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Photo: ‘Forget-Me-Knot Wears the Trousers’

Interview with Hastings Fringe artistic director Heather Alexander

Ahead of the second Hastings Fringe 2016, artistic director Heather Alexander talks to Miranda Gavin about setting up the performance arts festival, billed this year as “bigger and bolder”, what’s on and its plans for the future.

After the success of last year with many sold-out performances, The Hastings Fringe Festival is back. Now in its second year, it has extended its run to six days from Tues 30 August to Sun 4 September and has five venues on board: The Stables, Printworks, Owl & Pussycat Lounge, Nico’s Kitchen and Hastings Pier.

 Heather Alexander

Hastings Fringe artistic director, actor, writer and director, Heather Alexander

“With around 50 acts, Hastings Fringe Festival is a very open platform for work in progress and new work, offering the opportunity for artists to showcase anything that is performance-based,” founder and artistic director, Heather Alexander, tells HOT. “Lots of people came forward when we did the call out for potential performers and we wanted to include as many as possible.

“There’s always been a lot of local talent but there weren’t so many places to showcase it. In the 1970s and 80s, there were fewer outlets for performance and it was less accessible. I wanted to change this. I’d written a dark comedy two-hander play, ‘Kiss Off’, about my experience with breast cancer three years ago, and wanted to try it out in front of an audience without spending money I didn’t have. After speaking to The Stables Theatre, where the first Fringe Festival took place, I met other artists who were in the same situation and this was the impetus for the first Fringe.”

Heather was born and bred in Hastings. She was a Hot Gossip dancer in the early 1980s and later appeared in the play, ‘Noises Off’, at the Savoy Theatre in the West End. As well as running The Alexander School of Drama in Hastings, which her mother Jean (who died two years ago) first set up, Heather writes and directs. “The Hastings Fringe is as inclusive as possible and doesn’t censor any work,” she explains. “If people want to show work, we’ve tried as far as possible to put it on and let the audience decide, though we do have some acts where suggested age restrictions apply.

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The All-New Ten Commandments by The Monks

“Last year at The Stables, nobody earned any money. This year we wanted to give artists an opportunity to have some recompense from the box office, so we offered two tiers of involvement. If the performance is under 50 minutes, we felt that we couldn’t really charge people so we created a strand of Free Fringe events taking place at all the participating venues. If the act is over 50 minutes, we decided on a ticket price of £5 at the door and that will be split 60:40 between the venue and the artist.”

The programme includes plays by well-known playwrights alongside original material by local writers and performers. Music ranges from acapella and music hall to jazz and blues and there will also be slam-dunk poetry and spoken-word readings. Local writer and Daily Mirror music critic, Gavin Martin, will perform his debut spoken-word album, ‘Talking Musical Revolutions’, (Wed 31 Aug, Printworks, 9.45pm, free) and there will be an evening of short films, closing with the world public premiere of the 90-min drama, ‘Shingetsu’, directed by Paul Schoolman (‘Jail Caesar’) starring Alice Krige (‘Chariots of Fire’, ‘Star Trek: First Contact’ and ‘Jail Caesar’).

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Shingetsu, directed by Paul Schoolman, starring Alice Krige (pictured)

This year with the expansion of the festival, Heather is not performing but will be directing two plays: Alan Bennett’s, ‘Talking Heads’, (The Stables, Sun 4 Sept, 7.30pm) with co-director Peter Mould – and the winner of the Hastings Writers’ Group short-play competition, ‘Miriam Waits’, a monologue by Amanda Giles, which she recently judged. She’s also heading to Edinburgh Fringe with Hastings Fringe project manager, Steve Scott, to perform in Donald Freed’s play, ‘The White Crow’.

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‘Isabella’ by The Idle Hour theatre company

“We recently launched the Hastings Fringe website and a printed programme of all the ticketed and Free Fringe events will be available from today (Wed 3 Aug) at the Box Office at The Stables Theatre (opening hours 10-2pm and 6-8pm) and the Owl & Pussycat Lounge. The team at Hastings Fringe is small, but we are all writers and performers,” Heather adds. “Steve Scott will be performing comic songs at The Stables with ‘Flanders & Swann and Tom Lehrer‘ and our other project manager, Miranda Gavin, will be reading at the Owl & Pussycat Lounge. Our ethos is: come along, give it a go and take something from it. And that goes for us too!

“Hastings Fringe 2016 has something for everyone. I’ve tried to match the audience and the venue and to programme acts that I think complement each other,” Heather enthuses. “Next year, I’d like to build on the diversity of acts and want to encourage more dance, physical theatre, performance art and also more comedy, so we can embrace all areas of artistic quality. We’ve also started the Hastings Fringe Film Festival, which is on a modest scale this year with bigger plans for next. We want people to get involved, not just as performers, writers or directors, but also to support the festival as audiences.”

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Adult and children’s mask workshops

Hastings Fringe 2016 is a not-for-profit community interest company. The second Hastings Fringe festival runs from Tuesday 30 August to Sunday 4 September 2016. For more information about the festival, visit www.hastingsfringe.co.uk

Posted 07:09 Wednesday, Aug 3, 2016 In: Performance

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