Community Links Archive

A Case History from 2019 - with thanks to musician Paul Cromford

Fringe40 performer Paul Cromford became a semi-regular visitor to Fairfield Endowed Junior School in June and July 2019, as part of Buxton Fringe’s Community Links programme --- and he says the experience has affected him deeply.

 "I was keen to get involved in the Community Links programme this time around," says Paul, a Buxton-based musician and composer whose previous Fringe participation was back in 2013. “The idea of working with a local junior school was mooted, and to be honest I was a bit reluctant to agree. Why? Well, I've never considered myself 'good with children', as the saying goes; always very shy and awkward." 

"My wife Carole and I had a preliminary chat with FEJS deputy head Sue Parkes," he explains. "We arranged for me to visit Year 5 on four consecutive Thursday afternoons. I took a guitar along, and each week I led two classrooms of children in songs and discussions themed around the Moon." Why the Moon? The choice of subject-matter was suggested by his lunar-related show, 'The Ancient Pull', which he wrote specially for Buxton Fringe40 and which received a nomination for New Writing in the Fringe Awards. "As it turned out, I needn't have worried," says Paul. "The children were charming and inquisitive, keen to enter into the spirit of our activities, and the school couldn't have made us more welcome if they'd rolled out a red runner!" 

Each week Paul spoke about some aspect of the Moon, opened up a discussion with plenty of free-ranging Q&A, then played a song from his show to illustrate what had been discussed. "I got really into planning for each visit," he says. "For example, Week Two's theme was the daydreamers through history and their fantastical ways of reaching the Moon; as part of this we demonstrated the true distance between Earth and Moon in the classrooms, with our own scale-models: a grapefruit, a ping-pong ball and a tape-measure (the answer's 105 inches, if you're interested!). Then for Week Three, discussing the Apollo astronauts who got a chance to see the hidden far side of the Moon, I asked one class to swivel their chairs around and face the 'back' of the room, where I was standing to address them; it was an exercise in seeing things from a fresh viewpoint."

What Paul didn’t expect was that he would get just as much out of the sessions as the children. "Some of their off-the-wall questions and comments really forced me to think very carefully about my replies; we don't realise how lazy our thinking is, most of the time. And of course, it was such a thrill for me to find myself actually conversing with children as naturally as I would with you! That's changed me forever."

Would he do more work in similar vein? "Oh yes, at the drop of a hat. My wife and I are hoping to arrange a return visit to Fairfield Endowed during their autumn term, maybe to stage my Fringe40 show for them.... after all, they already know four of the songs! I'm so glad I took the opportunity presented by Community Links; it's enriched all of us that were involved, and I will carry with me some great memory-highlights, such as seeing a classroom of children 'strumming' their plastic rulers and singing along while I played them a tune. Marvellous!" 

Case Histories from 2017 - with thanks to Buxton Studio Choir and Buxton Art Trail

Cathey from Buxton Art Trail shows a resident from Haddon Hall Care Home a piece of artwork from the Trail contributed by artist Fiona Jubb.

In 2017 Buxton Studio Choir performed songs from their Fringe Summer Showcase to residents at Haddon Hall Care Home. This included walking along corridors and singing so that those who were bed-ridden could also enjoy the music. Also in this year, Buxton Art Trail pioneered a scheme to bring artworks to elderly residents beginning with those at Haddon Hall.

A Case History from 2018 - with thanks to Joanna Allen

joanna Allen with St Anne's pupils

In 2018 High Peak Artists member Joanna Allen worked with year 6 pupils from St Anne's Catholic Primary School in Buxton showing them how to create little mini ‘face books’ inspired by her winning entry for the 2018 Buxton Fringe programme.  The visit was part of the group’s work in the community during the Buxton Festival Fringe. Joanna says; “The pupil’s work was superb; and it was great to be involved in a fun community project that helped them appreciate the unique beauty of Buxton’s wonderful domes, cupolas and intricate architecture with their creations!”

A Case History from 2018 - with thanks to Debbie Cannon

Here is a comment from one of the many performers who took advantage of our Community Links scheme in 2018: Debbie Cannon who performed Green Knight at the Fringe organised a workshop with pupils of Peak Dale School. She says: "I did some work with [the children of Peak Dale School] on the story of King Arthur - we acted out some bits with the children playing Arthur, knights, lords and ladies, dragons, Merlin and lots more! They were brilliant - so enthusiastic and imaginative! Thank you for suggesting the community links - I'm so glad I did it!"

Peter Buxton

A Case History from 2015 - with thanks to Peter Buxton from Sideways Band

Sideways Band played the Haddon Hall Care Home during the summer Fringe, with rewarding results! 

"I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to offer", says Peter about his decision to register an interest in Community Links , "but something along the lines of a guitar workshop, or perhaps a performance to youngsters or the elderly who may not necessarily have access to live music".

After looking through the Fringe's Community Links contacts list,  Sideways got in touch with Haddon Hall Care Home gaining an enthusiastic response virtually by return! Conveniently located on the London Road in Buxton, Porthaven’s new 75 bed care home, Haddon Hall, delivers exemplary care to those requiring residential, nursing or dementia care on a short or long term basis.

Explains Peter: "We had an initial meeting where we prepared together an itinerary for a one-hour music session to be held after a weekday tea. The date arrived and about 20 people filled the very comfortable lounge, making an eager audience."

What resulted was a really good gig with a special atmosphere of music and fun. Always in performance, Peter looks to engage the audience and this was no exception - the level of participation and pleasure was tangible throughout. The icing on the cake however was when one fan rose to her feet and proceeded to bop away to the music. This was infectious and pretty soon spread, until staff and residents alike were slaves to the beat! 

The surprising thing was (notwithstanding the generous average age) that after the session, Peter was told that this particular lady had never in all her time there, so much as left her seat.

This was a truly heart-warming and positive addition to the "Fringe effect". Peter adds: "I'm glad to be able to recount this, hoping that it will encourage further Tales from the Fringeface in 2016."

Case Histories from 2013 and earlier

In 2013 we had some delightful feedback about several initiatives. Opera d'Amici went to Fairfield Infants to sing with the children. They were invited back for the following year. Arletty Theatre Company performed Patchwork Lives in two community venues. Says artistic director Imogen Joyce: "One performance was in a lovely school, and the other was in a busy nursing home. Both audiences clearly enjoyed it a great deal - the nursing home was particularly moving, with audience-members smiling and singing with us, which was lovely."

Initially we organised a link between Fringe entrants and schools in the Buxton area giving the opportunity for Fringe performers to bring their talents to school children. In 2011 we extended the participating groups to include not just schools but elderly people's care homes and youth organisations. Among those taking part in this initiative in 2011 were Planet Rabbit with their popular wartime comedy drama, Blitz Bride. Their performance at The Hawthorns care home was applauded by the manager, Major Elaine Holder, who explained: "The residents' attention was held throughout and that was down to the skill of the performers who made it so entertaining".