A brief history in fringe
2018… The 12th Bedford Festival Fringe started off as a 4 day festival but was extended by 1 day so we could have Lee Ridley come and perform a preview of his Edinburgh show. Winning Britain’s Got Talent was an added bonus of course! We hosted 62 events with over 20 of these out in the Quarry Theatre Garden. The weather was very kind to us with the new part of the building even running out of water given the demand! The problem was fixed within the hour so calm was restored. The Spirit of The Fringe Award went to The Favourite Aunties and the Pick of The Fringe to Pip Utton’s new play ‘And Before I forget I love You, I Love You). The 2018 charity was again Autism Bedfordshire with total money raised being £1,200!
2017… Bedfringe number 11 came around very quickly! Bedfringe was based at The Quarry Theatre and hosted 45 events ranging from Edinburgh previews in our main performance spaces and a busy free programme on the stage in the theatre garden. Unfortunately, it rained pretty much the entire weekend so all music events had to be transferred into the theatre bar! Luckily it is acoustically screened from the main auditorium and studio theatre! Our charity was Autism Bedfordshire who were an absolute pleasure to work with. During the three days we raised £421.54 (thanks to all your donations!).
2016… Our 10th anniversary year! From the 21st to 30th July we ran the festival once again from The Quarry Theatre. One of our sponsors, We Can Creative produced our fabulous tin can artwork (tin is the 10th anniversary metal) which allowed us to play with the tagline ‘it’s in the can’ as well as other silly sayings. A new venue this year was a stage in the garden provided by two sponsors LCH Productions and Remedy Sound which allowed us to showcase lots of local music talent. Bedfordshire Inflatables (another sponsor!), provided garden games to keep the kids (and big kids) happy in between shows. It was a wonderful atmosphere! Notable highlights included The Pleasance London officially congratulating us on our 10th year, the return of Joe Bone with his final instalment of Bane, Mitch Benn, Paul Foot, shouting “anybody for Intercourse” in the bar (it was a show title!), the return of Joel Dommett (now mega famous thanks to I’m A Celebrity), WiFi Wars and so much more! In November our Director James Pharaoh won the 2016 Pride in Bedford Award for raising the profile of the town.
2015 was an exciting change as Bedford School’s brand new theatre opened late June and became our only venue for the ten day festival. Situated on St Peter’s Street made it a perfect location. The studio space worked perfectly for small scale theatre and stand up comedy previews with the main house hosting large productions or those we thought may require more seating! We hosted 95 events and sold a record 3424 tickets. Highlights for the team were the fabulous Drum Tribe who not only put on a heck of a show but stepped into the majority of our cancelled time slots. We hope they return in 2016 for our 10th Anniversary Festival! Notable names and success stories are Dean Friedman’s children show Smelly Feet, YouTube sensation Aunty Donna, Hal Cruttenden, Jonny Awsum and Shakespeare Untold who went onto gain lots of 4 and 5 star reviews at the Edinburgh Festival.
2014 saw us reduce the programme down into a ‘Byte Sized’ festival running events from Bedford Theatre, The Ent Shed, South Bank Arts Centre and The Place Theatre. We ran 26 events with notable shows being the brilliant ‘Dark Room’, ‘Simply Soweto Encha’, Lucy Porter and James Acaster.
2013 can only be said to be our largest and most ambitious festival to date with us running 156 events from 18 venues over 23 days. Bedfringe this year was the 4th largest Fringe Festival in the country! Notable names from 2013 include The ShowHawk Duo (now a YouTube sensation and playing large venues around the country) Josh Widdicombe (channel 4’s ‘The Last Leg’), Benny Davis (Axis of Awesome), Joel Dommett (now team captain on ITV’s ‘Reality Bites’) and Lucy Hopkins with her now multi-award winning comedy ‘The Veil’.
2012 was a good year with the festival hosting 77 events in various venues over a 16 day period. Notable acts included Idiots Of Ants, Rob Deering, Mark Little, Isy Suttie, Pappys and Pete Firman. A record number of tickets were sold with many people visiting the town from as far as Glasgow and Devon. Our overseas acts enjoyed their visit to our festival and are keen to return.
2011 saw Bedfringe enter a whole new era with a longer two week format. The festival ran from 10 locations including new venues such as The Swan Hotel, Bedford Theatre and the South Bank Arts Centre. Many acts joined the programme including the mulit-award winning Bane 3, Patrick Monahan, Kevin Tomlinson and Theatre Of Widdershins. BedfringeTV was also launched which enabled us to broadcast events to a global audience. We also welcomed the Bedford Busking Festival and a Free Fringe Sunday to our programme. Notable names from the festival include Patrick Monahan who went on to win ITV’s “Show Me The Funny”, John Hegley, Matt Kirshen, Phil Nichol, Simon Munnery and Tim Fitzhigham.
In 2010 Bedfringe took a considerable cut in programming but still managed to cram 12 acts into 27 hours. The reason for the reduction was simply because we (Future Legend Media) took our production of “The Glenn Miller Mystery” to the 2010 Edinburgh Festival which took a fair few months to prepare.
2009 was a fantastic year for Bedfringe as we occupied 6 venues and hosted 30 acts. Bedfringe 2009 venues included the brand new Bedford Gallery, The Ent Shed, The Place Theatre, The Howard Room, The Harpur Suite and The Bedford Corn Exchange. 2009 also saw the BedfordBID coming forward to support the festival with radio advertisements, brochure distribution and financial support. Notable names from the festival include Jack Whitehall, Jan Ravens and Cary Marx (Andrew Lawrence couldn’t make it!).
Onwards to 2008 with the Bedford River Festival on board. We had the opportunity to increase and promote our programme by using the main stage as part of the Bedfringe festival. A total of 53 acts took part in 2008 making it one of the largest performing arts festivals in the UK (in July!). As the Civic Theatre had a bit of a wonky floor and leaky roof, we thought The Harpur Suite was a more suitable venue which hosted the majority of the festival. The Bedford Corn Exchange also hosted for one night giving us the opportunity to book a show with a large production behind it. Notable names from 2008 include John Hegley (notice the correct spelling!), Patrick Monahan, The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Company (now Edinburgh Fringe favourites), and Simon Munnery.
2007 saw the first ever Bedfringe festival with 41 acts taking part. Primarily based at the possibly doomed Civic Theatre (topical!) we built a temporary structure in the space ready to host all genres of theatre. Notable names from 2007 include Howard Read who now has his children’s TV show “Little Howard’s Big Question”, Simon Brodkin AKA ‘Lee Nelson’ (Robin Ince couldn’t make it), Red Dwarf’s Norman Lovett and Adam Brown who played Ori in Peter Jackson’s film “The Hobbit”.