Caro Meets Festivals Interview

Cath Mattos: Wandsworth Arts Fringe

By | Published on Thursday 4 May 2017

If you live in the Wandsworth area, then you might already be aware of the extra explosion of culture that’s been taking place there in May for a good few years now. If you haven’t, and live within striking distance, you’ve been missing out.
If that’s the case, then it’s probably about time you had a read of this interview I did with Wandsworth Arts Fringe director Cath Mattos, to find out more about all the great cultural things you can partake of there this month.

Caro: Can you start by telling us a bit about the history of Wandsworth Arts Fringe – how long has it been going, and what inspired its creation?
Cath: Wandsworth Arts Fringe has been going for 8 years. Wandsworth Arts Festival existed prior to this, originally coming out of events that happened around Black History Month, then came The Shimmy, a popular series of events within the Arts Festival, and then the Fringe became a part of the festival 8 years ago. It started to stand on its feet in 2014 and became a stand alone festival in 2015. Now we call it a type of Festival of Fringe Arts as there is no curated festival alongside it.

Caro: What genres of event make up the festival?
Cath: It’s a multi genre festival so theatre, dance, music, visual arts, art workshops plus mixed arts which crosses genres , which is something we are finding more of in the last couple of years. We have a couple of shamanic happenings this year too!

Caro: Can you tell us a bit about what to expect theatre-wise?
Cath: We have a great programme of theatre and we have two pop up theatre spaces run by Fragility Theatre Company who are hosting a full programme of cutting edge theatre and quirky Edinburgh previews. There are also great theatre pieces such as ‘Beerey’ at Theatre N16, a piece of verbatim theatre set around the true story of the Freshwater Five; ‘Dominoes’, showing at both Tara Arts and Fragility, tells the story of Layla, a mixed-race history teacher preparing to marry, but who discovers that she and her fiance have a shared history; one she finds unsettling and a threat to her friendships, her sense of identity and the wedding itself. From the award winning Dan Horrigan and Peter Taylor, we have ‘Still I See My Baby’, which imagines a world where the pursuit of perfection drives a seductive evil.

Caro: Which comedy acts are lined up to appear?
Cath: Matt Price brings us ‘The Weed Fairy’ in all its hilarity and Femmes by the Thames are running two great shows – hosted by Rosie Wilby – about relationships and the macabre tales of Break Up stories. CopyCatzz’ ‘YAAASSSS’ will be a comedic and playful and surreal exploration of – well, cats. Joey Page will be doing a ‘secret’ show but don’t tell everyone!

Caro: There seem to be quite a few outdoor events, which is lovely (especially if the weather holds!). Can you tell us a bit about those?
Cath: We have some really spectacular Outdoor Arts programmes for this festival. Hidden Heathbrook is our flagship event, with a whole weekend of the best in outdoor theatre culminating on Saturday 20 May with a herd of rhinos rampaging through Heathbrook Park with Puppets with Guts. We have CodaDance presenting ‘Outside IN’, an incredible programme of inclusive dance at Roehampton Library Green. ‘Metamorphosis’ is a colourful outdoor dance performance featuring stunning larger than life puppets, with a giant butterfly to celebrate the natural environment, pollination and our ability to change.

Caro: Is there anything suitable for a family audience?
Cath: ‘The Tortoise and the Rabbit’ will be a lovely family show. Three Feathers presents an interactive, multi-sensory retelling of the timeless classic, with original music, puppetry, bubbles and more. It was developed with children in drama workshops and was inspired by working closely with SEN (special educational needs) children – particularly on the autistic spectrum. Their enthusiasm and creativity brings a unique and playful interpretation to the tale, producing a playful, charming story for all ages to enjoy.

There’s also ‘The Elephant of My Heart’, an interactive and wonderfully inventive musical kid’s workshop: a nine year old girl recovering from an injury is visited by an elephant and a host of other splendid animals who help her to believe that one day she will fly. Participants can come and play some of the characters and do their bit to guide her to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Caro: There are a number of exhibitions as well as performances, aren’t there? What can you tell us about the artists involved?
Cath: The Pump House Gallery is hosting a new pop up pavilion space for the festival designed by Neon Architects and they are hosting a series of artists and workshops throughout the festival.

One highlight comes from Alice Wilson, who is presenting her artwork Cheap Laughs which is an up scaled version of a stile: a stile directs you, taking you back to the path, to an exit or an entrance. Finding a stile when you are feeling lost or unsure of the path is the source of a huge relief of tension.

Yvette Vanson meanwhile is presenting her fifth national exhibition at Putney Library, which features paintings of places of beauty, both remote and near: Endangered habitats, species and communities which iare testimony to nature’s extraordinary resilience despite the devastation wrought by human recklessness.

Caro: What type of music acts will be playing? Is there a range of genres?
Cath: The South London Jazz Orchestra are bringing their finest show to Putney Church which is always a very popular event. This year we have a whole weekend music festival at the Magic Garden Pub produced by Outerglobe: expect a vinyl salon in the afternoon and a Q& A with Debbie Golt and guests, and then Mosi Conde, Kaira Kora Afrika + Koral Society the following day. Mosi Conde’s music is steeped in Guinean Griot tradition with a global sonic awareness; Koral Society’s ‘Waters Wide’ album exquisitely unites Caroline Trettine’s superlative guitar/voice compositions with Mosi’s Kora brilliance & Alison Rayner’s inspired bass.

Caro: Is there anything in particular you are especially looking forward to?
Cath: I’m particularly looking forward to ‘The Transience, An Elemental Cycle of Life and Death in Four Acts’ which will be an outdoor shamanic experiential and magical journey starting from a secret location. I like weird stuff! I’m also really looking forward to ‘Hoops and Loops’ at Tooting Tram and Social which will be a contemporary circus experience. ‘Turmoil’ at Battersea Library will be great too. A a surreal tragicomedy by hugely successful Brazilian playwright Jô Bilac, it’s to be performed in the Victorian reading room of the Battersea and is set in a Jane Austenesque South-American world.

Caro: How does the festival come together – who chooses what appears as part of the festival, and what are the criteria?
Cath: Wandsworth Arts Fringe is open access, which means anyone who has a creative project or idea can take part. The artists need to find a local venue, and then register their event with the festival. In reality it’s more complex than this as we give support to the programme through a funding scheme supported by Wandsworth Borough Council, we help match artists with venues, and our pop up venues such as Fragility tend to select their artists and pick shows that will suit their ethos. However, essentially we will help all ideas to take shape and give guidance to support all sorts of events to be part of the festival.

Caro: Can you see the festival getting bigger? What are your hopes for it in the future?
Cath: The festival has been growing substantially every year. It was 45 events my first year in 2014 and now WAF hosts 140 events during the festival period. We want to keep growing the festival but really it’s equally important to grow and engage audiences so they want to see multiple shows throughout the festival, like a Fringe Binge in May.

We want to encourage the artists to come and take part and bring exciting, challenging and fun ideas to keep the audiences entertained.


Wandsworth Arts Fringe takes place in lots of different venues, from 5-21 May. See the festival website here for more information and listings.