Town enjoys fringe benefits as newest festival gets underway

Nusrat Ghani
CROWDS: Hundreds turned out to see the start of the inaugural Tunbridge Wells Fringe

The TW Fringe Festival opened on The Pantiles, where hundreds of people turned out to see a range of performers entertaining in the streets and celebrated the start of the two-week event [July 5-July 18].

It is hoped the festival will become a tradition in Tunbridge Wells, following the example of other fringe festivals such as those held in Brighton, Camden and the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe, which receives three million visitors a year.

Due to the delay in relaxing Covid rules, some of the larger events have had to be scaled back, but organisers have promised more than a hundred artists – ranging from comedians, musicians and artists to dancers, poets and opera singers – will be entertaining crowds in a range of free and paying events over the next fortnight.

THE TALENTZ: Lighting up The Pantiles bandstand


The Fringe opening ceremony on The Pantiles featured a raft of entertainers, including local musical theatre school The Talentz, who performed musical theatre numbers; The Once Upon a Wish Princesses; Panto Dame Mamma G; and a local Rock Choir – plus a special guest appearance from the Three Little Pigs.

Pippa Binham, Rock Choir leader for Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough, said: “This was our first gig in a year and a half due to lockdown.

“I would like to send a massive thanks to the Fringe Festival organisers for putting this all on and allowing us to do what we love – sing and perform to others.

“Although the weather wasn’t kind, it didn’t dampen our spirits, and the choir members and audience absolutely loved it!”

Kent’s leading Panto Dame, Robert Pearce, whose character Mama G compered the opening event, said: “It was wonderful to help launch the first Tunbridge Wells Fringe Festival and see all the amazing talent that the town has to offer. It’s going to be a great two weeks and I can’t wait to be part of it!”

A range of entertainment has been planned for the next two weeks in a number of different venues.

Already this week, comedy horror show has been playing at the Grub & Liquor, while Bring Your Own Baby, a comedy club for parents and their babies, was at Tunbridge Wells Church on the South Site.

Other events planned for this week include Groove 101 at The Compasses; Muddy Gingers – an exploration of children’s literature through drama – at the Inside Community Café; Bookmania Storytelling at Goupie Chocolate House [July 8]; and children’s poetry workshop Bananas and Cream at Grosvenor and Hilbert Park.

Organiser Debbie King said: “The opening ceremony was incredible. We had hundreds come along and watch. The weather didn’t hold off but we carried on regardless, and everybody really looked to be enjoying themselves.”

She added that over the next fortnight there were events across Tunbridge Wells.

“There really is something for everyone. We have events just for kids, for families, to live music, theatre and dance for adults.”

Tickets for the paid and free Fringe events can be booked online at:

The Talentz Photo: Martin Briggs


Denny’s fest returns as part of Fringe

An annual event created in memory of a local fundraising champion is to return after it was cancelled due to the pandemic last year.

Denny’s Fest, which this year has teamed up with TW Fringe, was started six years ago in memory of Denny Rowe, a local resident who spent his life raising over £75,000 for various charities.

He also won the title of the ‘World’s Fastest Barber’.

This year’s event, which is organised by Denny’s Place Barbers and 14 Arrows tattoo studio, will take place from July 24-25.

Organiser Storm Walker said: “We’re back even bigger and better with the amazing help of the Fringe, and are proud to be a part of something that is bringing the community together after such an awful year.”


Mela comes back to Calverley

The annual celebration of diversity and culture in Tunbridge Wells is set to return to Calverley Grounds this month.

While not part of the Fringe, Tunbridge Wells Mela Festival, which is organised by the Kent Cohesion Plus, will see music, visual arts, food and dance return to the park on Saturday July 25 following a year’s absence due to the pandemic. The free family event begins at 12.30pm and is set to end at 6pm.


Shopping centre brushes up empty units with local artworks

By Lottie Bulmer

Tunbridge Wells’ shopping centre has found a creative way to fill some of its empty stores – by turning them into pop-up art gallery across the lower mall.

Royal Victoria Place [RVP] will showcase work from a team of local artists, including paintings, mixed media, ceramics, glass and jewellery.

There are around 16 empty units in the centre, including the large BHS store that was vacated in 2018.

Claudia Wiegand, of South East Open Studios, said: “It’s great to see our artists’ work take pride of place and brighten up the windows of Royal Victoria Place.

“We’re thrilled the centre has provided us with a space to share art with the local community, and we hope this helps raise the profile of our thriving arts community.”

Artist Annie Graham said: “I am thrilled to be exhibiting with the other artists for the pop-up, and it has already resulted in a sale!

“I think it’s great to show varied types of art to people who might not have had the opportunity to see it before, and what better place to present it?”

Nicky Blanchard, Centre Manager at Royal Victoria Place, added: “We’re thrilled to be supporting artists from Tunbridge Wells by showcasing their work.

“Our visitors have been loving the pieces we’ve dotted around the centre, and we’re pleased to continue showcasing them throughout the year.”

She added that each piece displayed is available for purchase by directly contacting the artists, whose details appear in the windows.


Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter