Julian Caddy on feeling the buzz of Brighton FringeDate: 1 May 2012
With Festival time almost here, I took the chance to chat to Julian Caddy, Managing Director of Brighton Fringe 2012 to see how things are shaping up for England’s largest arts festival.
How are you feeling about Brighton Fringe now it’s getting so close?
I’m very excited, increasingly, by the arrival of Brighton Fringe. I think that there are quite a lot of interesting new developments, which I have helped to steer us towards, in an effort to get the fringe more “out there” to the general public. We have now opened our very own on-street box office at 54 North Street which is, believe it or not, the very first time that we’ve had a face-to-face box office and hub for performers and it also works as an information point for Brighton Fringe.
Has that box office made a difference to you ticket sales?
Quite significantly, yes. Up to now, about an extra £20,000 worth of tickets have been sold face-to-face. That hasn’t eaten into phone or web sales, that’s extra and so all-in-all we are up by about 30% on this time last year and I’m hoping that it will be significantly more by the time that it starts.
You have an amazingly diverse programme again this year.
It is, it’s quite impressive actually. My background, for the last 15 years or so, has been the Edinburgh Fringe so I am quite used to seeing massive programmes but ours now contains over 700 shows. I don’t actually choose what goes in it, we have over 200 venues and each one of them, essentially, has their own festival – in a way. That’s the way to look at a fringe festival. Each venue has its own programme of events during May for which they produce their literature and sell tickets, but all of this comes under the umbrella that is Brighton Fringe.
If nothing else, a fringe needs to be inspirational. You need to be inspired by what’s on offer and I suppose, at times, it’s bewildering. The great thing about the fringe is that it’s open to everyone in so far as everyone’s festival experience is different. Anybody can find something within this programme that they like, for instance, if you like classical music you can spend the entire month just going to those events. The same applies to all genres.
There are often events that inspire more people. I am personally very excited about the Dip Your Toe bathing machines because I think that it brings theatre to an unusual location, which will itself be in an unusual location. You’ll be in, or around, a bathing machine that could be on the seafront or on this street or in many other locations around the city.
How long does the planning take?
Well I’ve been planning for 2013 for about three or four months already. We want to make a grand announcement about our plans for 2013 before the end of the 2012 festival, while the fringe is still front of mind. So we have been researching with all the interested parties about certain things. We are looking at ways that the fringe can improve still further, extra strands that it may be possible to introduce, the timing of the festival and also the length of it.
Would you ever separate Brighton Fringe from the Brighton Festival?
There are politics in Brighton with relation to the Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe. The histories of the two are very closely linked. They were demerged a few years ago, 2006 I think, and Brighton Fringe became an independent business, an independent charity and since then it had grown exponentially, year-on-year. We are now at a point where it has outgrown Brighton Festival, indeed it is the largest arts festival in England.
The general public still perceive the main festival and also Brighton Fringe but I don’t see it that way. I actually see it as neither here nor there. I don’t think that Brighton Fringe is on the edge of anything, except the cutting edge. It is actually something that is very relevant and very central to the cultural consciousness of this city and country.
Brighton Festival could never have the same depth of creativity in it. What they do is to hand pick the “great and the good” of the artistic establishment and that’s brilliant. That has its place. Brighton Fringe is more of a chaotic group of creatives who bring a very special raw energy to the festival.
How do you decide which venues to use?
The hard core of venues in Brighton Fringe are venues throughout the year. There are, increasingly, and there will be more in future years, pop-up theatres during the Brighton Fringe. We have places like the Hendricks Library of Delightfully Peculiar Writings and the Hurly Burly, which is a family venue, and there’s going to be something called The Hanging Gardens of Brighton on the final weekend and many other spaces for theatre in outdoor locations around the city which, although they may return next year, are additional venues that suit our events.
How does the future look for Brighton Fringe?
Brighton Fringe Limited is an entity that exists throughout the year and our remit is to support the arts in Brighton and Hove, and beyond. We are going to be increasingly operating all year. There will obviously be Brighton Fringe when it happens, but we are also looking to sell tickets for the fringe events that happen all year. You see we are not the fringe, the fringe happens at the Marlborough, or the Nightingale or The Old Market and they don’t stop at the end of May, they still have shows going on all year. So we, as an organisation, are there to serve them.
We also have a new training initiative, the Professional Development Programme, where professionals, including myself giving acting workshops, who will teach individuals how to get ahead in the business. That’s a very crucial part of what we do and we’ll be doing increasingly more educational work to help those who want to get into the business professionally.
Brighton Fringe seems to have a much higher profile this year.
Yes, we have tried to create a much more national relevance for the fringe this year. We have a national media partner with the i-Paper which puts us out there in a way we haven’t been before and Whatsonstage.com is following us much more than ever before and The Stage is giving us more coverage. I think it’s a coming-of-age for Brighton Fringe and we’re being taken much more seriously as an event and I hope that me taking over helps to develop that.
I have often found in the past when I would come down from London to Brighton Fringe that you really had to work to find out what was going on. Brighton doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, because it knows that what it does is good, it just says “if you want it, it’s here”. So we introduced a London launch this year at the Leicester Square Theatre as another way to “put it out there” and to make people think that it’s worth going to see.
I suppose what I am saying is that Brighton shouldn’t be shy. That’s quite an unusual thing to say about Brighton because it certainly isn’t shy, but there has been a certain amount of trepidation in the past. I don’t want to destroy the delicate balance of what has been created but I need to lead from the front. I need to make sure that I go beyond the expectations of the promoters and performers in the Brighton Fringe. It has to be something that is constantly changing, constantly evolving and it’s very important that every year it delivers the “wow” factor and we will always do out best to ensure that we merit the arrival of the “wowers”.
Brighton Fringe runs from 5 – 27 May 2012 at venues and locations throughout the city. A full colour programme of events is available from all arts venues in the city and from many other shops and businesses. Tickets can be obtained over the phone,, online or at the Brighton Fringe Box Office and Hub, 54 North Street, Brighton BN1 1RH