Saturday, June 21, 2014

creating a/broad, June 21, 2014

Baby Fringe 
by Cameryn Moore

By the time you read this I will be done with my two shows in Ludlow, a town of 10,500 in the heart of Shropshire, England. The landscape is ruffle-soft-green, rolling with moss-covered walls and crumbling castles, and the predominantly senior-citizen daytrippers all look slightly stunned by all the history. The accepted cure for this seems to be having a quick sit-down on the benches in the town square and eating ice cream, but since the afflicted are sitting in full sun and surrounded by more history, I think this is only a holding strategy. They threw the Fringe launch party at a Thai restaurant and bar whose sign out front says Thai Chang and has done for nine years, but everyone calls the place The Globe, because it was probably the Globe for at least 300 years before that.

This is not the sort of place where I would have thought that I would ever be presenting Phone Whore, EVER, but Anita, the director of the Ludlow Fringe, saw the show—quite by accident—last year in Edinburgh and invited me to perform because she wanted to bring in 'more edgy works' by female performers. I go where I’m invited, generally, so here I am, a three-and-a-half hour train ride northwest of London, at the tiniest little baby Fringe I have ever seen.

Baby Fringe. New Fringe. Young Fringe. Just starting out, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you!

'Baby Fringe' sounds perhaps a bit condescending, and I don’t want to do that. I am thoroughly enjoying myself in the town, and as always I find my people. I put up posters on Tuesday—laminated 11x17s taped back to back around lamp posts, and a few strapped to the phone booths, only where that had already been done—and only two have been taken down, not bad, not bad! I’ve been hanging out at the Globe (see above); one of the waitresses that works there won the raffle that Anita ran at a Bad Language spoken word night, so I owe her some Sidewalk Smut. (Oh, yeah, you better believe I support the Ludlow Fringe! By Writing Porn!)

But there is no denying that this Fringe is … well, small. And new. These are the qualities that lend themselves to the 'baby Fringe' designation. Emerging is also accurate, but less evocative. Developing has the unfortunate and mistaken connotation of inadequate sewers. Let’s stick with 'baby'.

Ludlow Fringe is two years old. Last year was its first year. It is picking up the strands of local arts culture from the Ludlow Festival, which had been running around these parts for over 40 years, as far as I can tell, but folded two years ago owing to financial losses from a completely rained-out festival, and also putting on stodgy old programming, heavy on the Shakespeare, that nobody around town could be bothered to give any fucks about. My sources may be biased.

So Anita, who has always lived a life full of art, and had been an active arts organizer in the town for some years—arts lecturer and mentor at the local junior college, and so on—decided to throw a Fringe. She applied for and received a grant from the town for a couple thousand pounds, went around and badgered local businesses for sponsorships, had weeks and weeks and weeks of sleepless nights, found other creative types, and put on a Fringe.

Baby Fringe. New Fringe. Young Fringe. Just starting out, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you!

We were both exhausted, in that kind of joyous Fringe exhaustion, but not yet ready to sleep

Wisely, Anita didn’t go all out, go into tons of debt or anything. I have heard of other Fringes whose producers thought they needed to make a huge impact straight out of the gate, who over-promised and under-delivered or just outright absconded with the money. Yes, I have heard of these things.

Ludlow Fringe started small, and continues small (though apparently bigger this year!). The Fringe hub, the box office, the place where the founder and director keeps the promo shit, is a 5’x5’ garden shed in the market square. (True to Fringe form, it is thoroughly covered over with posters.) The back seat of her car looks like the back seat of mine, quite frankly, filled with random posters and a staple gun and some tattered envelopes and a couple of Fringe tip buckets. Her bed is the current resting place for the big Ludlow Fringe banner, the one that they hung over the terrasse at the Fringe launch party.

Baby Fringe. Tiny Fringe. Small Fringe. Keeping it real! DIY! It’d be punk rock except for all of the classical music concerts!

The Fringe director is billeting me—that’s how tiny this festival is!—so we are getting frequent late-night cups of tea and talking about life and art and this Fringe and potential collaborations and the Fringes that I’ve done, and it’s like talking with a fellow Fringer, except in this case, her show is the ENTIRE Fringe! And she’s making it happen. I mean, yes, she is maybe sleeping less than I am—which is saying something—but that is just one part of the admission price for making your dreams happen, at the beginning, at least. This is the price of having your art baby. If you want it, you fucking do it, sleep be damned.

I started this column yesterday, before Phone Whore opened here. It opened last night, and it went down AMAZING. After we had each individually found our way back to the house, we sat down for tea in the backyard again. We were both exhausted, in that kind of joyous Fringe exhaustion, but not yet ready to sleep, and she told me that she had been very nervous, bringing me to Ludlow. “I didn’t know what people would do.” What people? I asked. Town hall? “Right, yes, or someone. There are lots of conservative people out here.”

But nothing happened. The show went very well, and people loved that this baby Fringe is taking those steps in a good direction. It is going to be such a strong, beautiful Fringe when it grows up!

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