I was on my way to the recent Wandsworth Arts Fringe (WAF) 2016 launch party in Balham, and keen to know more about the Bedford pub, host to the WAF 2016 launch, and also home to a full-time fringe theatre, ‘Theatre N16’. The Bedford (Arms), built in the early 19th century, acted as both a coaching inn and a courthouse, before enjoying its present-day status as a landmark pub in Balham that offers strong support to performance artists and musicians. It is also host, I’m told, to an extraordinary globe-shaped theatre but, on a first visit, it requires a map and a torch to make your way through the Bedford’s cavernous interior.
First, there was a hidden staircase and labyrinthine passages to negotiate before I arrived at my destination on an upper floor – but what an enticing journey it proved to be. Upon entering the room where the WAF 2016 launch was taking place, it felt as if an effervescent mist was whooshing in and around the performers, mixing with the vibrancy of their costumes, dancing on the notes of their energised speech and bubbling with the excitement of WAF 2016 itself, which is providing a platform for so much talent.
Talking to many of the performers at the launch, I felt more dazzled than spoilt for choice – enthralled, actually, with their freshness, energy and verve. Several spoke of the extensive research they’d done on their characters, others of their dedication to music and dance, all offered an innovative approach to new and experimental work. WAF 2016 is shaping up to be, and with no hint of exaggeration, a dynamic arts event with something for everyone. So if you are passionate about arts festivals, be sure to make time for this one.
Beginning Wednesday, 6th May, ending Sunday 22nd May 2016, Wandsworth and its surrounds will enjoy an effervescent stream of original dramatic works, street performances, family workshops, art exhibitions, puppetry, music and dance. Many of the events will be showcased at the Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, SW12 9HD and The Cat’s Back, 86-88 Point Pleasant, SW18 1NN, as well as in, libraries, galleries and leafy green spaces, such as Heathbrook Park and Battersea Park. Many outdoor events are free, but some require advance booking.
It wasn’t physically possible to speak to all the writers, directors and performers at the WAF 2016 launch, but for a glimmer of what’s on offer, there is a one-woman show on the fabulous Joan Littlewood, ‛Joan, Babs & Shelagh Too’; a one-man show ‛Pope Head: The Secret Life of Francis Bacon’; real-life testimonies of people with mental health issues in ‛On the Edge of Me’; absurdist comedy from Whig Wham in aid of Paul’s Cancer Support Centre; and an offering from the South London Jazz Orchestra ‛An Evening of Swing’. Family entertainment abounds with family folk-style cabaret and theatre, ‛Reynard the Fox’ and ‛Jack and the Beanstalk’, to offer a taster. For more adult themes ‛Qualified Actress’ offers a manifesto on ‛sexless love, loveless sex and why Beyonce ruins everything’.
If you enjoy a picnic, then bring a blanket to a free art/sculpting event, ‛Big Art Picnic’, at Heathbrook Park.
Finally, if you relish unsolved murders, then ‛The Killing of Charles Bravo’ to be performed at The Bedford, where the original court case took place, is a must see. Even Agatha Christie was interested in this 19th century unsolved murder case. Enjoy!
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Wandsworth Arts Fringe 2016
Sixteen days of art and performances, 110 events across London’s largest inner borough, 300 + performances and lots of opportunity to get involved.
For dates, times, venues and booking information, browse through the complete WAF 2016 programme available at: www.wandsworthfringe.com
#WAFchat at @wworthfringe
Wandsworth Arts Fringe is coordinated on behalf of Wandsworth Council by the Arts Team of Enable, Leisure & Culture, in collaboration with a steering group of local representatives and independent Producer Cath Mattos, who is also Projects Director at World Festival Network and World Fringe.