Palace Hotel, 22 Jul, 7.30pm
There were a great many 'firsts' about last night's show and I don't just mean the vuvuzela indicating when each magician had done his ten minutes at a table.
This was the first time that the close up magicians had performed at the Palace Hotel - a much grander venue than un-refurbished Paxton Suite. It was also the first of their Fringe events to include an element of stage magic, as well as the first time that all the magicians had come from the clearly thriving High Peak Magicians' Society.
Conscious of his own particular 'first' was 15-year-old junior member Matt Sargeant performing in public for the first time. For me it was astonishing to see how my daughter's contemporary at school had turned into a waist-coated professional whose close up card magic was both unfathomable and cheeky - who knew he had the eight of hearts in his mouth?!
There were well over 100 people at the event and it was structured so that the excellent compere, Andy Hall, introduced each magician as they made visits to every table. Each had their particular expertise and style, from Chris Stevenson with his risqué wit and invisible scissors, to Ian Barradell with his straightforward yet utterly baffling 'mind reading'. There was no weak link in the chain and it is perhaps unfair to mention names but certain moments stayed with me such as Neil Ford making a ring move up hill on a rubber band in somebody else's hand, or the extraordinary, robed Mystic Monk singling out the one 'pure of heart' member of our table and predicting her choice of magic rune from a cube.
This was a long, diverse and rewarding evening with the stage magic adding even more variety, but it was the finale that blew us all away. Four years ago Dan Wardle was just a junior member like Matt. Now aged 17, he has emerged out of his chrysalis to become Danny Jewel, a magician with his own truly astonishing stage act involving a wand turning into cloth, turning into a dove and then more doves before our very eyes.
Eye-popping stuff but for me the biggest magic lay in how the High Peak Magicians' Society is able to nurture talent so effectively. Based at the Cheshire Cheese in Longnor, they also meet on the second Sunday of every month at Buxton's Project X from 10am to 1pm where they welcome those with a genuine interest in taking up magic. For further information call Andy Hall on 07836 355674.
15 July (repeated on 16 July) - start from Opera House forecourt
If 200 yards in 90 minutes sounds like your pace for a walk then this could be the tour of Buxton for you! Chris Simpson and Christine Gould - long-standing members of the Wells Dressing Committee and life-long town residents - are passionate about Buxton and have a lot to share with you. They have tried to limit their brief but almost inevitably a few diversions creep into the narrative.
So, for example, we learned about Penfold Post Boxes, the Ladies All-England Tennis Championships (once played on the courts of the Pavilion Gardens), the torture of religious dissidents, the origins of the Old Clubhouse as a non-political gentleman's club, roller-skating and curling, the problems of building on geological lines of non-conformity - all this and we were still within sight of the Opera House.
Once we'd got to the Savoy and turned into the Crescent we addressed the main themes of the walk - the history and practice of wells dressing and the importance of 'taking the treatments' to the Buxton economy. Chris and Christine provided us with weatherproof books of old postcards to illustrate the various histories they told.
Christine explained how the current dressings (there are three wells, but we saw only St Ann's on the walk) were completed in a period of 48 hours (between last Thursday and Saturday) with teams working 12-hour shifts. The planning, of course, began long before but the nature of the dressing process - which has remained largely unchanged in the 170 of wells dressing in Buxton - means that the wet clay, into which the natural materials that make the design are fixed, must be worked quickly and the final product has a short life.
Christine happily answered the many questions asked of her and it was interesting to learn how the craft had once been largely a male preserve - now, as might have been guessed, women do pretty much all the work. She also explained how, for example, the tradition began as a pagan practice, was then taken on by churches using religious texts but now more secular themes are common. In Buxton this year, for example, the centenary of guiding and the significance of the World Cup in South Africa are being addressed.
It is unfortunate that Chris Simpson had to rely so much on postcards to illustrate his account - when the buildings he was talking about were there in front of us, for the most part locked-up, inaccessible because of their dangerous condition or lack of services. The Pump Room, the Crescent and the Natural Mineral Baths stand before us in various stages of decay. Optimists may hope that the Crescent will be more actively developed by this time next year. Chris might consider - given the wealth of material he has - developing a number of specific walks, one on the Pavilion Gardens alone might be fascinating. This would allow him more time to focus on the water and the various treatments in this walk. If Chris has the inclination and energy that is! Many thanks - from an occasional visitor to the town - to Christine, Chris and Annabel for their excellent and knowledgeable company.
14, 15 & 19th July at 6:30pm from the Fringe Club in Underground Venues
In the guise of Cram Tawshaw, imperfect anagram and earnest, hapless, part-crazed, indifferently knowledgeable, trainspotting history rambler, Tom Crawshaw leads his band of followers around Buxton entertaining with many facts, some of them true.
Cram's fraught relationships frequently entangle themselves with the tour, most energetically and dramatically with the gorgeous Kayleigh. All is resolved in the end though. I felt sorry for the ghost.
The conceit, writing and delivery are classic Crawshaw, witty, intelligent and surreal. The happy band of followers laughed long and hard in the pouring rain. Luckily everyone was well covered. Except the ghost.
The most surreal moment came toward the end in Pavilion Gardens when a brass band could be heard rehearsing the Liberty Bell march (better known as the Monty Python theme tune) as the tour and Cram's personal life reached their climax. I don't imagine Tom will be able to arrange this for every tour.
A most enjoyable hour. I don't think it would have worked as well without the rain. Except for the ghost,
PS Fringe umbrellas are only £10 from the Fringe Desk.
Derbyshire Committee of ABF The Soldiers' Charity
University of Derby Buxton - The Dome, 10 Jul 6pm to 8.30pm
The Buxton Military Tattoo, a charity event in aid of ABF The Soldiers' Charity, is a real phenomenon having sold its 800 or so tickets well before the Fringe started. Indeed they have already set a date for next year's Tattoo on Saturday July 9, 2011, so if you are interested I would strongly advise visiting their website www.buxtontattoo.org.uk for further information.
Clearly this is the start of a new tradition in Buxton making the similarities between Edinburgh and Buxton even greater although of course in Edinburgh the tattoo is part of the Festival whereas in Buxton it makes a stunning addition to the Fringe.
But on with the show... Last night's event was a triumph. I had been slightly worried beforehand about the Dome's extraordinarily difficult acoustic, but the marching bands' music not only survived but prospered, the echo enhancing it so that at one point I was reminded somewhat incongruously of Phil Spector's 'wall of sound'. Nor was visibility an issue. The Dome is so huge that there was no need for rows and rows of chairs plus there was the option to enjoy a no doubt magnificent aerial view from the gallery above.
Colonel Alasdair Hutton's excellent commentary was sometimes hard to make out but in the second half even that problem seemed to have been ironed out. The organisers have found that in this venue, the answer with the music is to play louder; the answer with the speaking is, I think, to slow - it - right - down!
Musically this was fantastic with treats ranging from The Volunteer Band of the Mercian Regiment playing The Great Escape, to The Pipes & Drums of RAF Waddington giving us a flavour of Scotland with their tartan and bagpipes. In the second half The Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band produced a particularly rich sound while in the Finale, WO2 Gary Chilton of The Soldiers offered a solo performance from the musical Chess which rang out across the Dome in magnificent fashion.
This was also an amazing spectacle with every soldier looking immaculate. It was good to see some variety too with the 126 (City of Derby) Squadron Air Training Corps offering an exhilarating Weapons Drill Display to a pounding rock track. There was an almost guilty thrill in seeing those large black guns wielded with such expertise and precision.
There was some humour as when two cadet teams went a bit 'It's a Knockout' with their gun race across the floor and a sense of camaraderie when the whole audience joined in a medley of war songs such as White Cliffs of Dover, but the evening as a whole was more than anything, moving. Full tribute was paid to soldiers who have been injured or lost their lives in the line of duty, including Buxton's Marine, Scott Gregory Taylor. And when the Lone Piper Finlay MacGhee performed Lest We Forget, I felt suddenly connected to past generations for whom war made such an impact that forgetting was not an option.
I spent a very pleasant 2 hours in the company of a lady who was very entertaining and knowledgeable not only about Buxton but her subject, Vera Brittain. Other than being the mother of Shirley Williams and an author I knew nothing of this 'incomer' to Buxton. As we strolled leisurely through Buxton and Vera's life I felt I would have enjoyed her company very much though she would probably have me amongst the 'intellectual vacuum' that she felt Buxton to be.
Jennie knows her stuff, I believe she has done this walk for many years. It was a shame there was only me and my friend on the tour in so far as it is a revelation and a real insight into life and times of Buxton for the well to do just prior to 'the great war'. Vera only lived in Buxton for 10 years but it had a huge impact on this intelligent and feisty young woman. How Vera railed against the social constraints of her class, and more pertinently her father - who met a very tragic end; her growing interest in pacifism; her dream of going to University thwarted, as for so many, by the onset of World War 1 and the terrible waste of young life that this brought about especially her beau and her brother, and her career and eager enthusiasm for working at the Devonshire Hospital.
The picture Jennie paints and the quotes she makes on Vera's views of Buxton leave you have in no doubts as to why Buxtonians are not overly fond of Vera - she is scathing. When she left Buxton she vowed never to come back - she did once and on viewing the war memorial discovered that the name of her brother was missing the honour he had received. The final straw!
Despite our (unintentional) best efforts, Jennie stuck to her subject and I would highly recommend anyone interested in the history and social context of Buxton to join Jennie on this fascinating walk putting familiar buildings into a different context and illustrating in great detail how different a young woman's life was then to today. Thank you Jennie.
8TH to 18TH July noon to 7pm on the promenade opposite the OctagonInterim Report
Many weird things were still being offloaded from a disappointingly ordinary van by even weirder people when your reviewer turned up so he will confine himself to a brief impression for now.
Firstly the gin is very good.
Secondly riding a penny farthing is very hard, but easier after the gin.
If you want more gin you're required to write something witty and original. Your reviewer gave them a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson and got no more gin. The standard is high.
An ideal aimless entertainment on a hot afternoon there are some organised events attached:
On Saturday (10th) Dr. Butler's Hatstand will perform. This is a band.
On Saturday and Sunday Damien Barr will be there at 2 and 4 pm. I do not know what he is.
On Friday 16th at 8pm bedtime stories will be read.
I'll be back with more when the weirdness is complete. Frankly more detail may only confuse but I'll give it a go. For now think weird and you'll be most of the way there. And gin, of course.Update
Emerson has appeared on the wall of writing and your reviewer has been rewarded with more gin.
Hendrick's is very fine gin and the young people on the train are very fine young people especially the one in the very tight basque with the electric cucumbers. The electric cucumbers is a thrilling experience which I would recommend to anyone without a heart condition.
Cucumbers are important to Hendricks people and the gin is always served with a slice. I am less sure about this, being partial to a nice bit of lime myself, but then you can't be electrocuted with limes.
Damian Barr (correct spelling this time) has been and gone as has the band. Next up is Bedtime Stories which the audience is required to attend in night attire. It's free and on Friday 16th at 8pm. Tickets are limited and their events have been very popular so far.