Out goes ArtsFest, but in comes a brand new fringe festival for Birmingham.
Birmingham Fest is a performing arts festival with groups and individuals showcasing their theatrical, dance and comedy work until July 28.
Artists from across the UK, plus one all the way from Croatia, will perform in four venues – the Old Joint Stock, the Blue Orange and Crescent Theatres and the AE Harris building.
It is not intended to be a substitute for the free ArtsFest event normally held in September, a victim of cutbacks which Birmingham City Council has vowed to replace next year with a cheaper event.
Birmingham Fest is an independent event, organised without funding. It’s not free but tickets cost from £3 or on a ‘pay what you can’ basis.
It is the brainchild of local actor and writer Darren Haywood, who says: “For a long time I have felt that Birmingham is missing a fringe theatre festival, so here it is!
“Birmingham has fantastic theatres and performance venues. It has the potential to host a festival to rival, and possibly better, other cities.
“This festival will be great for the city and its arts scene.
“As well as having such an eclectic programme of performances, it will introduce companies and patrons to some of the city’s venues that they may not be familiar with. It is also an excellent opportunity for performers in a pre-Edinburgh slot. Artists and companies may use this festival as a taster before going up.
“They may use it as a try out before taking the leap or as a less expensive alternative.
“Birmingham Fest will create a much-missing ‘fringe’ element in the city’s theatre scene.” Among the 30-plus productions is Stroke, at the Blue Orange Theatre tomorrow (July 12). From Croatia’s Dance Center Puls, it’s described as “an introspective bodily monologue about pain, loss and recollection”.
Closer to home, Parklife by the city’s Inamoment theatre company is a play set in Pigeon Park in the heart of Birmingham. Staged at the Old Joint Stock Theatre on July 12, 18 and 20, it follows five characters as they take their lunch in the grounds of St Philip’s Cathedral.
Other highlights include Birmingham-based Studio3 and their dark comedy Ledge at the Blue Orange Theatre on July 17. A man is perched on a narrow ledge on the 14th floor of a building with one end in mind – his own.
Also at Blue Orange, there’s an Evening Of Improvisation by Box of Frogs and Medieval Mystery Plays by Solo Plus, performing scenes from the life of Jesus including the crucifixion and resurrection.
Driving School is an unusual theatrical experience at the Blue Orange where the audience are trainees on a Driver Awareness course.
And Confessions of Jon-Jak Crusoe by Ad Hoc is a comedy by and starring Gareth Owen as a self-deluded genius.
Taking Care of Business at the Old Joint Stock is a selection of short plays by Birmingham’s new writing collective, Big Script.
Also at that theatre is Women At The Edge, a comedy starring funnywomen Naomi Paul and Jenny Stokes, and This Way Madness Lies by Augustus Stephens, one man’s true, raw and humorous tale of going mad and coming back again.
On a lighter and saucier note, A Night of Burlesque stars the likes of Felicia Noir and Geeta Von Tease.
Nottingham Dance Collective bring styles from all over the globe, including Egypt, China and Brazil, in Around The World In 80 Days. And at AE Harris, Essential Productions presents a modern interpretation of Twelfth Night.
• More information at www.birminghamfest.co.uk .