood comedy Three Idiots. Films entered for this year's Open Shorts competition are to be screened at The Railway on Saturday July 16th. Also being screened are some archive-based documentaries about ice-cream makers in Manchester and a social history of the River Derwent from Hathersage to Derby. This has footage from the 1950s and anyone who has enjoyed times by or in the river will love the film. Go to for full programme details and film reviews.

The other film being screened provides an opportunity to see again a play from Finge 2010. The Last Laugh is on at The Railway on July 10 (8-9pm). The play deals with some difficult mental health questions and at the heart of it is a powerful performance by Fiona Paul.

Finally, for now - the Military Tattoo (Saturday, July 9th at the University of Derby's Dome building) is selling fast. In fact the evening performance is sold out and less than 100 tickets remain for the afternoon show. This is phenomenal and makes it the biggest show in Buxton this summer!

by Keith Savage - Published 13/05/2011