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The Comedy of Errors

Nottingham Fringe Festival

9 October 15 words: Hazel Ward
Our city is on the rise when it comes to the stage and one man is reigning in the theatre heads for our very own fringe festival this month
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image: Raphael Achache

What was the idea behind a Notts version of the Fringe?
I moved up from London about a year and a half ago and found that there are loads of brilliant artists here doing things in separate venues. We all struggle to get our own audience, so the best thing is to band together, brand it as a festival and give people a larger scope to attract an audience. Essentially, over the next couple of years, we want to make Nottingham a festival-going destination for comedy and theatre. We want Nottingham to rival Manchester and London, and get people coming here to enjoy the massive amount of talent and culture we have.

Will we just be seeing acts from Nottingham?
We're aiming for a huge mixture. We're championing Nottingham first, but we’re also hoping to give an opportunity to people from further afield who might not normally get the chance to perform for larger audiences. They can enjoy a city-centre audience, but it also gives the Nottingham audience a chance to see the kinds of acts who usually play to smaller, out-of-town crowds.

What kind of performances can we look forward to?
At the moment it's quite varied – we've got a board game show, we've got poetry, music, and some solo acts. We're not a programmed festival, so anyone who wants to do a show is able to, and we'll provide them with the platform to market their production, sell tickets and find the audience for their work. It’s been quite enjoyable when people approach going, “Am I able to do this?”, and being able to say, “Yeah, that sounds amazing, why not do poetry standing on your head for an hour?” Registration for anyone to do a show is literally open until the day before you want to perform.

How about the venues?
We've got a nice range. The Cave at the Malt Cross is a small, twenty-seat venue, and not many people currently get to go there, so that's nice. The Music Hall in the Malt Cross is available as well, if there’s a big band who want to come along. We've also got Lee Rosy's which is more relaxed. We've got the Arts Theatre involved to attract bigger shows, Screen 22, and Nottingham Writers' Studio, who are really looking to support writers and storytellers – it's a nice, non-theatrical space where people can come together and share stories.

We're quite small this year, but if we get it right and give people the amount of love and attention they need to get their shows going, we can build it up over the next couple of years. We're having conversations with The Lofthouse for next year. Anyone who wants to be involved can be, and to what degree is completely up to them.

What are the highlights of the lineup so far?
I'd say it's probably Pandemoni-CON!, which is a show by Louise White, a local theatre maker. It had a couple of performances at the National Videogame Arcade a couple of months ago. It's a show where you think you are playing a board game, but you soon realise that actually, the board games are playing you. It sounds really fun – to my geeky heart. I love board games. Another thing we've got coming up is a lady called Nana – she's a drag agony aunt played by a local poet. She normally plays at DirtyFilthySexy; she does a bit of stand-up, a bit of agony aunt, publishes a column each week, and we're going to be hosting her show Nana Knows Best. Come along and get your problems solved.

How has planning the festival been going?
It's been interesting. We've been chipping away at it for nine months and we're only just getting to the point where we're all ready. Everyone's gone on this journey learning how to programme venues, and doing fair deals with artists, making sure that we all benefit from it. It's been great fun, and great to really understand Nottingham from the people who make Nottingham Nottingham. It's been awesome working with the people who are now the movers and shakers. The people who, in a couple of years’ time, are going to be huge, and we've got them here now. It's a blessing that I get to do this as my job.

Sounds great! And it’s all this month…
Yes. And before we open the festival, we are going to open submissions for 2016 – next year we want to run for a whole month, that’s why we're already thinking that far ahead. When you establish something like this, it takes a long time to build up connections, the correct protocols and systems, and now we're in a really good place. Next year we're going to be working with a couple of local businesses who will be providing the box office and a website, and also working with the council to create within the centre of Nottingham.

Nottingham Fringe, Tuesday 13 – Sunday 25 October 2015.

Nottingham Fringe website

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