Brighton Fringe hoping to hit "around a quarter to a third" its normal size

Amid all the ongoing uncertainty, Brighton Fringe organisers are hoping it might yet be possible to have an event this June around a quarter to a third its normal size.
Julian Caddy, CEO of Brighton FringeJulian Caddy, CEO of Brighton Fringe
Julian Caddy, CEO of Brighton Fringe

If all goes well, they might even be able to offer around 400 events this year – compared to their usual thousand or so.

Originally the Brighton Fringe was aiming for the 2021 festival to run from May 7-June 6, with registrations closing on February 19. Amid the latest lockdown, they have revised the dates to run now from May 28-June 27, with registrations closing on April 2.

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Priority booking for Friends of Brighton Fringe opens April 12.

Tickets will be on sale from April 16.

Register at tagline for this year’s festival is Celebrate. Brighton Fringe is currently applying for the Arts Council money which will help it happen.

It all comes after the Fringe managed to offer an autumn season last year after having to cancel their usual May festival because of the first lockdown.

“It has all been very challenging indeed,” says Julian Caddy, CEO of Brighton Fringe. “But last autumn was important. It was down to the fact that we have got so many extremely capable venue managers and participants and lots of people that work with them and for them.

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“It was our duty centrally to be able to support them, and I think it meant an awful lot to a lot of people that came to see events.

“There were lots of emotions, with the audiences saying it was just wonderful to be able to get back to live performances after so long.

“We had just under 90 events.

“They were both live and recorded and they combined for about 12,500 people attending – which was just a fraction of what we would usually have.

“But it was a huge relief for a lot of people just to be able to see something. It was not an exercise that made much sense financially. It was there for the emotional side.”

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This year things are looking more possible, Julian says: “We are further down the line in terms of the vaccine certainly and we are going to be further down the line in terms of community infections.

“And it will be the summer months as well which will help. We hope we will be in a much better position.”

But it quickly became clear over Christmas and the New Year that the planned fringe had to slip back from May to June.

“It was clear that we were not getting the number of artists applying that we would usually be getting for a May festival to get the show on the road.

“We had just entered a lockdown.

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“There were not that many people who were going to be wanting to apply to perform, so I think people were expecting there to be some sort of delay.

“I think people are barely managing to look weeks ahead, let alone months ahead.

“So we decided to delay it to June which was the latest we felt we were able to go at the moment. There is Arts Council funding available for organisations that are putting on events until June. We are currently applying for the funding.”

And that in itself is new territory.

“Individuals and organisations are desperate to go ahead but also desperate in the financial sense.

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“The sector is really on its knees. They need all the help they can get at the moment. This is a sector that has always mucked in and made do.

“ We are largely unfunded or very limited funding as a fringe sector. We are not really used to relying on public funding.

“It has been a very difficult journey to switch your head space to being an organisation that asks for funding.”