Chester Fringe is happening this Friday- Sunday. I chatted to its “ringleader” local campaigner Mark Williams, well known to the people of Hoole and Chester.
“Its existed previously, at least a couple of times in the city, 3 years ago, I had the idea, because there was the Rocks festival, there should be a response from the city, there should be an alternative, something on the fringes, catering for other stuff. Three years ago we did a weekend of local bands playing, and fringe has adapted each year to do something different since then” Chester Rocks was recently cancelled by the racecourse and the fringe has evolved – “the Chester live festival that happened last weekend, which was really good, effectively is doing what we originally wanted, to have local bands playing all weekend at local venues, and we’re now trying to do something different and be a real “fringe”
“Friday night we have a launch event at Alexander’s, introducing Tom Baxter to Chester. Its a ticketed event that’s almost sold out.. we do try and offer free events if we can, but part of what we’re trying to do with Fringe is bring things to Chester to add to the culture, that’s not being provided by all the other things that are going on. We have a named, up and coming artist that we’re getting up from London. Three years ago we had acts like Millie Pye and Natalie McCool, who’s had an album out, shes working on a second album now. So we’re trying to bring acts to Chester that arent being catered for elsewhere” Last summer Fringe did a show at Minerva Lodge tattoo studios featuring top bands such as Me and Deboe and the Queens Minions. Sadly for logistical reasons its not happening this year.
The bandstand takeover: “Bands can book the bandstand through the council now (busking is banned) rather than just turning up and using it” Local acts are performing in the bandstand on Saturday 2-6 pm an Sunday 1-5. Mark says “We’re highlighting some of the acts that are playing in the evenings, Saturday night in the lockkeeper we have a range of local, regional acts.. we have curated that through Rose Price as a stripped back acoustic and roots (event)….” Operation Lightfoot and Luke Moore are at the bandstand on Sunday and will also be doing a pop up performance at Telfords open mic. Mark says they are an “interesting and unique local act in that they’re….. I dont really know how to describe them! A string quartet..a modern orchestra… Luke has written a 20 minute piece which has to be seen to be believed”
Chester is often denigrated for being a cultural desert… “we do get a lot of that , we’re part of the response to people saying there is no culture.. people are either blinkered or blind to what is going on, or just genuinely just havent seen that there is loads of stuff happening. Theres loads of open mics , loads of bands playing in bars across the city every night of the week, the midsummer watch is happening this weekend as well! There is a vibrant culture out there and a lot of it is being either ignored or not being seen, with Fringe we’re trying to add to that and offer something a bit different and a bit alternative
“Last year we did an arts fringe in October, we had some alternative fringe events, pop up performances around the town, local performers working for free.. we had belly dancers, we had a magician we had an opera singer.. to surprise people , suddently an opera singer would set up and start singing … quite different to the sort of busking you’d see on the street. We also had a very risque burlesque show at St Marys which was a great success.. Thats continuing this year, we’rw working on some plans.. we have a big folk act coming on the Saturday and we’re working on some other events to go around that. We’re working on something called a “fake tour”.. there are various tours, the ghost tour, roman tour, the roundhead tour.. we’re gonna get a drama group to quite openly, create a fake tour.. obviously we have to be very careful with the authorities, that we dont get into trouble, so its all going to be above board.. but a fun piece of street theatre, they will make up the entire thing as a drama piece…
Mark praised the collective efforts of everyone involved in the Fringe ” I’m encouraging other people to do stuff… its very much driven by people that are organising and curating our events around the city. There are lots of people involved, theres Lee whos organising things at Alexanders, theres Luke Moore, Nala Rolo, Rose Price, all of whom are voluntarily delivering events for Fringe . We’re gonna get Minerva arts involved as well.. its completely zero budget. We’re not a charity, we have no budget.. we’re just trying to deliver something different on a free voluntary basis acrosss a couple of weekends”
Beth Kennedy,one of the organisers of Chester Micro Plays, describes the fringe as a “celebration of local community musicians and performers..There’s a lot of cultural stuff aimed at the tourists, but we think the local people are a bit left out. We want to entertain the local people (as well as tourists!). It’s a casual, relaxed, hella fun atmosphere and we hammer home the importance of preserving the community, while providing some fabballass entertainment”
I asked Beth “why should people come to the fringe instead of Cruise/Rosies/ trendy bar?”
“The answer is simple. There are no “guest star appearances” from The Only Way is Essex. In all seriousness, we bring something completely different to Chester. The Chester Fringe is aimed at everyone. I mean, like, young, old, in-between, gay, straight, bi, tri, introverts, extroverts – you name it. At the Chester Fringe there really is something for everyone. It’s a true melting pot of styles ranging from hip hop, pop, folk, rock, classic. Heck, you can even just shout out a music style and someone will play it! The Chester Fringe is all about the people. Without sounding too hippy, we just wanna spread some good vibes maaan. I’m going to be performing my comedy ukulele act!…..Basically, I just play my uke really bad and sing cover songs. It could be anything from 80s power ballads to One Direction. If I’m honest, even I don’t know which songs I’ll perform on the night. I always try and gauge the audience and fit my setlist to them. It’s pretty much a “go with the flow” kind of act because anything could happen. At the last Chester Fringe I knocked down all three microphones on the stage – it wasn’t part of the act but it went down a treat.
Beth and ther other Fringe acts will be at the Lock Keeper Saturday 7.30 admission £3
Thanks Mark Williams and Beth Kennedy for their time
Follow Chester Fringe on twitter : @ChesterFringe or on facey.