Other Events Reviews

BOOKS IN THE PARK - Books in the Peak

Book selection

Old Bowling Green, Pavilion Gardens, 23rd July

What a delightful way to end this year's Fringe! Books in the Peak book group had set up a decorated tepee and gazebo, providing nibbles and drinks, on the Bowling Green and shared with us how their group worked and had developed.

Their group now numbers eleven - which is seen as enough - and the intention was not to recruit but, through a workshop, show how a book group works for them. The first chapter of Betsy Tobin's recent novel Crimson China was used for this purpose. The group had prepared a number of questions to give shape to the discussion - a practice that they recommend. In their experience most novels have book group questions posted somewhere on the Internet. If they can't find somebody else's questions it isn't so hard to create their own.

This group has been in existence for a little over two years and chooses to read contemporary fiction. They try to choose books from a range of cultures because food is an important part of their meetings and they aim to match food to the current book in some way. They are eating and reading their way around the world.

The core members of this all-woman group have known each other for years - having had children at the same time. The book group has been a way of extending and deepening those friendships as well as bringing in some new faces. This has worked well for them and they would recommend that anyone starting a group should begin by identifying some like-minded friends - rather than start with 8-12 'strangers' who happen to enjoy reading.

Anyone thinking about setting up a book group will find their 10 easy steps a helpful start - the main message being "enjoy the read!" To find out more, visit their website:


Helen White

BUXTON CARNIVAL FLOAT - Buxton Festival Fringe

Fringe at the front

Carnival Day 2011 dawned, fair and bright; a brilliant sun shone from a clear blue sky, the birds were singing and all was well with the world .... No, sorry, wrong script!!

Start again....

Carnival Day 2011 dawned. Just about. The sun was well and truly hidden from view, with heavy cloud, torrential rain and gusty winds. Sigh..... another typical Buxton Day!

A small gathering of trusty volunteers gathered in the downpour to carry out the annual tradition of turning a blue Lomas lorry into an orange Fringe lorry. With flags, flowers, posters and flags (not to mention a brolly or two) slowly the Fringe Carnival float took shape. The sun appeared (briefly) and equally promptly disappeared. However, spirits were lifted considerably when the results of the judging were announced and we discovered we had won first prize for our class of entry. That's never happened before. Well, actually, it happened once when we had a small pony in our float and we won first prize in the class titled "floats with a live animal" ... OK, so no-one else had a live animal (or a dead one) to enter on that occasion!!

Anyway ... we won, and we displayed our certificate and trophy with pride! Valiantly we went forth in the Carnival procession, our very large and very useful Fringe umbrellas saving us from the worst of the Buxton weather.

Thanks to the loyal crowds who turned out regardless of the conditions, a wonderful afternoon was had by all. We trust that a suitable sum was raised in the collection .... and we look forward to seeing you all again next year.

P.S. Fringe umbrellas can be purchased at a very reasonable rate from our lovely staff at the Fringe Desk!

Stephanie Watts

Editor's Note: actually, circumstances dictated that the pony *was* the float and opinions differ as to whether Tansy the Pony had any competition. Anyway, the cup was massive and the title won was "Best Pony in Show" http://www.buxtonfringe.org.uk/carnival2005.html


Buxton Military Tattoo 2010

University of Derby Buxton - The Dome, 9 July 2pm to 4pm and 6pm to 8.30pm

This new tradition in Buxton seems well and truly established even though this is only its second year. Alastair Hutton OBE TD again presented the Tattoo with his familiar voice adding history and commentary to the proceedings.

The event was divided into two parts with an interval for organised refreshments and drinks.

There were six military bands paraded individually playing the familiar music of marching bands, including also, some popular and more contemporary arrangements of Buble and Riverdance. The Air Force cadets rifle drill performed again this year together with their drum corps whose display was simply brilliant. Their immaculate timing, producing a series of purring rhythms which thrilled. I had to remember to breathe.

For me, the highlight of the Tattoo was the rendition of The Gael performed by all six bands. Enhanced by the story of the English declaration to the French during the colonial wars in America, told by Alastair Hutton, the music captured the audience and lifted them as its strains grew to a crescendo.

The audience stood for the Sunset Ceremony with the Solo Bugler, in respect for military personnel, particularly in Afghanistan, and their families. The audience remained standing for the Lone Piper and the National Anthem.

The spectacle of colour and sound was breath-taking, the bright reds and blue of the uniforms, the glinting of silver and brass. The Dome is renowned in have confusing acoustics but this in no way affected my pleasure in listening to, the sometimes soft, sometimes rousing choruses of the bands; hearing distinctly the clarinets, piccolos, pipes and the trill of the side drums.

It was a great show and immaculately organised. Thank you to the organisers particularly, Chris Thornton and his team and all the performers.

Martin Wood

EVENING OF CLOSE UP MAGIC - High Peak Magicians Society

magician at work

Barcelo Buxton Palace Hotel

Chatsworth Room, 20-21 Jul 7.30pm to 10.30pm

High Peak Magicians Society have done it again with another excellent night of baffling close-up magic and the great news is that this year they are offering a second show, the bad news being that it is already sold out!

The Society seem to have settled on the Palace Hotel as their venue and it is certainly a grand and comfortable one that easily accommodates the large numbers that traditionally attend the event. In an added bonus, each ticket holder receives a raffle ticket with some exciting magic-set prizes.

But on with the show... Assured compere Andy Hall does a fine job of introducing each magician as they take turns to visit different tables. A confident '3, 2, 1 magish!' invites them to get started while his vuvuzela makes it abundantly clear when each 10-minute stint is up.

As indicated in the title, this is all about close-up magic and it really is mind-blowing to witness Neil Ford somehow putting an audience member's ring around a rolled up £20 note while two people are holding each end, or Ian Barradell demonstrating his 'rotor recipricator' card-changer whereby cards change position in front of your very eyes. The youngest magician there, Matt Sargeant, had some especially impressive card tricks with aces in particular seeming to haunt him and crop up in places where moments before there had been no aces at all! This was only his second appearance at the Fringe and it was good to see him developing his act with props such as some incredible magic glasses that enabled a member of the audience to 'mind read' their way to identifying someone else's chosen card.

Magicians tend to use similar props on the whole but here there was plenty of variety with veteran magician Bobby Martell stealing a penny from a glass while someone else was holding it, Chris Stevenson astonishing us with a puzzle that seemed able to accommodate any number of extra pieces and cheeky Bernie Pedley even producing an Egyptian box complete with mummified finger! Styles of magic were also refreshingly diverse with the so-called Mystic Monk freaking everyone out with his strange mind reading and ability to detect the 'pure in heart'.

Some stage magic interludes also broke up what could otherwise have felt like a long evening. Two enormous 'special delivery' packages ended up giving us a spectacular surprise, while at the end of the show, consummate professional, Chris Stevenson, entertained with his balloon modelling, rope tricks and bizarre abuse of an audience member's £20 note! Nothing could quite top last year's finale in which young magician Danny Jewel produced doves out of nowhere but it was good to hear from our compere that he is doing well, currently working as a professional magician in Spain. I would also say that taken as a whole, this was the slickest and most fast-moving evening the Society have had at the Fringe with limiting audience numbers resulting in a better experience for all of us.

The High Peak Magicians Society is a very nurturing outfit and welcomes newcomers with a genuine interest in taking up magic at their regular open meetings at Buxton's Buckingham Hotel every second Sunday of the month from 10am to 2pm. For further information call Andy Hall on 07836 355674.

Stephanie Billen


July 9th 2011

Ten people were fortunate to go on this guided walk led by Jennie Ainsworth and were certainly enlightened about the life of Vera Brittain and her relationship with Buxton.

The walk started in Pavilion Gardens and continued around the Opera House, St Johns Church, the Parks, Manchester Road, Devonshire Hospital, Buxton Railway Station and ended at the bottom of the Slopes.

Jennie's long experience of leading the walk was evident from her great knowledge on the subject and the enjoyment of the walk was enhanced by the festive atmosphere of Buxton on this sunny afternoon.

Our understanding of Vera Brittain's relationship with the town developed as we looked at various parts of Buxton and were shown numerous photographs. She lived in a tumultuous period of history when the First World War broke out which ultimately killed the men in her life she loved most. We learnt about the social life of the period and Vera's determination not to follow the path set out for most women of her upper middle class background.

Her significant life experiences, many of which took place in Buxton, led her to become a writer, feminist and pacifist. Her most well known work is her memoir, Testament of Youth. This guided walk will, I expect, inspire many of the participants to read or re read this book.

Roger Horvath


St Ann's Well

Buxton Opera House Forecourt, 14-15 July, 10.30am to noon

Stalwarts of the Well Dressing committee, Chris Simpson and Christine Gould, prove to be very knowledgeable and entertaining guides on this friendly walk around Buxton town centre concentrating on the Opera House and Crescent areas.

When I joined them we were blessed with sunshine and an hour and a half positively sped by. Chris concentrates on the history side with Christine talking more about the ancient Derbyshire tradition of well dressing. Neither are overly interested in bombarding us with too many facts and dates. Instead they tend to focus on the odd details that make our beautiful spa town particularly fascinating - who knew for example that there used to be a tunnel from The Square's No 6 to No 1, that the Thermal Baths (Cavendish Arcade) had a gentleman's corridor (the Charlotte's side) and a ladies' corridor, and that technically speaking, Buxton Opera House is in Fairfield?

At the beginning of the walk, Chris handed out booklets of wonderful old photographs and it made all the difference to be able to look down at, say, a picture of the Pump Room complete with cupolas and orchestra playing on the roof and then look up to the real thing, suddenly looking rather bleak by comparison. Too often we looked down to see a fantastic old lamp post in the photo where today there is none, to which all I can say is 'grrr'. More encouragingly, it was good to admire the Pavilion Gardens bandstand, successfully rebuilt in the 1990s, and to learn that George Pyle, pictured with his bath chairs business, graduated to taxis, his eventual legacy being the Pyle Brothers garage now known as Compton Garage on London Road (OK, that's one for locals).

Christine's part of the talk made a refreshing change as she explained not only the history of well dressing but how the tradition works currently with an amazing fifty people piling into St John's Church to stick petals onto clay over three, frantic 12-hour days. It was intriguing to be told exactly what the materials were on the main St Ann's Well - banana skins were used for the back of men's heads and sweetcorn was used sparingly as decoration, sparingly because it apparently goes down rather too well with pigeons.

I realised half way through that even in the 13 years I have been in Buxton, a great deal has changed. Not long ago we could see inside the Pump Room. Now it is boarded up, albeit temporarily we hope. Christine and Chris have longer personal histories in Buxton though and it was odd to hear Chris talking about learning to swim in the former ladies' horseshoe pool in the Crescent. Let's hope that The Osborne Group's proposed renovation of the Crescent becomes a reality some time soon - walking through that amazing building really should spark some memories.

One last walk to catch on the 15th at 10.30am, but you can admire the town's three splendid well dressings throughout the weekend.

Stephanie Billen