First ever Manchester Fringe Festival kicks off with big dreams and promises fresh alternative to festival calendar

By Jack Drummond

Artists, performers and some of the city’s finest bars and venues came together to celebrate the official launch of the first Greater Manchester Fringe Festival this week.

Projected as an alternative to the larger citywide events like Manchester’s bi-annual International Festival, the Fringe kicks off with a string of performances across the city next month, many of which are free.

Organisers hope the festival will become part of the established national ‘fringe circuit’, giving artists the chance to hone their performances between the Camden and Edinburgh Fringe events.

“We wanted to do something a little different,” said Lisa Conner of the Lass O Gowrie, one of the venues that organised the festival. “With many of the other festivals in Manchester, you get the feeling that a lot of it has been parachuted in.”

She added: “The International Festival is just that: international. So we wanted to do something that felt more for Manchester.”

Iain Scott of Taurus Bar said he hoped the way in which the Fringe had been organised – with venues coming together first – will make it easier for people to see acts and for artists to get experience performing in front of a live audience.

“The difference is we, as businesses, have already done the ground work. The infrastructure was already in place. We just needed to actually come together and do it,” he explained.

The festival has even made recent Manchester School of Theatre graduates and comedy due Norris and Parker reconsider moving down to London.

“Well, we were thinking of doing so,” said Katie Parker. “But when you’ve got things like this happening in the city, where the environments really open to what you’re doing, then we thought ‘what’s the point’, we might as well just stay here.”

The festival kicks off on Sunday July 1 with four events across the city: including a reinterpretation of a Doctor Who episode classic, Robots of Death, at Fab Café; Porridge re-imagined for audiences at the Lass O Gowrie; Seamus Curley delivering Irish folk at O’Shea’s Irish bar; and there’s even a life drawing workshop at sandbar over on Grosvenor Street.

“We haven’t had this sort of set up really in Manchester before,” said celebrated actor, ‘Allo ‘Allo star and festival patron Arthur Bostrom. “So in many ways Manchester’s getting up to date.”

He added: “I think once the word gets around about this there’ll be quite a lot of very good [theatre] companies who’ll want to come here on their way to Scotland.

Also, as it’s the venues actually organising this, and the fact they’ve got a ticketing company central to this as well, they’ve sort of made it easy for people to enjoy it.”

The first Greater Manchester Fringe Festival runs throughout July with many of the events held for free. For more details visit

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