Forest Fringe is an artist-led organisation that creates imaginative and unconventional performance events in the UK and internationally, while fostering the work of a diverse community of writers, theatre makers, musicians, dancers and live artists.They are most well known for the venue they run each year at the Edinburgh Festival, a totally free space that has won awards for its unconventional curation. Since 2011 they have been taking Forest Fringe to locations across the world, creating new projects in each place that continue to embody their spirit of mutuality, generosity and adventure.
The Forest Fringe Microfestival is a festival within a festival, presenting four acclaimed Forest Fringe performances alongside four works in development by Canadian artists, each of whom has been commissioned by a Canadian institution (National Theatre School, Native Earth Performing Arts, The Shaw Festival and The National Arts Centre) to develop a new performance of their own. The Canadian artists will be working in a creation residency led by Forest Fringe co-director, Andy Field, and dramaturgically supported by their Forest Fringe partnering company.This residency was made possible with the support of the British Council in Canada.
Note: Forest Fringe is not associated with the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals. The term “Fringe” is being used with CAFF’s permission on a one time basis.
In 2009 I met an artist and curator named Deborah Pearson. I was invited to be a part of something called Informing Content, which was produced by Volcano Theatre and created by Ross Manson and Deborah. The event invited performance-based artists to make pieces that responded to short academic lectures, and the whole event began with a lecture by Deborah. She introduced us all to a series of UK artist that she herself found interesting, as well as the alternative performance venue she co-directs with Andy Field during the Edinburgh Fringe called Forest Fringe.
This changed my life.
I had been running SummerWorks for a year at that time, and although I was feeling a dissatisfaction with the lack of structural diversity in Toronto’s performance scene, it wasn’t until learning more about what was happening in the UK and at Forest Fringe that I was able to imagine or articulate an alternative.
Two years later, Deborah came to Toronto to help me establish the Live Art Series at SummerWorks, which helped create more space for what I like to think of as work uninterested in classification. We presented 4 Forest Fringe artists that year, with one performance – Maybe if You Choreograph Me You’ll Feel Better, by Tania El-Khoury – ending up #1 on Kelly Nestruck’s top-10 performances of the year. The Live Art series, now entering its sixth year, has helped create a psychological space at SummerWorks and in the Toronto performance scene to encourage more structural decolonization. There is a great deal of emphasis on what “genre” something is in Toronto – perhaps because of our funding structures – and it is not only limiting but also dull.
SummerWorks’ offering at Progress is particularly meaningful for me, as it’s an opportunity to transport and share a collective who have had a significant impact on our ecology. It’s also an opportunity to take this ongoing conversation with Forest Fringe one step further.
This is a very special program for me. It’s a strong, clear response to the question that moved me to inaugurate this Festival; a desire to instigate a conversation that intersects local and global contemporary performance practices. This project is an opportunity to not only share performances, but to have a conversation that transmits aspects of the Forest Fringe ecology that will build a practical legacy here.