Why you need to go to an event


I’m writing this from the perspective as a fan of the arts. By arts I mean exhibitions, performances and theatre, but not the theatre of big shows and musicals – they leave me feeling a bit empty inside.

This short article is about events – and how important it is to go to them. And when I use the word ‘events’, I mean art and photography exhibitions, live-art performances, contemporary theatre, stand-up comedy, processions and festivals. And I also mean kids play groups, bonfire nights, Christmas festivals, street theatre days or anything you can take your family to, except those god-damn awful fun days in pub car parks where parents get slowly p*ss*d and subconsciously show their kids that alcohol is an acceptable form of addiction.

Why am I writing this? And why do I feel the need to say this?

Most of our lives shuttle along at 100mph without any time to stop and think. If you’re a parent that speed will regularly hit 120mph, or until you’re engine overheats and you have a nervous breakdown (this is similar to doing a phd but you don’t get a job with a university once you’ve recovered). What this means in real terms is that we all have our daily and weekly structures in terms of the things we do, the things we have to do and the things we enjoy doing. And often this does not include going to events like the theatre (adult or children’s) or similar events. For some people, a free festival in a nearby town or a weird little performance in the back of a pub is just not on the radar.

I know this because that was me. I went a dozen years without seeing any type of theatre performance, save for the occasional panto with my kids. Live-art performance festivals, fringe festivals, comedy festivals – it’s not that they weren’t on my radar, I didn’t even know they existed. I was doing other stuff. Like watching television. And drinking.

But here’s the thing. Live events, like those described above, offer something to us as humans mentally that we don’t quite understand. Academics sometimes refer to the effect of art and culture on people as wellbeing. But that does not do justice to the experiences involved.

The best way I can describe it, which most people get, is comparing watching a football match on TV compared to being at an actual stadium. At Old Trafford or Anfield or Holker Street, Barrow (delete as appropriate), there is the extra, intangible ingredient of atmosphere and sense of thrill that can only be experienced in a crowd, as part of a crowd. It’s this feeling that comes from watching events in person that I am talking about.

And it’s this feeling – along with other invisible benefits like nourishment for the soul, mental stimulation, feeling good – which makes going to events of any type hugely important to our wellbeing.

If we’re talking about theatre, there’s two main obstacles here (I could actually come up with six but it gets too complicated talking about social issues and the inaccessibility of some subject matters to a non-traditional theatre audience). The two obstacles are: people thinking theatre is too posh for them; and people (who do go out a lot) preferring to spend their time binge drinking. I can accept that drinking is an experience – and quite a fun one – but when you sit there scratching your blotchy red alcohol-soaked skin, looking back over those nights on the lash stretched across three decades, all those memories merge blur into one. It’s the extraordinary nights which stand out.

And extraordinary nights usually mean seeing Maxine Peake at the Royal Exchange, experiencing the anarchy of spoof magic show Peter and Bambi Heaven at Edinburgh Fringe, learning about social protests at a Mark Thomas gig or spending two hours laughing at Daniel Kitson (he’s the best stand-up comedian in Britain by a mile but does go on the telly so you might not have heard of him. I’d recommend you get seek him out, get on his mailing list and see him live).

But live experience does not end there. There’s also a myriad of processions, dances and performances at festivals up and down the country which can trigger feelings of joy some of you reading this did not even know existed.

The effect of art and culture on the mind is immeasurable. And believe me, I’ve read some reports which have tried to measure it. It’s immeasurable because you can’t measure how someone feels. But what you can do is ask people about their experiences and question your own – and the answer is always the same: art and culture makes us feel good. And that’s why experiencing stuff like this so crucial, especially to those of us a bit worn down by life. The effect could be as quick as the flick of a lightbulb, or it could be a more gentle, slower provocation of thought and feeling. But it will always be good and always be worth it.

There is actually of lot of theatre and performance out there – and a huge amount of it is totally free (both indoor and outdoor events). I’ve seen my fair share of weird sh*t – and you could too. So do yourself a favour, give yourself some memories. Go and see some theatre, or enjoy some live art where, for example, a naked man cellotapes his cock up his backside. Yes, you too could have memories like mine.

There will be some amazing experiences at Lancashire Fringe Festival in Preston, between May 15 and 24. Some of the shows, in my opinion, are by the absolute best performers currently working in Britain today. Can’t quite believe they will be in Preston. And you know what? I’ve organised it all so that it is free to attend. This is your wake-up call – it’s time for you to make some changes in your life.



Lancashire Fringe Festival 2019 (Preston May 15-24)

lff flyer 2019 digitalIt’s taken a while to get this far – and the worst bit has been having to turn down some of my favourite people and performers because I couldn’t find them a venue. I was working had on this until last night. But some other brilliant shows have squeezed their way into the festival, not least because of the help of some amazing people like Catherine Mugonyi (Harris Museum), and Kelly Graves & Chris Gilligan (Derelict).

One thing I’ve learned through all this is that if you sit at your desk all day and bang your head on the keyboard enough times, nothing changes.

I think I’ve got some of the best performers in the country appearing at this festival. I think that, because I have.

There’s still a lot of work to do and this next month I will be promoting the hell out of this festival. My aim is to get people who don’t see much live stuff to come along, enjoy themselves and experience something wonderful. If you think you know someone like that – or if you think that might be you – get in touch, speak to me, take a leap of faith and come along to the festival.

These events don’t work unless people come to them. And Preston won’t develop into the arts and cultural hub it wants to be unless you – the people – turn up.

Possibly the most important thing to say is that all the events in this festival are FREE. No charge to you.

I’m using a Pay What You Decide model, which means can put some money in a bucket after the show, should you wish. (It may be that some shows have a ticket system with a nominal refundable fee – but that will only be so we can manage venues with a strict capacity).

I’m now going to do my best not to fall out with tortured poets and diva performers. Wish me luck and see you on Wednesday, May 15.


Lancashire Evening Post on Lancashire Fringe Festival

The Lancashire Evening Post also wrote about us. This is the link to their online article.

Or, this is what they said:

A NEW performance arts festival, showcasing some of the country’s best live acts, is to launch in Preston next weekend.

Lancashire Fringe Festival is a unique event for stand-up comedians, improvisation acts and spoken word performers.

Several hit performers from the Edinburgh Fringe are booked in to entertain over Friday and Saturday nights (July 15 and 16) at the Ham and Jam Coffee Shop in Lancaster Road.

Organiser Garry Cook said: “The idea is to bring some of the greatest entertainment and comedy acts in the country to Lancashire, so people can see great performances and comedy on their doorstep. I’ve invited some of the best acts from last year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival to perform, plus several others who are expected to be huge hits this year.”

Liverpool-based performer Joanne Tremarco is bringing her brilliant and controversial improvised show to the city on the Friday.

On Saturday Juliette Burton , who had a sell-out run in Edinburgh last year, will perform her brand new show Decision Time which she is taking to Scotland later in the summer.

Blog Preston on Lancashire Fringe Festival

Those lovely people at Blog Preston previewed Lancashire Frinage Festival. You can read the article on their website here.

Or, this is the article here:

Lancashire Fringe Festival is the new performance arts show launching in Preston on 15th-16th July at Ham & Jam Coffee Shop, Lancaster Road.

The free event will showcase the country’s best live acts including stand-up comedians, improvisation and spoken word performers.

Organiser Garry Cook has devised a major line-up featuring some of best acts from last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival as well as several newcomers who are expected to be huge hits this year.

Cook told Blog Preston: “The idea is to bring some of the best entertainment and comedy acts in the country to Lancashire – so people can see great performances and comedy on their doorsteps.”

The headline act is Joanne Tremarco, a Liverpool-based performer, who became one of the biggest hits at the Fringe Festival in 2015.

After performing her show over 150 times worldwide, Tremarco has received huge acclaim for the piece described as “a genuinely remarkable piece of theatre. Tremarco is utterly captivating.”

The Lancashire Fringe is coming weeks before the Edinburgh Festival 2016 starts, giving you chance to see fresh material before everyone else.

Other performances include talent from around Lancashire and the North-West, such as Charlotte Berry, an ex-University of Central Lancashire Contemporary Theatre and Performance student, who will showcase Crystal Vision.

The festival will also feature the work of Wigan-based conceptual artist Claire Doyle and UCLan Graduate Frances Kay’s shockingly beautiful durational work ‘Sorry’.

Exciting Chorley-based comedian John Porter will preview his new Edinburgh Fringe show Lunatic (of the) Fringe.

Audiences can come and go as they please without charge, and they can leave donations at the end of a performance going directly to the performers, helping cover their travel costs, if people wish.

Cook added: “Free really is free. The audience can come and go as they please. You can come and watch one act, leave, and then come back later if there’s another act you think you might like.”

The Ham & Jam Coffee Shop, run by Richard Lowthian, a keen supporter of local arts in Preston and Lancashire, will have an alcohol licence for both nights allowing audiences to have the full festival experience – or you can have coffee.

To discover the full list of performers, visit www.lancashirefringe.com. Organiser Gary Cook can be contacted via email: gazcook@hotmail.com, twitter: @gazcook, or mobile 07976 579 522.

Ham & Jam Coffee Shop is located at 50 Lancaster Rd, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 1DD.



Schedule for Lancashire Fringe Festival July 15 & 16

Fri July 15

7pm PERFORMANCE: Charlotte Berry – Crystal Vision 15 mins

7.15pm COMEDY: AJ Hill – Ahoy! 30mins

7.50pm POETRY: Marvin Cheeseman 30mins

8.25pm PERFORMANCE: Frances Kay – Sorry 40mins

9.15pm IMPROVISATION: Joanne Tremarco – Women Who Wank 1hr

10.20pm COMEDY: John Porter – Lunatic (of the) Fringe 40mins


Sat July 16

7pm THEATRE House of Misery Presents Comedy Sketch Quiz

7.50pm PERFORMANCE: Juliette Burton – Decision Time 1hr

9.00pm COMEDY: Larknado 40mins

9.50pm MENTALIST: Mason King  – Mind Control 40mins


(Times may be subject to change)

Performance artist Frances Kay will bloody well blow your mind at Lancashire Fringe Festival

frances kay, lancashire fringe festival, performance artist

Frances Kay, from Rishton near Blackburn, brings her controversial performance Sorry to Lancashire Fringe Festival on Friday, July 15.

And this is one not to be missed. It’s unlike anything else on at teh festival – and unlike anything else you will ever see. Ever.

Her work explores the effects of performance on the body and mind: endurance, duration and pain. Sorry is a critical examination of the performer’s life: her behaviour, clothes, emotions and drinking problems. It takes aim at society and the pressures of beauty and conformity.

But it’s the way this message is devivered, by a hugely innovative performance artist, which is most striking. Kay’s work pushes boundaries, not just for the artist herself but also for the audience.

At times difficult to watch but always captivating, Kay’s performance for Sorry mixes music and repetition to hugely dramatic effect.

@_FrancesKay https://franceskayperformanceart.wordpress.com

frances kay, lancashire fringe festival, performance artist