The Chelsea Fringe

This week my guest is Tim Richardson, who, amongst many other things, is a garden writer, historian and founder of the Chelsea Fringe. The Fringe is an annual event which is a collection of all things horticultural, the quirkier the better, and it runs concurrent to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show each May. Events are held around the world and are an opportunity to celebrate horticulture in an alternative way.

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About the Chelsea Fringe

The Chelsea Fringe – the alternative garden festival and established highlight of the horticultural calendar – will take place for a 12th year with nine days of festivities confirmed from 20 – 28 May 2023.

After two years in which participants responded creatively to the restrictions of the pandemic, the festival returned to the real world with a bang in 2022. A programme brimming with stimulating and diverse events took place with contributions from Cranbrook to Perth, and from Naples to Seattle. Fringe organisers are now encouraging everyone to start thinking about the imaginative, quirky, and unusual ideas they might bring to the 2023 Fringe to help create another bumper celebration of horticulture and grassroots gardening.

Fringe founder and director Tim Richardson said:

“We are a ‘true Fringe’ in that we don’t commission or curate. We accept everything that our participants suggest – if an event is on-topic, legal and interesting, it’s in! That means everything from community-garden events, art projects and performances to walks and talks, craft demos, and workshops – just a few of the categories we end up with. We are always surprised – and delighted – by what pops up each year, fresh from the imagination of our horticultural comrades in the UK and around the world.”

Thousands of events have taken place in more than 20 different countries since the first Fringe was held in 2012. What started as a back-of-a-postcard idea has grown over a decade into an international event which is an established — if unorthodox — fixture of the gardening calendar.

It remains an unfunded, unsponsored and volunteer-run Community Interest Company (CIC), powered by a small but dedicated group, with many events in the festival free to attend.

Contributors and venues over the years have included community gardening groups, public parks, artists, poets, chefs, galleries, schools, and major institutions such as Kew, the Inner Temple, the Natural History Museum, and Covent Garden Flower Market, among many others. Despite its name, the festival reaches well beyond Chelsea; not just to every quarter of London, but also to the far corners of the UK and around the world. Events have taken place on the Isle of Mull, in Monmouth, Margate, Leeds, Bristol and Henley-on-Thames, and the Fringe’s global appeal has been underlined by enthusiastic participants signing up in Canada, Sweden, Poland, Italy, Australia, and Japan.

Events usually begin to appear on the Fringe website from February, while registration remains open right up until the very last day of the festival. Potential event organisers are encouraged to make contact as soon as possible in order to make the most of the promotional potential that taking part brings.

Anyone with an idea – however unformed – is encouraged to get in touch now. Our team of volunteers will do everything we can to turn germs of ideas into flourishing blooms by May 2023.

The Chelsea Fringe is now inviting individuals and organisations, first-timers and Fringe veterans, to contact us at outlining what they propose to do as part of the 2023 festival programme.


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