The 2019 Swansea Fringe isn’t far away – let’s take a look at what’s in store with this week’s guest blog from Joe Bayliss, one of the masterminds behind the festival!
Across our 50 years as a city, there have been several incarnations of the Swansea Fringe Festival. In the 1980s it was a staple of Swansea’s cultural scene, but once that heyday of comedy and cabaret was over, the festival fell away. After several failed attempts at reigniting the embers, the Fringe remained part of our city’s past until it was resurrected in 2017 by Joe Bayliss and Simon Parton of the Swansea Music Hub.
On the weekend of the 2017 festival the heavens opened and for a brief moment it looked like the event might be rained off. However, in spite of the (pretty typical) Swansea weather, the weekend was a storming success, with attendance beyond expectation and feedback overwhelmingly positive. Following that inaugural success, the Fringe’s team expanded for 2018 edition, with Adam Sillman and Rhys Owain Williams of Swansea-based poetry magazine The Crunch coming on board to expand the festival’s literature and spoken word programme. The 2018 launch event saw international poetry star Hollie McNish take the stage, supported by fellow poets clare e. potter and Amelia Unity, and the night set the pace for what was to be an incredible weekend, as diverse and eclectic as it was raucous and fun.
This year the Fringe team are set to do it again – and with an extended running time of four days (Thursday 3rd to Sunday 6th October), and more venues across the centre of Swansea, this year’s edition promises to be bigger and better than ever before. Events this year offer music, literature, comedy, theatre, film screenings, podcast recordings, visual arts, workshops, family events, street food and a whole lot more all under one umbrella (though let’s hope the skies remain blue across this year’s weekend).
The opening event alone is set to be a night to remember, condensing all that’s great about the weekend into one blazing evening of entertainment. On Thursday 3rd October, the Fringe launch night will make the most of the grand space of our city’s Brangwyn Hall, with live music from alternative up-and-comers Bandicoot, folk-rock duo Zervas & Pepper, indie four-piece Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard and the triumphant return of afro rock/hip-hop group Afro Cluster, a crowd favourite from the 2017 festival. Representing the spoken word element on the night will be the winner of this year’s Swansea Poetry Slam Rosie Buf, Wales Book of the Year-shortlisted Mari Ellis Dunning, John Tripp award-winner Rhian Edwards and Swansea’s own hometown hero Joe Dunthorne. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’ll also be additional comedy and music showcase stages, giving a sample of the stand-up and acoustic acts performing across the weekend. All this surrounded by stalls offering the best of local art and publishing, and a mouthwatering array of street food vendors.
Of course, that’s just the launch event. The weekend proper commences on Friday evening, with highlights including some of the most exciting music acts from south Wales on one billing at The Bunkhouse’s Libertino & Swansea Music Hub Stage, late-night ghost stories hosted by ghost story magazine The Ghastling at the TechHub Café, and the return of Swansea’s prodigal sons Trampolene, playing a special headliner gig at Sin City.
Saturday kicks off early in the A.M. with Horizons & Beacons Presents music industry sessions at The Hyst and a Swansea Young Writers Squad writing workshop for 11–16 year olds at the Dylan Thomas Centre, hosted by Costa Prize-winning poet Jonathan Edwards. Then at the Swansea Waterfront Museum that afternoon, the Fringe Family Twmpath promises to be a “messy, sweaty, (the fun side of) chaotic and utterly enchanting” dance event for the whole family. Afterwards, you might want to head back into the city centre to be transported to an explosive world of adventure, as superheroes descend on Castle Square for a screening of the global phenomenon Avengers: Endgame. This all-ages event invites festival goers to dress up as their favourite superheroes, with a prize for best dressed, and also includes walkabout characters and street food vendors. The Saturday evening is then unsurprisingly jam-packed with music, literature and comedy events across Swansea city centre.
Sunday highlights include a Found Poetry & Zine-Making Workshop from Hazard Press’s Jeremy Dixon at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, hilarious stand-up from 2018 Welsh Unsigned Comedy Awards finalist Sarah Bridgeman and blues, folk and good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll from songwriter duo Ferris & Sylvester, stopping off at Sin City as part of their UK & Ireland tour. The whole weekend will then be capped off by The Blow Out, an end of festival party set to go deep into the night at The Perch on Wind Street.
However, this is just scratching the surface of this year’s incredible programme of events. For full Swansea Fringe programme and ticketing information visit www.theswanseafringe.com or find them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @FringeSwansea.
This post is also available in: Welsh