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Limerick Fringe aims to stimulate audience development in city

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The new Limerick Fringe series of events was officially launched last night at the George Hotel on O’Connell St.  Limerick Fringe is a new vibrant, multi-genre performance based event that will take place across a number of locations in Limerick from the 30th March until April 1st.

I took some time to chat with three of the Fringe organising team recently.

fringeThe idea for Limerick Fringe came over a few coffees over the course of last year.

Simon Thompson, a well-known clown, actor and director – had been touring with the third part of his popular Clown Noir trilogy which took him to numerous Fringe events across the UK last summer.

” When I returned to Limerick I had a think about what I had just experienced and started chatting with my partner Eva (Birdthistle). We both agreed that Limerick was perfectly placed to host a Fringe experience of a similar scale”, he tells me.

“The vibe of those Fringe events was very artist-focussed. They were friendly events. You found yourself engaging with other artists, sharing experiences and skills.

It felt like it was a community of artists coming together in a fun, accessible environment. But most importantly it was accessible to audiences”, Simon adds.

Thompson tells me that for a long time, he had mused over the audience development conundrum he noticed in Limerick, especially for non-traditional type performance.

“People are curious but are they curious enough to spend their money? Do they want to see something non-traditional in a traditional space? These were the questions that kept going through my head”, he says.

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Simon, Eva, Shane and Fiona

Eva and Simon discussed it and then opened the discussion to a wider group of friends. Those friends included the voice and dance artist, pianist, and arts/event manager Fiona Marie Booth who Simon knew for some time from UL.

The Fringe group also comprises Gearóid O’hAllmhurain (aka Rg Allen) who works as Technical Manager at Dance Limerick, Shane Vaughan who is well-known locally as the driver of the popular Stanzas poetry group and freelance illustrator and designer Rosanne Hayes.

Once the team was complete it didn’t take long for a decision to be made to simply roll with the idea.

The resulting Limerick Fringe has a very simple vision. The team strive ‘…to be an internationally acclaimed fringe event and professional resource, that stimulates, educates and develops audiences and artistic communities’.

In creating Limerick Fringe, the organising team didn’t try to reinvent the wheel.

“We took a model that has been proved to work – the Canadian Fringe model. This model takes open submissions after which a team then score each submission individually and from those scores comes a programme of events”, Simon notes.

Therefore, it is important to note that Limerick Fringe is not a curated festival. In fact, ‘festival’ is a term the guys are keen to avoid.

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Limerick Fringe marketing materials – photo: Pat Browne

“We didn’t select anything individually”, Fiona Marie Booth is keen to stress. “We simply took our submissions and programmed our events based on the interest we had. We were blown away by the level of interest in the event from the moment we put a call out for entries.

The number of submissions we received far outweighed our expectations and as a result, the level of standard our audiences can expect in year 1 is something we are very proud of”, she adds.

The entries in this year’s event include local Limerick acts, other Irish-based performers, the UK, Canada, Australia. In fact, almost one third of the entire event line-up is UK based, a testament to the networking opportunities offered at the UK-based Fringe events Simon Thompson attended last year.

So what can Limerick audiences expect and how does it work?

The programme is split up into eight main event categories: Cabaret, Comedy, Dance & Physical Theatre, Kids & Youth, Spoken Word, Music, Theatre and Workshops. All performers are asked ‘to dream wild, to propose mad and daring collaborations’.

Multistorey Theatre Company's Pericles All At Sea
Multistorey Theatre Company’s Pericles All At Sea

Limerick Fringe is an open submission event. The total cost to an artist up front to take part is €30. The €30 gets you in the programme, secures your venue space, secures your tech crew and any other marketing aspects.

“In terms of revenue we work on the basis of a 60/40 split in the artists favour”, Simon tells me.

“Therefore, the artist gets 60% of any ticket sales and the other 40% goes back into covering the costs of running the event. It is a non-profit model. Nobody is taking a salary. The committee are volunteers and those who come on board to lend a hand are considered volunteers”.

 

The other key rule is that none of the committee have any show or performance as part of the programme. There is no conflict artistically.

So why the need to avoid the word ‘festival’?

“This is Fringe, not a festival and there is a difference.  Fringe is something that happens on the outskirts of the traditional”, Simon explains.

“It is in a mix of non-traditional and different style venues. We want the artists to work with the retail community, we want them to engage with venue owners in the hope that they too will get a knock on effect from the various programmed events”.

Eva adds that Limerick Fringe is attempting to push out into the wider Limerick community.

“We want people who have never considered attending a show to give it a shot at a Fringe event”, she says.

“We are not mainstream. A lot of what you will see programmed is quirky. It is different and it is accessible. Most importantly it is cheap in the cost sense!”

The Limerick Fringe team will use year one as a steep learning curve and then ultimately grow year on year.

Eva adds that their goal is to consistently grow in terms of quality, content and experience.

“We have created a five-year plan and know where we want to go”, she says.

“We are proud have achieved what we have from a very small base. We didn’t set out with an idea but wait until we received funding. We are developing a product first and what happens later in terms of funding or sponsorship – well that’s for another day”.

What is interesting to note is that everything you see about the festival at present has mostly been created either through benefit-in-kind or from the direct support of volunteers or members of the Limerick Fringe team with individual skillsets. The website, for example, has cost no more than €80 to get up and running.

Mick and Val Dolan with Mike Finn at the launch. Photo: Pat Browne
Mick and Val Dolan with Mike Finn at the launch. Photo: Pat Browne

The venues for Limerick Fringe will include Dolans Warehouse and Dolans Upstairs, One Pery Hotel, the rooms of Shannon Rowing Club, upstairs at the Locke Bar and Mothers Macs pub. These are not your typical ‘arty’ venues.

“What we are trying to create are good audience experiences and we hope that these venues will help us to do that”, Simon notes.

“Quite often you hear of people whose perceptions of theatre or the arts of a stiff, shirt and tie wearing brigade – our goal is to break down the barriers to entry certain prospective audiences have and to introduce them to a new world that will hopefully create a new hobby that can last a lifetime”.

Limerick Fringe is supported with the help of (in no particular order) The Locke Bar, One Pery Hotel, Dolan Pub and Warehouse, Mother Macs, Treaty City Brewing Company, Belltable Connect, House and John Bird.

A full list of events along with information on how to get involved or support Limerick Fringe can be found at www.limerickfringe.com

To download the full programme click here

 

 

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