I had never automatically thought of our town’s main shopping centre as a potential space for an arts festival. A paean to the vision of 1980’s town planning, perhaps, but a Fringe venue?
Nevertheless, this is home to Buxton Festival Fringe’s Book Swap, started in 2015 and making its third appearance. As ever, the clue with these mysterious events lies in the name; you bring a book and swap it.
On my visit there were 2 comfortable armchairs, a desk, a bookcase full of books and a letter box through which to post the tome you have finished with. Popular authors such as Gillian Flynn, Sue Townsend and Danielle Steele were represented, and fans of the screen (Bridget Jones, Killing Eve) and children’s fiction (Michael Morpurgo, Jackie Wilson, Enid Blyton) would not have been disappointed. The more it is used, the more the choice on display stands to be refreshed.
Nestled in a corner by what was M and S, the setting was surprisingly relaxing and is there for your use, free of charge, for the duration of the Fringe. Opening times are Monday - Friday 9 – 530, Saturday 8 – 530, and Sunday 1000 - 4. Let us hope this unusual and public-spirited event is well supported!
So it begins - the Buxton Festival Fringe 2019 and celebrating its 40th year! The official launch party, held at the Underground's festival hub, above the Old Club House, was vibrant and filled with excitement! The venue was decorated with lights, banners and hundreds of posters and leaflets, showcasing the events to come in the next 22 days. The event was hosted by the incredible Kate Butch, who not only presented the raffle, but introduced each performer to the stage and gave the audience a preview of her show. Next onto the stage was the chair of the Fringe, Keith Savage, who warmly welcomed and thanked everyone involved in creating this the 40th Buxton Fringe, as well as sharing his excitement about each and every performance. Tom Crawshaw and Yaz Al-Shaater, founders of Underground, expressed their gratitude, and their animated creativity took over with a look at what's to come in the next 40 years! With 6 amazing preview performances from a range of performers, including comedy, music, drama and poetry, and a chance to talk to each performer over a cheese twist and a drink, it was an amazing start to the 2019 Fringe and I personally cannot wait to see what else is to come!
Oh,what a gay day!
The picnic was a held under and outside a tent in the Pavilion Gardens. It was a glorious, colourful occasion. Both the people and the many stalls were dressed in their bright red, yellow and green party outfits. It took me back to the good old days of the fetes and parties of my youth which were held before the current get-togethers, where the cacophony of electronic music players and microphones are considered an essential part of similar events.
Then the fun began. Our local MP, Ruth George opened the event by welcoming all the happy party-goers to a lovely get-together. She was very appreciative of the happy band of revelers and wished them all a great afternoon of enjoyment.
Over a hundred picnickers plus children and dogs were assembled for their annual celebration of the LGBT+ community of the Peak. They gathered together for a picnic and “ an afternoon of light-hearted silliness and determined delight”. Fabulous summer hats were invited, plus participants were encouraged to bring a cake, to join their Big Gay Bake Off.
That was only part of the celebrations; there were also a face-painting, balloon modelling, jumbo chalks and a competent accordion player were all enjoyed by children and adults alike.
The prime event was, of course the essential cake competition. The cakes were judged by taste, rather than merely their shapes and icing techniques. That enabled everyone to eat them all, to add to their enjoyment before then offering their judgement. This was a traditional picnic which included sandwiches, baked side-nibbles and various flavours of tea, for example, chamomile and green.
The event was sponsored by various local retailers, including Waitrose, Argos and Holland and Barratt to name but a few. Buxton Museum and Art Gallery had donated a bright, inflatable model bear with the novel caption “Thank you for giving our Bear some pride”.
John, one of the party-goers, explained that the object of the picnic was not only for locals to get together, but also to meet and make friends with other like-minded people from outside their community.
I’m sure that it certainly achieved that objective; the party was a great success and no doubt will be the start of an annual event at Buxton Carnival.
Well, in 2019 I think we all know that magic doesn’t actually exist, but incredible slight of hand certainly does, and Casper Thomas had this nailed.
This was an ‘intimate audience with’ scenario in the Rotunda, so we all had a close-up view of each trick. This, however, did not make the slightest bit of difference. I concentrated on everything - staring intently at hands and sleeves - but it was impossible to guess how any of the amazing tricks were done. As Casper quite rightly said, this was “infuriating for a lot of people” e.g. me!
This was close-up magic with ordinary objects and the glamorous assistance of several members of the audience, all thoroughly checking every prop for clues.
We had ice cool Graham from Chesterfield assisting with coin and handkerchief tricks, a ripped up tissue miraculously forming back into one piece again, the ‘Impossibox’, rope passing through rings, and telepathic card tricks with perplexed Richard from Buxton.
Magic and Casper Thomas are a fantastic addition to the Buxton Fringe programme, and to sum up in his own words “Magic is the illusion and demonstration of what is believed to be impossible”. Impossible it sure was.
Prepared to be bamboozled again at 3.00 pm, 21 July 2019 at the Rotunuda.
Cry Havoc! describes this production as a ‘daft tour’ and it is indeed a gentle visit, unrushed and not overly demanding when it comes to layers of fact or geological language and ideas. Rather Sheridan is an amiable companion as you are allowed to marvel at the formations in the caves and the natural energy that created them. ‘Awesome’ is an overused word these days but as you try to take in what surrounds you it really is the only word that will do.
For visitors familiar with the caves Sheridan’s tour is still worth doing because the outward journey is lit only by low-powered, handheld torches. This establishes a very different atmosphere and experience to that created by the Civic Association’s regular more ‘expert’ tours.
Sheridan is accompanied for part of his excursion by Pebbles who has little to say but is probably glad of our company, a small relief from the perpetual darkness and loneliness that is seemingly her lot. There is an underlying pathos about the two of them that might be further explored - but that would make for a slightly darker story than the one that is intended.
The party of which I was a part clearly relished the visit and the opportunity to experience something out of the ordinary. For some it might be that Sheridan’s droll delivery is merely dry rather than daft but so far as I could tell most of his facts were more or less true. And the inventions were harmless enough.
There are plenty of chances to see Sheridan, Pebbles and the caves. If you go do remember that it is only 8 degrees down there; borrow a cardy!