Colchester’s First Fringe Festival – Applications are now open.

Last Updated on 23rd October 2019

It may be Britain’s oldest recorded town, dating back to Roman times, and forging the connection with elephants that dot the town, the water tower named Jumbo, and the pachyderms at Colchester Zoo. But until now, the town has never had its own Fringe Festival. All that is set to change next year, when the Bank Holiday weekend 22nd-25th May will be given over to a festival of new, edgy and entertaining theatre.  Applications are now open, and the team are looking for a variety of work to be staged in venues throughout the town. So, what are they looking for? I caught up with co-organiser Cameron Abbott-Betts, who is finally bringing his long-held ambition to life.

Colchester Fringe Festival

Where did the idea s for the Fringe come from?

The whole idea for the Colchester Fringe happened during my first tour with my theatre company (Royal Kung Foolery) in 2015. I was performing at Fringes in the U.S such as IndyFringe (Indianapolis) and the late Chicago Fringe Festival. However, it was in Indianapolis where I fell in love with the whole concept and ideology of ‘fringe’. It was a magical couple of weeks where theatre and the arts had been celebrated by the whole community. So, from that moment I was determined to bring it back to my home town of Colchester.

Over the next four years, I would perform at Fringes in the USA, Ireland, Italy, France and the U.K.

Skip forward to 2018… I had just started my PhD in Theatre Studies (researching fringe festivals) at the University of Essex and a chance encounter happened when I met an arts producer and lecturer at the University called Steve Goatman. Like me, Steve had flirted with the idea about organising a fringe festival and it became very clear that we would make a good team to do it. From that moment on we were working together at co-directors.

What are you looking for?

We hope that our programme will consist of local, national and international artists.  Applications are open until the 15th December.

They could be doing shows which are theatre, music, comedy, musical theatre, dance, mime, non-verbal….  Just about any type of performance really…

We are open to ideas really. But a good basis would be:

  • We are looking for ORIGINALor REIMAGINED work.
  • Between 45-60mins.
  • Your show should only require basic lighting and sound.
  • We encourage applications by artists from under-represented groups. We understand the economic and structural barriers that prevent such artists from performing and we look to counter these within our fringe model (as seen below).

We are also looking for volunteers.  Some of the roles we need to fill are:

  • Front-of-house
  • Box-office
  • Technicians
  • Promotion and Marketing

What makes this Fringe Different?

There are nearly 300 Fringes in the world, but they are all very different. Steve and I have set up the Colchester Fringe as an ‘artist-friendly’ model. As a practicing theatre-maker/artist this was important to me, as I felt that there weren’t many models of ‘artist-friendly’ Fringes around today.

We have received so much support already from business, venues and people offering their free time. We have also formed alliances with international Fringes such as San Diego International Fringe Festival.

There is already a great deal of interest in the fringe, and I am thrilled to have been asked to be on the shortlisting panel and will be covering the Festival for this website. is also one of the Fringe sponsors and will be presenting an award at the Festival.  So check out the website and get your application in!


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