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!
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!
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!