Tell me about your background, why and when did you come to Brighton?
It’s been a long and winding road. From an unartistic upbringing and, at the behest of my father, a short career as a marketing and advertising executive, I pursued acting and directing as a part-time guilty pleasure. The transformative moment came in 1996 at Edinburgh Festival Fringe when I performed in and co-produced a three-hander play. I went to drama school the following year, becoming a professional actor and starting an Edinburgh Fringe venue and production company. The company grew over the years but became a needy (and costly) child, which, when competing with my by then three real children and very much a real wife, I decided to progressively pull back from Edinburgh. The opportunity in Brighton first came up late in 2010 and I got the job a year later at the second attempt.
What is your job, and what does it entail?
I am Managing Director of the organisation that runs the central administration of Brighton Fringe. We provide extensive professional services to artists and arts professionals all year round, do the May festival brochure, website, central box office, PR, marketing and run all the events at Fringe City on New Road every weekend. There are probably a lot of other things that I’ve forgotten.
What makes Brighton Fringe special, and why should we be interested?
Brighton Fringe is completely open-access. Anyone can take part so you have an unparalleled array of work on offer- to suit all budgets. So the chances are, if you have a pulse, there will be enough to keep you occupied for the entire four weeks. If you do it once, you’ll be addicted forever.
What is the structure of Brighton Fringe, how is it constituted?
The organisation I work for is a charity governed by a board of trustees. The ‘actual’ Fringe is a haphazard collection of many thousands of independent artists, community groups and arts businesses who all choose to be part of Brighton Fringe. It’s my job to make sure that this arrangement – and the services we provide – are useful to people. If we are not useful, there is no point in us existing.
Any highlights from your Brighton Fringe work so far?
Would it be a cliché to say that every year is a highlight? When you work throughout the year towards something as great as this, it’s difficult to say otherwise. The other great one is to see the transformative effect on the careers of so many artists and groups who have taken part in the Fringe. It makes it all feel worthwhile.
What are you particularly looking forward to this year?
The sight of Fringe City in action every weekend. If I had the time, I’d spend all day there. This year will see a greater array of work than ever before so make sure you don’t miss it. Above all though, look out for the photo opportunity of life-sized elephant and giraffe puppets parading around.
How can people and organisations get involved (generally too late for this year, but for next and beyond…)
It’s still possible to register for this year. You have missed the brochure but the website and mobile apps provide a huge benefit.
First you need to find a venue and get their agreement to do it. You can also perform in your own home, in your car, in fact anything goes. The registration procedure is then the same as it will be for 2016. Go to the Take Part pages of www.brightonfringe.org and follow the instructions to sign up. There is a fee of between roughly £130 and £190 or so to register, after which you gain access to all the core services that we provide.
If you’ve never experienced Brighton Fringe before, I’d always recommend that you do so before deciding to put on an event.
What are the benefits of participating in Brighton Fringe?
It’s an open platform, an opportunity to put your work before a wider public. Just taking part is one thing, but to make the most of it, you should take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way; use our training services, take our advice, learn from others who have come before you. You get out of it what you put in.
There are some that complain about the registration fees. In an ideal world I would charge nothing for participation. Still, what we charge accounts for less than a third of our overall income needs.
There are no hard and fast rules in the fringe world, but the one universal truth is that in order to find success, you need to inspire people. Some say you can only get enough of an audience by performing 1-3 times. I would argue that you can perform as many times as you have the energy, ambition or budget to perform. Provided you continue to inspire and spike the natural curiosity of people, you can do the full four weeks. That is your challenge.
Any future plans?
Brighton Fringe has already grown exponentially over the past four years. Now it is time for us to shout about it a whole lot more. From next year I would love to see us be able to stage some major, nationally and internationally-acclaimed outdoor events to mark the opening and closing of the festival. A lot of development is needed between now and then but I’m confident we’ll make it work.
What are your musical tastes?
I’ll listen to just about everything. I especially enjoy hearing music from other cultures and nationalities. You can learn a huge amount about a country by hearing and understanding their music.
If you could see any artist, dead or alive, who would that be?
Konstantin Stanislavski and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. They started a movement that completely transformed the approach to acting technique. I admire those who aren’t afraid to stand out from the crowd and pursue change. They did that and the arts world has never been the same again.