Some reviews of Forest Fringe at BAC

So like a more benign Frankenstein’s Monsters with an affection for Canadian Indie music, the Forest Fringe Microfestivals have finally stumbled blinking out of the laboratory and disappeared over the nearest hill, screaming for someone to love them.
Things were wonderful at BAC – manic, exhausting, thick with atmosphere and generosity and everything we could have hoped. Thank you to everyone who came along and the all the artists who were involved and all the volunteers who supported us and helped make them such a special couple of nights.
We’ve had a few lovely review of everything that happened which I just wanted to flag up for you to have a read of.

Carpe Minuta Prima is just one of the pieces that form part of the Forest Fringe Microfestival, an offshoot of the successful Edinburgh outfit that has rethought the festival model as an artist-led initiative. Out on tour to four venues in London, Glasgow, Bristol and Swansea, the Microfestival offers a mixture of works-in-progress, intimate experiences and surprises from national and local artists over a pick’n’mix evening of art and entertainment.

Then a lovely four star review from Donald Hutera in the Times:

The artist-led producing team known as Forest Fringe has grown into one of the Edinburgh Festival’s brightest success stories. Now the people behind it are taking their loose but loveable brand of theatrical magic on tour…

Also some really thoughtful and interesting personal recollections from Hannah Nicklin and Jake Orr. Always delightful to see people taking the time to tell their experience of it and a real example of the space for thoughtfulness and expressiveness that the internet and blogging offer.
From Hannah:

The microfestival at BAC was a vibrant and buzzing combination of short experiences, fuller scripted pieces, sound work, music, installations and intimate performances. Some of the pieces were more ‘finished’, whilst others just setting out on their first period of R&D. The whole event fitted into the nooks and crannies of the BAC building, and filled the spaces in between with live music and discoveries aplenty – one highlight being the items of clothing dotted around, inviting you to take them in exchange for you’re an item of your own, and it story. Like any good festival, there was more than you could see in one night, and each attendee built their own experience.

And Jake:

The Forest Fringe is now on tour! Another remarkable achievement by it’s two co-directors Andy Field and Debbie Pearson, who have now created Forest Fringe Mircofestival – a smaller version taking residence in a number of cities before August in Edinburgh once more. The Microfestival gives the chance for a festival atmosphere to be replicated in various locations, bringing theatre to the people, and above all – a space for creativity and audiences to meet, play and experience.

So thank you kindly to all those folk.

My own thoughts are mainly that I was delighted by how possible it seemed to recreate the kind of strange and generous atmosphere that we’ve been able to foster in Edinburgh in other spaces and contexts. People approached all the work and artists with a sense of wanting to understand what they were trying out and why. I loved the atmosphere in the building both nights – the excitement, the conversations that I heard floating round the building. And I loved the way that this diverse collection of pieces were able to sit together as part of a coherent evening – that we had video installations, durational performances, wild experiments, work-in-progresses and everything in between all complementing and supporting each other to make a really diverse, unusual and memorable night.
I think there’s still work we need to do on how people sign up for the tinier experiences. We want to be able to accommodate things that only have a very limited audience but it’s so hard to do so without it becoming a situation where a very limited number of people get to experience them and everyone else feels that they’ve missed out. Not only is that not fun for the people who feel they’ve missed a special treat but it’s also difficult for the artists themselves as it then builds an anticipation around their performance which can sometimes be quite difficult to overcome if the piece itself is intended simply as something very tiny and very understated.
How then to be able to include these things whilst giving everyone at least a chance of getting to see them and ensuring that people who don’t aren’t too disappointed? A lottery? Just keeping those events completely secret and leading people off at random? Will that frustrate people more?
It’s a challenge – an exciting and important one and something we’re still exploring and experimenting with. I think it’s incredible important that we find a context in which these very tiny pieces can be seen by new audiences in different parts of the country, but it has to be the right context and the right experience – for those that see them and those that don’t, and of course for the artists.
I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts and ideas.
Thanks again to everyone who was involved in making it such a memorable and succesful weekend – hopefully we’ll see some of you in Glasgow, which is where we’re off to next.


  • Holly Gramazio says:
    Apr 9 at 01:44

    It's really tricky, the sign-up-for-tiny-things problem. I think the "people choose 4 [or whatever] things to do at the start of the night" model kinda works as one solution, because if you're picking a number of things the disappointment of missing out on one (or the pressure put on that one if you do get it) is smaller. Certainly I've found that people generally respond better to "that one's full" at an initial sign-up than they do if they're signing up for individual pieces separately.

    I think secret pulling-people-away can be a solution but not a large-scale one; if you've only got one or two tiny works, then it's good, but if you've got more than that then it becomes problematic, because you then get a situation where quite a lot of people are being pulled away for secret experiences, and those who don't are more likely to feel like they've missed out.

    Lotteries will just build things up even more and make it harder for artists to overcome the sense of looming importance placed on their piece.

    It might be interesting to do something like: one of the things you can sign up for is a Surprise Tiny Experience. If you do this, you get a hat / armband / whatever. The people who are running more intimate pieces keep an eye out for anyone wearing the requisite armband; they choose from this subset of people when they're pulling someone away. (They also take the armband once they've done this). Possible advantages: you could either keep the pieces secret or list them as you chose; the basic structure might work for both. People who don't get a Surprise Tiny Experience (henceforward STE) won't feel too sad, because they didn't sign up for it, they signed up for other things instead. There won't be any situations where one person gets three STEs while their friend gets none.

    You'd need to make sure somehow that if you got an armband you definitely did get one of them, though, so I guess "artists pick an armbanded person at random" doesn't quite work. And it perhaps still only works if people sign up for several things at once, rather than joining in on things as they're about to start. Needs more thought.

  • Holly Gramazio says:
    Apr 13 at 09:00

    Okay, another thought, focused on keeping the wander-around-no-sign-ups element: how about a Waiting Room? With all the usual waiting room stuff: chairs, water cooler, possibly a receptionist, some magazines. (You could go the arty tiny self-published zines-y route, or get a bundle of trade magazines – I have a copy of Curry Caterer (incorporating Tandoori Monthly and the International Sewing Machine Collectors Magazine, which are amazing.)

    People sit in the waiting room and wait; an artist turns up, the receptionist calls whoever has been waiting longest and sends them away with the artist. People don't get to sign up to a particular thing (and probably don't know what the options are), to relieve the pressure on any individual work. Only let people have one "appointment" per night, probably.

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