Record-breaking Reading Fringe Festival as audience soars

Reading Fringe Festival organisers have cited the support of the town’s businesses, BID, enthusiastic audiences and artists both local and international for the boom in visitor numbers at last month’s record-breaking event.

Ticket sales for the 10-day festival surged by 60% year-on-year to 3,750 and with free, non-ticketed events at Reading Station, The Oracle and the Broad Street Mall taken into account, attendance reached the 5,000-mark for the first time in its seven-year history.

The Fringe took place at venues across Reading – including the Purple Turtle, the Abbey Ruins, After Dark, the Three Guineas, Reading Library, Penta Hotel and the Rising Sun – from July 19-28. The line-up comprised over 100 events including art installations, cabaret, comedy, film, family shows, music, spoken word, talks, theatre, walks and yoga. Local performers such as Preet Singh, the Tonyx, Holly Shillito and Richard Bentley featured alongside national and international talent from Libya, Germany, Norway, Puerto Rico, Zimbabwe, Syria, the US and more. Among the most popular events were the A Change Is Gonna Come and Remix Jazz Orchestra concerts, Circo Rum Ba Ba’s family show in an inflatable whale at the Oracle and the silent disco at the Abbey Ruins.

For the first time the historic Reading Minster was the festival’s flagship venue, hosting performers including soul star Carleen Anderson, Brit-nominated tenor Thomas Cameron, folk singer Jackie Oates and Kraftwerk collaborator Emil Schult. The church was also the venue for Conversations With Refugees, a special event marking 25 years of Reading Refugee Support Group, which was followed days later by the news that one of the participants, asylum seeker Kamyar Khezri – who spoke of leaving Iran after converting to Christianity and performed a piece on violin – was granted leave to remain.

Fringe director Zsuzsi Lindsay commented: “While we always aim to grow each year, such a big increase in attendance is a real tribute to our brilliant team, volunteers, artists, venues, partners and supporters. This has enabled us to reach more of Reading than ever before, as well as attracting visitors to the town. It has been particularly rewarding hearing from happy artists and audiences, as well as nearby businesses reporting a notable rise in footfall. As we always say, this is a festival for Reading by Reading and we can’t wait to build on this year’s success in 2020!”

Andy Briggs, general manager of The Oracle, the venue for more than a dozen sold-out events, added: “We were really excited to be involved in this year’s Fringe Festival and felt privileged to host the launch event. The feedback we’ve received from our shoppers is that it was a first-class event which is a real testament to the artists, partners and the Fringe team. The festival helped The Oracle become a cultural hub over the 10 days and we look forward to being involved again in next year’s events.”

Reading Fringe Festival  2020 will take place from July 17-26, with the programme to be announced in the spring.