The Chelsea Fringe has set the date for 2017, its sixth year, and is now open for submissions. The festival runs from May 20 to June 4: that’s 16 days, three weekends and one Bank Holiday Monday to fill with exciting gardening projects and events.
The 2016 Fringe was a huge success once again, with some 350 community gardening activities, garden/art installations and happenings, walks, talks, food events, open days, exhibitions and performances across London and beyond. There was excellent coverage in the national media — newspapers, magazines, radio and television. We also maintained our successful broadcast partnership with BBC Radio London (the Robert Elms show), which is to continue in 2017.
At this stage we are inviting individuals and organisations, first-timers and Fringe veterans, to register their interest and to discuss what they might like to do. Please get in touch with us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to be involved and do forward this on to anyone else who you think might be interested.
The Chelsea Fringe is volunteer-run and unfunded, operating as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company [CIC
- The Chelsea Fringe is an alternative garden festival celebrating community growing initiatives, outdoor performance, botanical art, walks, talks and events during two weeks across late May and early June.
- There were more than 350 Chelsea Fringe events last year, the fifth year of the Chelsea Fringe Festival. We have now seen more than 1,000 events created for the festival.
- An estimated 200,000 people attended Fringe events over last year’s three-week period.
- Projects ranged from community-garden events to avant-garde art installations, from walks, talk and performances, to workshops, dinners, demonstrations and on-street ‘happenings’. Nearly all the events were free.
- The Fringe, a community interest company (CIC), is unsponsored, unfunded and volunteer-run.
- The World Festival Network has called the Chelsea Fringe ‘the fastest-growing Fringe festival ever’.
- Around 1,000 individuals created the events, while the Chelsea Fringe itself was run by a team of approximately 50 volunteers.
- In 2016 there were a number of ‘satellite’ Chelsea Fringe Festivals – in Bristol, Brighton, Kent, Henley-on-Thames, Poland, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Melbourne, the Isle of Mull and five cities in Italy – with more coming on board for 2017.
- The Chelsea Fringe attracted national and international media coverage, including BBC and ITV television news, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio London, as well as articles/listings in all the major broadsheet newspapers. The Fringe has been particularly well supported by The Daily Telegraph, the Independent on Sunday, the Evening Standard and The Guardian.
- The Chelsea Fringe is a true Fringe festival in that
- it operates on the Fringe of an established event or festival [in this case, Chelsea Flower Show], and
- it works on an ‘open-access principle’, in that if it’s interesting, legal and on the topic of plants, gardens or landscape, it’s in!
- Anyone can enter a project in the Chelsea Fringe; most projects pay £30 (volunteer/community rate).
- There is an increasing national and international component to the Fringe. In its first year a number of international artists participated, and the intention has always been to spread the Fringe ideal more widely.
- The Chelsea Fringe operates with the blessing of the Royal Horticultural Society, organisers of Chelsea Flower Show.
- The Fringe does not last for just two weeks. We continue to encourage the spread of ‘fringe gardening’ (as we like to call it) all year round.
- The Fringe was an original idea by founder-director Tim Richardson, a garden writer and historian.
- Preparations for Chelsea Fringe 2017 are well under way, with the Fringe’s project co-ordinators working to make ideas come to life.
Thank you for your interest in the Chelsea Fringe, the alternative garden festival. Here is some of the information you may need to take part in 2017.
The Chelsea Fringe is held each year over two weeks in May and early June at the time of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The Fringe complements this famous show and operates with the support and endorsement of the Royal Horticultural Society but the two organisations are entirely independent. 2017 will be the sixth edition of the festival.
The aim of the Fringe, as an alternative garden festival, is to celebrate and encourage a broad range of people to participate in the excitement around plants, flowers, gardens and gardening at this time of year. We have an open-access platform and our team of friendly volunteers will help facilitate and advise individuals and groups in the creation of exciting and innovative horticultural interventions, community initiatives, art happenings, walks, talks, exhibitions and other events. Participants are exciting, original, eclectic, inclusive and push the boundaries of what is usually considered appropriate in garden/landscape design.
Once you have an idea for a project, please get in touch with us via email@example.com. We can let you know whether it sounds right for the Chelsea Fringe. We’ll also help you with information and support from our central committee and put you in touch with your local group of volunteers.
The Chelsea Fringe will list all events through its website and via its media partners. In return for registration, participants will receive: official inclusion in the Chelsea Fringe website listing and on any printed map or brochure that is produced (subject to deadlines); Chelsea Fringe branding materials for display on site; potential benefit from the overall publicity campaign surrounding the Fringe, including television and social media; support provided by the Chelsea Fringe organisational hub.
The Chelsea Fringe itself is an umbrella organisation. We cannot provide the funding for or organise and solely market the project on your behalf. But again, we will help in any way we can and share knowledge and networks through which you can promote and progress your events.
We expect projects to have a particular venue (or start/end point). Some may have generally free access, with times for special events (talks etc) ticketed during the festival period. This aspect should be remembered in your registration submission. The Chelsea Fringe HQ cannot be held responsible for the safety of visitors or those working on site at events/projects held under the banner of the Fringe. It is the responsibility of the organisers/participants to evaluate and arrange relevant security, health and safety, accessibility, insurance, policing and local authority permissions and notifications.
Formal registration of events and participation in the Chelsea Fringe will go live in January 2017; it will be necessary to register in order to be a part of the Fringe. Early registrations may benefit from longer visibility and early PR activity. There are several tiers of registration (the level will be at the discretion of the Chelsea Fringe):
Standard registration: £155
Larger charities rate: £105
Colleges, hospitals, museums, schools and other public institutions: £105
Small community gardening groups, run by volunteers: £30
Individual self-funded artists and designers: £30
Web-based projects: £25
There is an early-bird rate of 10% off until the end of March 2016.
Each organisation need only register once; any additional projects from the same organisation can be registered at the rate of £1 per project.
The only other payment due – if applicable – to the Chelsea Fringe is a levy of 10% on tickets sold for events at the venue during the duration of the Fringe. In addition, it will be mandatory for Fringe participants to display the branding/logo of the Chelsea Fringe and its headline sponsor, using the branding materials provided. It is also mandatory to use the Fringe logo on any promotional materials, web-pages etc.
That’s it! We hope you feel inspired to get a project off the ground, and we look forward to working with you on the Chelsea Fringe Festival 2017.
Harriot Lane Fox is part of the team that answers emails to the Chelsea Fringe inbox – she gives friendly advice on how to take part in the festival. Here she tells us more about what being a green-fingered impresario involves.
What kind of projects is the Fringe looking for? The Chelsea Fringe manifesto, if that doesn’t sound too up-the-revolution, is fantastically inclusive. We celebrate anything to do with gardens and gardening as long as it’s legal. The basic ingredient is plants but that could be growing them – in allotments, on roundabouts, behind private front doors, up posh hotel walls; turning them into art or high fashion, serenading them, writing odes, telling stories, putting them on the menu and even into cocktail shakers. In fact, it’s probably easier to say what we’re not looking for (that would be burger vans; thanks for getting in touch but we’re not that kind of festival!).
What makes a good Fringe project? The best ones really engage their audiences, non-gardeners as well as the green-fingered. For instance, in 2014 we had a new medicinal garden where visitors could learn how to brew up potions, a celebration of sci-fi author John Wyndham with a triffid-making workshop, and a mobile ice-cream machine using community-grown plants to create crazy flavours. I know that if I get a tingle from the first email enquiry, so will our visitors when they read the listing.
The other ingredient is more practical. While we can help projects discover their inner Fringe-y-ness, in the end they have to be well organised and self-propelled.
What happens once my project is approved? We don’t have paid staff (or an office). Instead the Fringe operates a kind of buddy system. Once we think your project is suitable, we hook you up with a volunteer coordinator, someone based nearby if possible, to help you sign up. You will need to have all the listing nitty gritty finalised first, and a picture ready, because what you put into the form is what goes online; “TBA” is not OK.
Early-birding is worth it, if you can. Registration gives projects access to tips on marketing and using social media, and our PR person will include you in the Fringe publicity campaign, bolstering your own. Our media partner BBC Radio London will begin previewing the festival once registration starts.
We usually have two public meetings. The first, sometime in February/March, is a chance to pick the brains of fellow Fringers (Fringies? Fringe-istas?), both co-ordinators and veteran project organisers. The second in May is when you will meet up again to collect seeds and maps. Both dates to be confirmed.
Is it possible to set up a project outside London? Absolutely. The Chelsea Fringe has gone viral. We generally say you need five or six events in one place to qualify as a satellite fringe, and last year we added Henley-on-Thames, Milan, Melbourne and Nagoya (Japan), to Ljubljana, Brighton, Bristol, Kent and Vienna. There are also lone events and other projects only exist online.
Is there any funding or sponsorship available? Not unless you raise it yourself. To say we operate on a shoestring is to flatter the Fringe bank balance. That’s why we have so many different registration rates, to enable lone artists and garden designers, underfunded community groups and primary schools, and every size of charity to take part. This is a grass-roots festival.
Interested in taking part? Email firstname.lastname@example.org