She calls herself ‘Jill of all trades’ but we think of Mary McHugh as the IRL incarnation of her namesake, Ms Poppins. The Chelsea Fringe wouldn’t happen without our Mary. She has done every job imaginable that makes our festival a success (and still does most of them): from recruiting HQ volunteers and encouraging people thinking about taking part in the Fringe; smoothing the registration process; managing our map into existence; that mysterious but essential role of ‘knowing about’ the website; and Fringe chorister (seen here about to sing live with the Diggers on BBC Radio 3).

Introduce yourself, Mary… I was a languages teacher, then systems analyst at the Wellcome Foundation, then re-trained at 40 as a landscape designer. So I’ve ended up a bit of a “Jill” of all trades at the Fringe.

What has been your favourite Chelsea Fringe moment? So many! But how about the surreal ‘Music of the Plants’? An artist stuck monitoring leads on a mother-in-law’s tongue, as if for a medical examination; add a fancy DJ table/mixer/app and, blow me, the sound of rising sap ‘translates’ into the squeaky voice of ‘WEEEEEED’ in Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men. (Yes, that does age me!). The icing on the cake was musical accompaniment. See for yourself on our Facebook videos.

Why did you want to get involved in the Fringe?

The very first year, I said: “That sounds interesting.” Tim said: “Here are some projects…” And I was hooked on all the amazing people who joined in.

Tell us three words that sum up the Chelsea Fringe for you? Laughter, sunshine, “tea ’n’ cake” (one word in Fringe-speak).

What’s your top tip for someone taking part in the Fringe for the first time? Talk out loud to anyone and everyone about all your ideas, but especially to us. We’ll help gel them into something exciting. And off we go.

Who is your gardening hero? For the 20th century, Roberto Burle Marx – the Brazilian landscape designer – who combined painterly modern art with graphic design using plants.

What is your guilty pleasure? Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate… Did I mention chocolate?

What do you listen to at your laptop? Wall-to-Wall Radio 4 (sorry!).

Twitter @mmchgh


Image: Tim Richardson

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