Another Road

Feature in Issue 21-3 | Autumn 2009

The Forest Fringe beckons! Andy Field steps out into the unknown.

“Midway this way of life we’re bound upon, I woke to find myself in a dark wood…”

So it’s mid July. We’re stumbling towards August at a terrifyingly breathless pace. The van is organised, the flat is organised. I’m sick with excitement and trepidation. The rain is flexing its watery muscles like a killjoy bouncer almost waiting for his chance to flatten the mood of the party.

It feels like approximately an hour ago that we were making the summer’s first journey to Edinburgh back at the beginning of June, when the festival was a lifetime away and we were set to have a long hot glorious summer of radiant British sunshine.

I remember walking back into Forest Fringe’s home on Bristo Place and taking a great Proustian lungful of its smell; a strange mix of good café food and dusty church hall. It could have been last summer again. I remembered the feeling of Deborah Pearson and myself pitching up in Edinburgh with just a good idea, some hugely talented artists, and a dream of what the Festival might be. For two weeks we remained on just the right side of knowing what we’re doing and had a truly incredible time. Never did we imagine we’d see people queuing round the block for our shows, or see ourselves collecting a Herald Angel (in fact, that didn’t happen… by then we were already back down in London so someone had to collect it for us). The whole thing was an implausible, delirious adventure.

More than anything else, though, it was unrepeatable. We knew we couldn’t just do the same thing and we knew we didn’t want to. But already, standing in the empty hall in June, things felt different. The place felt a little more confident; it was breathing a little slower, its shoulders a little more open. More than anything it felt like we were ready to rely a little less on positioning ourselves as a plucky little island in the vast ocean of the Festival. This year we wanted to step out.

We wanted Forest Fringe to be something other than a venue. We liked the idea that it could become a community, a loose collective of artists and audiences who share with us the things we find exciting and the things we want more of. We’d already created a weekend event in collaboration with BAC in which Forest Fringe companies were scattered across the maze of rooms in their beautiful old town hall and the audience had the opportunity to roam through the building discovering the secrets hidden behind various doors. It was a brilliant experience and in Edinburgh we only wanted to do more of this.

And so that’s exactly what we’ve tried to. To create not just a programme of events but a whole world of strange and beautiful experiences bleeding out from Bristo Place into the rest of Edinburgh.

Mesmerising audio shows leading you off into the city, installations hidden in shops, a dying postal service whose decaying letter boxes can be found hidden in tunnels and libraries and graveyards. There will be pamphlets of imagined events, impromptu happenings in secret locations, huge discussions on the future of Edinburgh, a phone you can call at any point and have a miniature audio encounter by a different artist every day. And possibly most excitingly, a multi-faceted collaboration between ourselves, BAC and The Arches, involving a series of tantalising artistic journeys between our home and the Arches’ new base at St Stephen’s church.

With all this we’ve found a way to once again race off into unknown lands, and it’s as brilliant and eye-wateringly terrifying as we hoped it would be.

Forest Fringe 2009 Programme

Forest Fringe will be returning to the Edinburgh Festival from 17–29 August – featuring a dynamic, eclectic line-up of experimental shows, works-in-progress, installations, intimate encounters and special events.

This year’s line-up of artists includes a brilliant mix of internationally acclaimed companies such as Curious, Improbable, Bill Aitchison, Third Angel, Rotozaza and Action Hero nestled alongside some of the country’s most exciting emerging artists, including Tinned Fingers, Kings of England, Belt-Up Theatre, Deborah Pearson and Chris Williams.

BAC continues to support Forest Fringe this year as it grows and develops, returning with an innovative series of events, including their legendary one o clock SCRATCH. The programme also features a number of BAC developed and supported artists and shows.

Forest Fringe will also be collaborating with a number of other venues for the first time, including the Hide&Seek Festival and Stoke Newington International Airport.

All this will be available at whatever price you want to pay, with all tickets being by donation only. By remaining defiantly not-for-profit we’re able to continue to keep costs as low as they get to encourage generosity, adventure and a sense of community from both our artists and our audiences.

The Forest Fringe is based at the Forest Café, Bristo Place, Edinburgh. For more information please contact co-director Andy Field at andy@forestfringe.co.uk or 07894 345627. See www.forestfringe.co.uk

Referenced Festivals

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-3
p. 18