Morecambe sees benefits of Fringe as performing arts thrive

Matt Panesh said: “When we started in 2017 the dream was to revive the performing arts scene, rightly putting Morecambe back on the map for artists nationally and globally.

“To inspire local people and help develop careers, attract outside investment, have a base and be a seed that blooms. It grows from the base and sows other things, creating a scene.

“Despite a global pandemic, I think we have moved forward quite solidly in all of these areas. Enough that there is now evidence of our successes.

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Lemn Sissay and Henry Normal.

Matt continued: ‘The Morecambe Fringe takes place just before the Edinburgh Fringe – the world’s largest paid annual event and arts festival. It is our flagship festival. It’s the fifth, and after the last two years, it’s definitely a party! For me, as a performer, one of the most rewarding things has been seeing our reputation and value grow among artists. We welcome newcomers to Morecambe but also, above all, we welcome old friends.

People like Caroline Cooke previewing her new play, Gruoch The Lady Macbeth. She said: “This will be my third return to Morecambe since my first solo show at the inaugural Fringe. It’s the warmest, friendliest environment and most inclusive festival I’ve been to. I wouldn’t miss previewing here for the world! »

People like Andy Quick who said: “We had a great time playing 99 First World Problems at Morecambe Fringe in 2019 and are delighted to be returning to both our double act show, Annie & Angela’s Disco Divorce Party, and Angela’s solo hour, “Angela Bra: Life Lessons” in preparation for the Edinburgh Festival.”

Matt said: “This year Fringe will be slightly different as the Playhouse, our venue and year-round base on Yorkshire Street, will be transformed into a television studio, recording several shows to be broadcast across North America on the Esports service from GoPixl.

Henry Normal.

“During Covid, I went down the road of creating a streaming service. It didn’t quite come off. We had all the details and offers in place, just a lack of HD quality material. We’ve teamed up with Ray Turner of Lancaster Film Co-op to sort this out, so we’re now ready to tape the first season of The West End Playhouse Live. All artists will receive a revenue share, so we help give them an income while bringing them into the US market. Again, this puts Morecambe on the map.

“Inspire the inhabitants? Well, we have the community theater company, the West End Players, my ‘Make Your Own Fringe Show’ workshops and, as a legacy, ‘The Nib Crib’.

The West End Players was established in 2019 as a community theater company, open to anyone to develop acting skills, make costumes or get involved in any way they want.

The first play was a version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ set in Morecambe’s West End, scripted by locals Jim Lupton and Martin Palmer.

Dr. John Cooper Clarke.

“Of course Covid interrupted us, but in 2021 we played the delayed show, ‘The Snow Queen’ by fellow West End player June Metcalfe, also located in Morecambe. This led us to our biggest show to date, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, which we performed last weekend at the West End Festival and which also debuted as our first ‘Play on the Prom’,” Matt said.

“It was fantastic to see both the locals at the West End Festival and the tourists on the promenade entertained, delighted and excited about Shakespeare.”

The West End Players’ next show will be the John Clarke Memorial Award winner, which will be played at the Morecambe Fringe.

Matt said: “It’s extremely important that the Players community group has a prominent place. We are now reviewing submissions. We had seventy pieces submitted, from as far away as the United States, Canada, even Belgium, and some as close as the next street.

Hawk Wind.

The Nib Crib is a new club on West Street founded by members of The Players. “We really want to support writers in the area,” said Jim Lupton, a ‘Nibbler’ founder, “there was little for them.

“Matt’s Fringe lit the spark, and now we’re self-funded and dependent, and we’re a great group. We do comedy workshops, writing workshops, performing and storytelling, movie nights, a We are completely community focused and accessible to everyone.

“I saw regeneration happen firsthand” Matt said, “in Indianapolis where I was an artist. I saw their Fringe regenerate Mass Ave, turning abandoned buildings into hip joints, that was part of my inspiration behind starting a fringe here.

“Hawkwind returns with Hawkfest, last seen in 2018 which was great fun and energized the town. They will be at Winter Gardens September 9-11.

“And the following week is Morecambe’s first poetry festival. Dr John Cooper Clarke, Lemn Sissay, Henry Normal, Kate Fox, Atilla the Stockbroker and this year’s TS Eliot Prize winner Joelle Taylor will be here with many, many more poets to come.With the continued support of the towns, the growth of our player group and our festivals, there seems to be more and more for the people of Morecambe to enjoy, live and to celebrate with us.

The Morecambe Fringe runs from July 8-30.

West End Players Matt Panesh and Heather Connolly.

The Morecambe Poetry Festival runs from 16-18 September.

Hawkfest runs from September 9-11.

West End Players on the walk through the large picture frame.
The West End Players in rehearsal with director David Findlay.