While Brighton Fringe is no stranger to the marvellous, the strange and the unforgettable, it’s when England’s largest open-access arts event spills out onto the streets that it often presents the most wonderful of spectacles. Put yourself in the shoes of the unwitting pedestrian who stumbles into the heady peculiarities of Fringe City, the festival’s brilliantly unpredictable alfresco strand. Previous years might have confronted them with a brightly coloured impromptu disco party, a rather loud antipodean squeezing his entire body through a destringed badminton racket or two stocking-clad traffic wardens encouraging bemused onlookers to ‘keep it kinky’.
Now, this hugely popular weekend of free fun and games is back with a Bank Holiday bang. Squeezing three days of performances into Brighton’s Jubilee Square on Fri 28 – Sun 30 May, it stands as a small snapshot of everything you can expect across the wider festival. As well as some awesome entertainment, there’ll be exceptional food and drink offerings from local suppliers, plus a few surprises.
You’ll be able to grab a pint and some lunch, and watch a variety of shows, from cheeky cabaret to amazing acrobatics. The Infinity Foods stage will be packed with free samples from across the Brighton Fringe programme, including The Great Baldini, Richard Filby, Alan Bonner, Chuck Salmon Productions, Coppersmith, Charmian Hughes, The After Dark Cabaret & Burlesque and plenty more. Compered by the brilliant Billie Gold, it will also see pop-up circus theatre performances from perennial Fringe City favourites Fit Up Productions.
There’s also the unveiling of WTF Just Happened by the Socially Engaged Arts Salon, offering socially distanced 1-to-1 conversations with artists, which explore the lived experience during the pandemic. And you’ll get the chance to create some artwork together through a safe and shared co-production.
For anyone who wants to get active (in a specific and limited way), there’s going to be ping-pong tables out in force, so you can whiff-whaff your way to glory. Or 11 points… One of the highlights this year takes a loving look at past Fringes, as James Bellorini is presenting a pop-up photo exhibition across the site which promises portraits of some of the festival’s most recognisable icons and performers.
Among the food and drinking available will be the fabulous Seitan’s Jackfruit Garden and Glazed Donuts, a popup Brighton gin bar and a Fringe City’s own “local” – The Dog & Duck which will be serving Harvey’s for your supping pleasure.
Providing for everyone’s wellbeing (and let’s face it, after the last 16 months we deserve to be kinder to ourselves) is the debut of Brighton’s very own The Heart Bus. This brand-new, open-access community space and mobile workshop seeks to enable people to recognise the benefits of mindfulness, listening spaces and the technology of heart intelligence. Their crew will be offering free introductions to a variety of wellbeing practices, or even just a cup of tea and a chat. It’s hoped every person who visits the bus will have the opportunity to walk away with enrichening personal tools.
An irresistible jamboree in the heart of Brighton & Hove, it seems like Fringe City has always been one of the signs the summer has properly started. As we all begin venturing out to socialise once more, the festival’s theme of ‘Celebrate’ seems markedly poignant. And what better way to recognise the majestic scope of human creativity than being chased through North Laine by a cackling stilt-walker? We’ll see you down the front. Bring a smile…
Fringe City come to Brighton’s Jubilee Square on Fri 28 – Sun 30 May 2021
Top image by Danny Fitzpatrick