Hello Readers! I haven’t posted in a while because I am unfortunately no longer in London! (so sad). BUT. I was super lucky to still be able to conduct an interview via email with the crazy busy and crazy talented Michelle Flower, the Co-Creator of the Camden Fringe Festival!! Below are some of the questions that I posed to Michelle and her responses. Hope you enjoy!!
A-Can you describe your background in the entertainment business?
MF – I’ve always been interested in live performances. I was always in drama clubs and plays at school. When I was 16 I went to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time as an audience members and absolutely loved it and decided I’d like to make things like this happen! I went to Edinburgh every summer for about 16 years doing different jobs, which gave me a few different perspectives on how things worked. My friend Zena Barrie and I set up our own production company to produce comedy shows in Edinburgh and we also managed to get ourselves an established pub theatre – the Etcetera in Camden – to run the rest of the year.
A-What made you want to start the Camden Fringe?
MF – Zena and I set up the Camden Fringe in 2006. At the time we were running the Etcetera Theatre in Camden alongside producing comedy shows for the Edinburgh Fringe, so come August we’d leave our homes, the Etcetera would pretty much grind to a halt (at the time a lot of Fringe theatres went dark in August) and go to Scotland to pay a lot of money for flats and venues there. Eventually we realised that it was completely illogical to do this! We had homes and a venue in London, and there were still plenty of performers and potential audience members around to make something really interesting happen.
A-What was the process like starting your own Fringe festival? (Ex: getting responses/interest, getting spaces, etc.)
MF – We took it very slowly! Year 1 was very much an experiment and only involved about 26 productions that all took place at the Etcetera. As we organised it all through the venue, which was already well known, it wasn’t too hard to recruit people and sell the idea. We had a horrible time in Edinburgh that year and the new festival seemed to go down well so we decided to focus on that in the future.
A-How has the Camden Fringe progressed through the years?
MF – Again, we took it quite slowly for the first few years adding just one new venue each year in 2007, 2008 and 2009. We didn’t want to over-extend ourselves and I think it was important that we established ourselves slowly before recruiting more venues and more performers. Since 2010 we’ve had quite a few more venues, and the line-up of spaces does change slightly each year. This summer for our 8th Fringe we had 17 different spaces used by over 180 different productions.
Another thing that had to change was the way the festival was programmed – originally we programmed all the venues ourselves, but in 2011 we decided to let the venues pick their own shows and allow performers to find their own performances spaces to use as well, which opened things out a lot.
A- What would you like to see happen to the Camden Fringe in the next couple of years?
MF – It’s a bit too early to be thinking too deeply about he future, but we are hoping to expand a little and make the 9th Fringe our biggest yet. We will be trying to push the boundaries in 2014! But I think it’s important that we don’t become too unwieldy; I think part of the charm of the Camden Fringe is that we get to know who is involved in each show and are still able to respond to all the emails and enquiries ourselves. (Although every year my brain gets a bit older and the festival gets a bit bigger, so I find it harder to remember every show’s production company and venue!)
A- What’s next for you?
MF – A little bit of a break, fostering some cats and then we’ll start plotting and scheming for the next Fringe.
A- What is some advice you have for actors/writers who want to be involved in the Camden Fringe?
MF – We’ll be open for applications from performers from the 1st of January until the 31st of March, so it’s never too early to get thinking about putting a show on. We’ll be announcing the programme and putting tickets on sale on the 1st of June, which is less than 9 months away! We try to give lots of advice to our companies on promoting and publicising the show (which can take up a lot of time and energy), but what we aren’t really able to assist with is the creative process – so it’s good to get started early. Set yourself some deadlines and get dates booked for previews so you have something to aim towards.
** If anyone wants to keep up to date with what’s happening then they can follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Our website is http://www.camdenfringe.com
Many thanks to Michelle Flower, not only for her interview but her efforts in creating such an amazing Theatre Festival that I personally enjoyed very much! As I am back in the States, this is most likely my last post for a while. Thank you to everyone who helped make this blog a success and thank you to all you readers!! I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the city of London and the amazingly creative and unique theatre it is a home to.