Brighton Fringe: first shows unveiled
Brighton Fringe has put on sale the first batch of shows as it moves towards its new dates of May 28-June 27.
Usually the fringe runs in May alongside the Brighton Festival, but this year it will effectively follow the Brighton Festival, though still alongside Brighton’s Artist Open Houses which also runs later this year (May 29, 30, 31, June 5 and 6, June 12 and 13, June 19 and 20 and June 26 and 27).
As Brighton Fringe CEO Julian Caddy says, they are three independent festivals, each with their own teams and their own followings.
“We are all big enough to stand on our own, and of course it is always nice to have that extra noise going on around you when you are up and running, but actually extending the festival season shows that there is a big appetite for it to happen.
“And the other thing is that it is also the more responsible thing to do, to extend the season rather than piling everything into one month and overfilling the city. Doing everything over a longer period spreads out everything a little bit and means that we won’t have to worry about overcrowding. There will still be overcrowding on the beach, but you will be able to come to us for a little space!”
Though some tickets are now on sale, it is still early days for the festival, Julian stresses: “There are still a lot more shows to come. I think in the end we could be looking at 400 shows. It could be up to 500 shows. It could be as much as half the size of the normal fringe. And that is extraordinary.”
Julian stresses inevitably it will still be a hybrid festival, with around 130 events being digital: “Obviously it would be nice to have some certainty but we are thrilled to be in the position that we know we are going to be taking place, and that is the bottom line. We are very fortunate to be looking forward to a festival.”
And the response from event organisers shows that the demand is certainly there: “We have done audience surveys in the past year and as many as 85 per cent of people have responded saying they would be keen to return as soon it is safe and legal to do so. I think people are really looking forward to the possibilities.
“All these artists have been without platforms for so long, and even if it is still socially distanced, they will be so pleased just to get back on stage to do the things they love.
“Many of our venues are adapting themselves for the Covid environment being either outdoors or indoors/outdoors (having a roof but no walls) or having an additional ventilation system. And people will adapt. With the more traditional pub theatre type venues, there will be social distancing and there might be an audience of 50 rather than 25, but it is great that it is happening.”
The point is that the Fringe can’t bank on all restrictions ending, as hoped, on June 21: “We are going to continue to expect social distancing to some degree. If we started to sell full houses for after June 21, well, I just don’t think that would be prudent. Caution has got to be the way forward.
“I think, given what we have all been through, it would be foolhardy to expect everything to just jump back and happen in the way we have been told it was going to have. We have been through many times in the past year with things that might or might not happen and haven’t happened. Again and again we have had to cancel things because the situation has taken a nosedive. But the bottom line is that it is just great to be putting on a socially-distanced fringe.”