The Chelsea Fringe is truly a festival sans frontières. This year the Fringe is spreading its wings far beyond the realms of SW3 to include several satellite Chelsea Fringes, one of which is Vienna. The Austrian capital may be better known as “the City of Music” and famed for its devotion to the twin gods of patisserie and torrefaction but this summer the Viennese love of gardening will come to the fore as the city participates in the Fringe for the first time.
Having sampled last year’s Fringe in London at first hand (as one of the participants in a plant-painting project at The Garden of Disorientation), event organiser Hannah Stippl was keen to bring the Fringe to her home city. “Our experience in London for the first fringe was very special, over all the city we had the feeling that everybody was taking part. We stayed in London for the whole three weeks and every day we saw something new. It was simply great and we wanted to take that to Vienna.”
Hannah says the Viennese will love the Fringe – “in Vienna there are flowers everywhere and many Viennese have their own little gardens.” The city is also home to numerous “Schrebergartens”, the distinctive Germanic take on allotment gardens advocated by the century by 19th century naturopath, Dr Daniel Gottlob Moritz Schreber. But springing up alongside more traditional kinds of gardening Hannah has noticed that – in common with London – there is a new spirit of gardening in Vienna, with City Farms popping up and more people engaging in guerrilla gardening and developing community gardens. For Hannah the Chelsea Fringe is the “missing link” between the new initiatives and the more traditional gardening scene.
Events already registered include Krongarden (“a green space among parking space”), The Jacquin Grove (a new garden designed by Sarah Glaser around the tombs of Vienna’s father and son answer to the Tradescants, the von Jacquins), and a talk on Conceptual Landscapes by Tony Heywood and the Fringe’s very own Tim Richardson. Fringe fever is growing, and Hannah reports that groups such as the Vienna Bonsai Society and various community gardens and artists are all poised to register projects for this year’s festival.
Vienna may not have (yet) what Hannah calls ‘the UK’s madness for flowers’ but the city’s distinctive and vibrant gardening culture will ensure that its Chelsea Fringe is as deliciously multilayered as the finest apfelstrudel.