The Wandsworth Arts Fringe takes over South West London for two weeks in May with a rich array of shows that tackle some of the most pertinent issues of our time. As the festival approaches, a number of themes have emerged that reflect the world in 2017. Inclusivity and identity play a large part in the lineup, as do environmental concerns. In addition, there is a significant amount of work being presented by disability arts companies about disability issues as well as work that explores gender and feminism.
Like many fringe festivals, Wandsworth Council’s Wandsworth Arts Fringe is open access, meaning that the work on offer is not selected by a curator, so the themes that emerge do so organically and are broadly reflective of artist’s, arts organisation’s and a wider society’s current concerns.
With 140 shows in 65 venues across the borough, this year’s festival promises to be the biggest and most varied yet. From May 5 to 21 every conceivable space in Wandsworth is transformed into a place of creative celebration. Throughout the merry month of May, Wandsworth will buzz with artistry, imagination, and ingenuity. From theatre to dance, comedy to music, visual art to literary events, outdoor extravaganzas, dance circus and free shows, there is something for everyone every day and long into the spring evenings
throughout the two week period.
INCLUSIVITY AND IDENTITY is represented by the stunning New Union Flag Project, which, after being exhibited at the Tate Modern, is on show at various venues across the borough. Re-imagining the Union Jack, the project challenges fixed identities, celebrates diversity and reflects the UK’s colonial past and its contemporary multicultural society. Old Joe’s Fish ‘n’ Chill looks at displacement in a drama that tells the story of dystopian world in which one club stands alone as the only place that welcomes anyone from anywhere. The refugee experience is explored by potatoes are immigrants, an interactive event that looks at food, identity and politics as it welcomes people of all ages to start conversations about Britain’s colonial history and its current political and social implications. Asylum is discussed by Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees, an evening of film, stories, comedy and music, which delves into what it is to seek refuge. Mixed race is tackled head on in Dominoes, a theatre piece which tells the story of Layla, a mixed-race teacher who, preparing to marry, discovers that she and her husband-to-be have a shared history. The mixed-race experience is explored further by Simon Clayton in his comedy show Simon Clayton is a Coconut which examines whether he is more white than black. Meanwhile the theme of race is explored from a historical perspective as Tom Green tells the true story of Tom Molineaux who, born a slave, fought his way to freedom and travelled to London in the early 19th Century, battling prejudice and poverty along the way.
ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES are explored in Hector Dyer’s theatre piece Thank You For Your Patience, which weaves together everyday actions of responsibility with the incomprehensible legacies we leave behind, through the tale of a 42 kilometre deep tunnel in Finland being dug to dump nuclear waste The biodiversity of the borough is championed with London Sustainability Exchange’s Pollinator Paths Wandsworth, an interactive event which encourages participants to create urban habitats for their homes and to create artwork as they do. Biodiversity is also celebrated by puppet insects in Mischief Makers Metamorphosis – a free colourful family focussed outdoor performance on Roehampton Library Green that follows a giant caterpillar to a magical garden tended to by a swarm of worker bees. Creatures under threat are also featured in artist Yvette Vanson’s fifth National exhibition, Disappearing Worlds, which showcases paintings of endangered habitats, species and communities remote and near as a testimony to nature’s extraordinary resilience despite the devastation wrought by human recklessness.
DISABILITY plays a prominent part with work from inclusive arts companies. Extant Theatre’s Catching The Ghost follows the journey of Chris, a young man who must suddenly confront his struggle with sight loss in a whole new light. The Artistic Director of the legendary Oily Cart Theatre, Tim Webb leads a practical, hands-on introduction to the company’s multi-sensory and interactive theatre for children and young people with complex disabilities and/or an Autistic Spectrum Condition. Using relaxing and amusing theatre games together with video footage of Oily Cart productions, the workshop looks at the multi-sensory quality of the work, explores the interactive style of performance and looks at how Oily Cart methods might be used in theatre for other, often excluded, audiences. Artist Louis Morel suffers from severe sensory processing problems, which make it impossible for her to go to new places or meet new people, so instead she takes journeys in her head to new places, meeting new people and drawing her encounters. Here her work is exhibited in Melody of Madness. Outside-In Festival, an inclusive arts festival, set on Roehampton Green that presents work from dancers, choreographers and visual artists who have something to say about the world in which we live. As part of this, CoDa Dance Company, led by Nikki Watson uses physical theatre and contemporary dance along with the experiences and stories of those with Multiple Sclerosis to present thought-provoking work that speaks to the audience on an emotive and honest level.
GENDER & FEMINISM is examined by Sisters of Eden, a performance work that celebrates the functions and beautiful multifariousness of the female body. Through physical explorations and a sharp tongue, the Sisters of Eden challenge sexism in society and celebrate what it means to be a woman today. The Bicycle Ballet Co presents Blazing Saddles – a visually stunning and joyful outdoor promenade dance performance and cycle-about, celebrating women, cycling and fashion. Bristol’s all female avant-garde theatre company, Dada For Girls present Spilt, a night of explicit performance art annihilation, which combines cinematic liquidity with performance fluidity. The mini festival Femmes By The Thames is a celebration of women in comedy which includes award-winning Radio 4 regular Rosie Wilby hosting a night of relationship disasters in Break Up Stories, and Reinvention which takes a wry look at the process of reclaiming one’s own identity by doing something completely different with Jen Brister, Lynn Ruth Miller and Cheekykita telling their own personal tales.
Cath Mattos, Producer of Wandsworth Arts Fringe says: “Wandsworth Arts Fringe (WAF) celebrates inspiring, inclusive and diverse work and we seek to make our 2017 festival as accessible as possible. We have producers and performing companies that are creating contemporary and relevant work to bring to WAF 2017 that highlights issues and trends in the current cultural and social landscape. With such a wide range of events, Wandsworth Arts Fringe offers something for everyone and provides a magical arena in which to take risks to discover a new talent, a gem of a show or an unforgettable experience.”