Inquiring after the history of the Castlemaine Fringe Festival is something of a daisy chain experience, as person after person passes on credit to another – the resulting experience, rather than being confusing, provides an important insight into the collaborative soul of the event.
Scott Sanders may have served as Fringe Festival Director in 2011, but by no means claims to have a full grasp of the event’s history.
“I have to acknowledge that many elements of the backstory are a little murky to me,” he said with a wry smile.
“So many people did so much great work years before I showed up here,” he explained. “There were the early founders, many of whom had arrived from Hurstbridge and Dunmoochin, and another group in the late 80s into the 90s, it’s very much a collective effort.
“In my chats with those who established the Fringe one thing they all emphasise is how organic it was in the early days, and that it was communicated via word-of-mouth; there was no printed program then, you just asked around town. It’s great to reflect on that collaborative spirit.
Scott explained that his own story of involvement with the Fringe matched that of many others.
“I moved here to town in 2008. I’d been running gigs, audio and stage management, in Melbourne and my friend was directing the 2009 Fringe, so I helped out running live audio, booking bands, setting up the website; lots of that behind-the-scenes groundwork that’s required.
“The Fringe is a proving ground, and it’s inclusive. In Castlemaine you can manifest a reality if you put the work in. I see it all the time, the Fringe is a tangible representation of that.”
Jan Palethorpe is one of the number of people Scott cites as key to Fringe Festival’s success. Asked to reflect on her involvement, she explained that her story began in the late 90s.
“We came up here to Castlemaine in ‘98. People who’ve been around will remember the Screaming Carrot vegetarian cafe. A lot of people involved there also had a passion for the Fringe. Andrew Goodman and others, they were doing lots of work.”
With Ben Laycock (yet another key contributor with Jacinta Laycock in making the Fringe Festival an ongoing reality), Jan was to establish CASPA and team-up with him on the Fringe. Asked why she thinks the Fringe has been so successful in bonding people together over so many years, she responded with a deep chortle: “Ratbags are just attracted to each other I think.”
Like Scott Sanders, Jan is keen to shine the light on those who had things well underway before her contribution. She shares names readily: “Lynn, Jim Coad and his wonderful projections, Janet, Alan, Mary Fairburn, so many others – all have been at the heart of this.”
Reflecting on this year’s theme ‘Reactivate’, Jan uses T-shirts as an aide-mémoire as she recalls previous Fringe Festival themes.