What to expect from this year’s Shaftesbury Fringe Festival

Gold Hill in the town of Shaftesbury, Dorset.

Gold Hill in the town of Shaftesbury, Dorset. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Saxon hilltop town of Shaftesbury is buzzing with excitement as it prepares to welcome hundreds of visitors and performers to the third Shaftesbury Fringe Festival

From Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July you will be able to experience more than 125 performances at this year’s Shaftesbury Fringe Festival. From acoustic sessions to blues jams, plays to poetry, film shorts to folk music, comedy to cabaret – there is something for every age and taste.

New for 2018, the Shaston Club will be the devoted comedy ‘hub’ for Shaftesbury Fringe, hosting 20 cabaret and stand-up shows. As many of the acts will be ‘en route’ to Edinburgh, you could well be watching the comedy stars of tomorrow.

In the grounds of the Abbey, which was founded by King Alfred, children can enjoy four fun-filled music and performance workshops hosted by Paddleboat Theatre Company, and the performances are all free!

Throughout the festival weekend the High Street will be decorated with colourful bunting as all over town buskers entertain at 30 different venues as diverse as the programme of events itself.

Comics will be telling jokes on Gold Hill, the famous film location used by Ridley Scott for the 1970s Hovis advert. Meanwhile songwriters will perform in venues including estate agent offices and a beautiful walled garden usually closed to the public. There’s even a sassy female soul trio singing their set at Sloane’s Hairdressers - a true ‘fringe performance’.

Meanwhile the Gold Hill Museum offers an oasis of calm where six Tibetan Buddhist monks will create a colourful and intricate ‘mandala’ pattern from sand on a tabletop.

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Shaftesbury Fringe Highlights

Friday 29 June

4.45pm: 17-year-old Shaftesbury School head boy Jacob Hulland performs the first of his four stand-up gigs at the Mitre Inn.

6pm: BBC South weather presenter Sam Fraser switches clouds for comedy as she shares her witty observations at The Grosvenor Arms.

6pm: Comic Cajun folk n’ blues with Roy Hutchins and Mike McKeon at the Mitre Inn.


Saturday 30 June

11am: Former Metropolitan Police choir member and Melbury Abbas resident Noel Bowman teams up with guitarist Mike Botterill to perform American folk and protest songs in Swan’s Yard.

1.30pm: Stand-up comedian Stu Turner hosts a game show as two teams of comics battle their wit and improv skills at the Shaston Club.

2pm: A two-hour African folk song and drumming workshop with Perfect Sound in the marquee of Ye Olde Two Brewers Inn.

2.30pm: Shearsman poets and Long Poem Magazine editors, Linda Black and Claire Crowther, perform their poetry at King Alfred’s Kitchen.

2.30pm: Singer Kachina Aimee accompanies Celtic songs on her harp at Bell Street Church.

3pm: Australian actor Nathan Lang (Pinhead in TV soap Neighbours) performs a fast-moving show filled with clowning and real onstage stunts at the Shaston Club.

3.30pm: Paul Praegar performs close-up magic without camera tricks or flapping doves at the Mitre Inn.

6pm: The Shaftesbury Fringe Mini Film Festival at Shaftesbury Arts Centre, in association with Purbeck Film Festival, screens three critically-acclaimed short films then the directors discuss their work.

6.45pm: The NMSW presents an operatic and classical programme of music celebrating the life and work of Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta on the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, featuring specially commissioned music by Hannah Kendall and Sadie Harrison.


Sunday 1st July

1.30pm: Kate Dimbleby, star of her own one-woman ‘off-Broadway’ show, uses digital technology to layer her voice and sing harmonies at Shaston Social Club.

2pm: Voted Best in Fringe in 2017 the Tisbury-based female duo Hummingbird performs folk, blues, country and original songs at The Grosvenor Arms.

6.30pm: Satire Day Night Live at Shaftesbury Arts Centre, comedians Jon Matthews, Eliza Fraser and Christian Russel-Pollock tackle today’s political and cultural stories.

7.30pm: ‘The Bard of Windmill Hill’ shares social comment through poetry promising “a tour de force of epic dimensions involving audience participation” at the Royal British Legion Club.


Let’s go to Shaftesbury Fringe!

Find free programmes listing all performances and venues around town throughout the festival, or go online to access the events guide at shaftesburyfringe.co.uk where you can listen to podcast by the performers previewing their shows. Follow Team Fringe on Twitter @shaftesfringe