Forget Glastonbury Festival try Shaftesbury Fringe
Forget Glastonbury Festival with it’s headline stars, it’s over-priced food and drink, it’s middle class ‘trendy’ middle aged attendees. Instead take a trip into Shaftesbury and enjoy the Fringe.
For a small town Shaftesbury has a perfect collection of fesitvals occuring throughout the summer months. We started with the Shaftesbury Food and Drink festival earlier in the year, and this weekend we moved onto a cornucopia of music, comedy and street parties. Starting on the Friday and going right through to the Sunday, we had planned to spend the whole weekend celebrating with our fellow Shaftonians? all things musical, sprinkled of course with alcohol, food and as it happens…sunshine.
First jobs first. Lets look through the programme and decide what we want to see. There are a multitude of choices from Blues to Swing to Folk, or we could go for comedy or even a community meditation session.
We decided that we have quite different views of what is funny, Es with his American slapstick sense of humour and me, a Brit, with her sophisticated Eddy Izzard sense of humour. We were never going to agree on comedy, so we agreed that music was the way to go.
There were a surprising collection of bands to see, also a large number of venues to attend ranging from the local pubs to the Shaftesbury Abbey Gardens. We agreed that as The Two Brewers was our regular Friday night drinks, we would go there for early doors. They had scheduled Entsha an acclaimed African band starting at 7pm, so after a hectic day in my home office, I jumped in the shower and got ready in precisely 20 minutes to get to the pub for seven.
This is where I am going to name and shame. I am not obligated to anyone for my writing and that allows me to be completely honest in my views. Entsha didn’t turn up. They let everyone down for the entire weekend as I understand it. Shame on them! so when we arrived the Friends of the Fringe were warming up at short notice to fill the gap. They were pretty shocking if I’m perfectly honest, which I always am, with a vocally weak and flat female singer, it was cringeworthy. So we ventured back inside to sit with our pals and drink a few gins and a shot of Sambucca.
We dragged ourselves away and ventured up Gold Hill to The Kings Arms to watch Lee Ainleys Blues Storm, singing a huge variety of blues and blue-rock they were pretty good and we enjoyed listening to them. The same could not be said of the drinks, my gin arrived without accoutrement or ice and they poured the tonic for me, which is just rude!
A taxi home with a drunk husband and a lie in the next morning had us ready to rock and roll again by mid Saturday morning.
Saturday started off with a much more refined affair. Driving into town we parked up and the bottom of Gold Hill and made our way up to the Swans Yard. A cute little yard in the middle of town which houses a small cafe bar, the potting shed and an artist gallery. We had agreed to go and watch Mike Ross a solo Blues and Americana singer, I thought it would make Es feel at home. Dressed in Wranglers with a cowboy hat he was every inch the American blues and soul singer. A Banana and Strawberry milkshake in hand, we enjoyed his music immensly. Like most of the acts it was a ‘pass the hat’ situation, so after a while we popped our money in his little bowl we made our way back down the hill to the Two Brewers to enjoy their afternoon entertainment.
We had a couple of beers and waited for the bands to set up. Jemima was the first artist, a pretty young woman with a lovely voice, she is a solo acoustic folk performer and covers well-known songs such as Paolo Nutini and Ed Sheeran. Things at this point were running behind schedule. The sun was shining and the place was heaving. Well I’ve told you before I have a limited tolerance for large crowds and noise, that coupled with children screaming and a hangover had my mood slipping from jolly to fed-up. Together with Es’s sixth beer and his drunken conversation with some random (and I thought quite frankly idiotic) stanger I was ready to go home. We left before the next band came on, I had reached my sociability threshold and needed to find some quiet to recharge.
Sunday dawned. And after a good nights sleep, some peace and quiet and some cat cuddles, I was ready to venture out into the world again. Another visit to the Swans Yard to listen to Nobodys Business, another great bluesy band, with the laid back wails of a harmonica and the finger picking acoustic guitar they were pretty cool. They were not due on until 11.30am but when we arrived earlier they were already starting up. We had arrived early to see Mahatma Bandee, but shame on them, they had dropped out at the last second as they’d had a ‘better offer’. Which left Nobodys Business to perform an extra long stint.
Having enjoyed another milkshake and listened to them to the very end of their set, we decided to go and wander the streets. As it was Sunday the local street market was on, so we had a wander through the stalls, bumped into a few friends and stopped for a chat and soaked up the sunshine. We finished our afternoon in…you guessed it…The Two Brewers. Again the beer garden was heaving with people, the weather had brought everyone out. We found a little corner in the shade, sat on a blanket covered straw bale and waited for the Beirfass Band. Es has never seen a German Oompah band, and that is precisely what these guys were. Lots of polkas, waltzes and drinking tunes, combined with showmanship and audience participation it was fun all round.
We left to go home and bar-b-cue our home made blue cheese filled burgers. We were sorely tempted by the delicious offerings at the pub, but had set ourselves a budget for the weekend and were determined to stick to it. All in all it was a fantastic long weekend. The Team Fringe did a wonderful job and are probably unsung heroes as not much recognition goes to the team behind the scenes. However, as I have organised events in the past, I know how much hard work and dedication went into such a fabulous event.
So put it in your diary for next year; Friday 29th June to Sunday 1st July. Are you tempted to go?