By Evi Triantafyllides, Head of Community & Social
Mid-nineties. A duo whose passion and craze for the theatre kept them going through thick and thin, no matter what. Your typical, charming, pub theatre in the heart of Camden, where the nights were always filled with excitement and dare. And then, of course, the annual long trips away from home, all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe, for a much anticipated month of theatre extravaganza.
“And then it occurred to us,” recalls Camden Fringe co-founder, Michelle Flower. “Why close our perfectly good London venue for a month to move 400 miles away and hang out with all the people we knew in London? It was pure madness.”
And so it began..
For the first time, in 2006, Barrie and Flower decided to open the doors of the Etcetera Theatre for a series of small events – what would later come to be known and cherished by the London theatre community as The Camden Fringe.
Starting off as a single venue festival, and with the addition of the Camden Comedy Club (at the time known as Liberties) the following year, followed by the Camden People’s Theatre the year after, The Camden Fringe is now ready for its 11th iteration that will host around 250 different productions across multiple venues: a full month of shows that will transform the entire area of Camden into a stage of wonderful unpredictabilities.
True to its claim as an authentic fringe festival, the value proposition remains straight-up clean and simple: give dreamers a real chance to pursue their passion of directing/writing/acting, keep shows at a low budget, performances of all kinds and levels are welcome – “pile them high, sell them cheap”. “Just apply via the website between the 1st of January — 31st of March and we’ll help and support you to put on a show.” The magic of rugged authenticity – at its best!
And in the case of the Camden Fringe, this authenticity is coupled with spontaneity, and the unknown. When asked for a small “sneak peek” on the shows that crowds should look out for this year, Michelle confesses that she can’t really give educated insights. Prior to the festival dates, shows are never curated or viewed by the organisers, and since they spend most festival hours working on administration, many performances go by unseen. However, her (by now) well-developed theatre instinct doesn’t stop her from offering us her own, speculative recommendations:
“The Real Girl at Tristan Bates sounds intriguing, and they’ve been giving out free badges—those are always hard to deny! And then you have Joanna Neary Does Animal and Men at the Camden Comedy Club; we’ve known Joanna long enough to know that anything she’s involved in is bound to have you laughing off your seat!”
Stating the obvious, the Stagedoor team is honoured to be this year’s Camden Fringe official partner app, bringing to our users an extended database with an exciting mélange of the Camden Fringe’s unique, and often bizarre theatre thrills! As always, shows are listed in full detail, giving theatre lovers access to extensive show details and smart features. Finally, as part of our latest feature release, users can now support performances by “❤”ing them under the Camden Fringe section. At the end of the festival, the most “❤”ed show will be rewarded. In this way, we aim to do our bit in giving the Camden Fringe the publicity and visibility it deserves.
So, what next? What does the future hold for the festival? Aware of the constraints and struggles that the arts are facing and running this completely unfunded, the festival won’t get much bigger than this, admits Flower. “In lots of ways, just to still be around in five years will be an impressive achievement!”
But arguably, this is one of the festival’s quintessential charms. Often being referred to as one of the established UK fringe festivals, with press full of praise, “what began as an antidote to the evacuation of theatre companies every August to Edinburgh Fringe, is now an established festival in its own right” (The Camden Journal). An established festival whose impressive small-scale operations and returning fans, make me certain that it will stick around for much longer than any of its co-founders had ever anticipated.
And without even realising it, August is here. To the performers, the artists, the explorers, the experimenters, the innovators, the eccentric, and the curious…This is the festival you cannot miss.