Growing Your Community: Fringe By The SeaWednesday, February 16, 2011
I could talk about how FBTS has grown over the last three years, going from a couple of days in a soggy marquee to a week-long, multi-venue extravaganza. I could talk about how, in its first year, probably 50% of the performances included a member of my family; last year, it featured everything from folk heroes to theatrical divas, half-naked dance troupes to snarky comedians, witty authors and street poetry to blues, ska, jazz, opera, ukuleles and a one-man band (and, still, members of my family. Organiser's prerogative).
But what I want to talk about instead is community. Other than the three organisers, FBTS is staffed entirely by a troupe of local volunteers who are recruited, instructed, clothed and co-ordinated by my mum. Many are retired or fit their volunteer shifts around their working pattern, but there are some (me included) who take a whole week of precious annual leave off work, just to be a part of it. Last year the Hubster and I went straight from our honeymoon to FBTS without pausing for breath, which slightly counteracted the intensive relaxation of the previous fortnight, but it was SO worth it.
To give you some context, the harbour esplanade in North Berwick was once dominated by an outdoor swimming pool. Sheltered by the surrounding rock and filled with salty seawater from the Firth of Forth (latterly the water was chlorinated and vaguely warmed up, but still...), the pool was the beating heart of the town every summer. In its mid-century heyday it was home to swimming competitions and beauty contests, the benches packed with cheering locals and holidaymakers. Sunbathers would clamber up on the rocks, the older members of the family perhaps going as far as loosening their ties, while the more adventurous braved the chilly waters.