We were in for a treat when the lovely people at Forest Fringe, left their home sweet home of Edinburgh to embark upon a tour of the UK to showcase a series of micro festivals. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of acquaintance with the Forest Fringe, they are a jolly group of artists who run a festival within the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, distinctively different from the rest owing to their emphasis on experimentation and charging never more than the princely sum of well, absolutely nothing to watch the performances, inviting artists to show works in progress rather than polished, finished fluff. In fact this has created a reputation of some renown for them as providers of the some of the most thrilling new theatre in Scotland and beyond.
Their offering to England’s capital did not disappoint in spite of its fairly ambitious aspirations; to recreate the energy and unpredictability of an entire festival in a single night. Succeed they did, managing to retain the spark of spontaneity without the concomitant chaos, this was a more innovative and intelligent alternative to spending your evening in your local boozer. This well-attended and well-organised feast for the senses was comprised of a dizzying array of artists, a charismatic crowd of arts enthusiasts and the lavish interiors of Battersea’s old town hall, fashioning an ambiance of bohemian grandeur.
A dolly mixture of intimate performances, installations, music and surprise happenings, everyone tailored they own experiences, many of which involved their participation; all contributed to a mood of wit, intrigue and exciting enchantment.
Particularly quaint and memorable was ‘First Up Best Dressed’, an interactive-clothes-swap-party installation, which featured clothes littered around the venue, willing you to take them in exchange for your own, each with a tag detailing their history. One of which was bought from a charity shop, which the purchaser found out had originally belonged to her sister, which she had given to a friend who gave it away again.
‘Carpe Minuta Prima’ was a piece whereby you could sell a minute of your time but first you had to convince the artist that your minute was worth buying, if it was, you would go into a private room and be filmed for one minute doing what you stated you would (which could be your party piece or anything) then it would be put on a CD with your photograph on the cover, and that would be for sale (and you were not allowed to buy it). These however are just two of 18 different pieces. Beyond the sumptuous surroundings, the perfect package lay in the attention to detail, from the volunteers to the bar staff, every person was full of fun and frolic and were of course exceedingly nice. On the closing night the finale consisted of some merry melodies from the twee twosome ‘Letters to the front’, full of beautiful harmonies, clever lyrics and a particularly amusing song about a bicycle. They seemed an ideal choice to sing lullabies of goodbye at what had been a festival full of wonder and whimsy.
This London event was the first instalment of their micro festivals (ever, so round of applause) after delighting audiences here, they continued cheerfully onwards, upwards and south-westwards to Glasgow, Swansea and Bristol, each one altered by the incorporation of local talent. Art groupies would have done well to stalk them on their journey; indeed the organisers may have had trouble with stowaways in the boot of their car. While I couldn’t witness the festivals that followed, judging by what I saw at BAC, they would be mini extravaganza’s, characterised by dare, dash and an abundance of charm.