EAST Lothian’s Fringe by the Sea festival aims to return this summer, with new mini-venues announced in several popular locations throughout North Berwick.

Talent from Scotland and beyond is scheduled to head to North Berwick for the 10-day event, which was cancelled last year due to Covid-19 but hopes to run this year from August 6 to 15.

In a bid to achieve social distancing, festival organisers have announced plans for several outdoor venues, using sideless marquees or tents in places including the Lodge Grounds, Anchor Green, the Marine Hotel and North Berwick Library car park.

The space at the harbour, to be called ‘Harbour Home’, is earmarked to host a variety of artists and businesses showcasing their creations and products.

The area will also feature a stage for visitors to enjoy music from bands, choirs and DJs, and an interactive area for youngsters.

As with the rest of the festival, it will be managed in accordance with Covid-19 protocols, say event bosses.

East Lothian Courier: Fringe by the Sea

The Marine Hotel is due to host a series of masterclasses and seminars on food and drink from distillers, chefs and critics during the festival.

The theme of ‘open arms, open spaces, open minds’ will see the festival explore a number of new commission-based projects that will involve local groups creating content for the festival.

Tying into Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, extended from last year due to Covid-19, another strand will see the festival shine a spotlight on the county’s rich natural environment.

In addition to acts rebooked from last year’s cancelled event – including dance music stars Basement Jaxx (pictured below, by Jean-Luc Brouard), folk favourites Peat & Diesel, comedian Janey Godley and hit singer-songwriter Candi Staton – a host of new performers are to be announced. Several key performances will also be made available through webcasting.

East Lothian Courier: Basement Jaxx. Image Jean-Luc Brouard

Spaces in the town will be utilised in new ways, say festival bosses, including:

  • The North Berwick Harbour Home (at the harbour);
  • The Glenkinchie Johnnie Walker Garden Tent (in Lodge Grounds);
  • The SSE Renewables John Muir Green (on Anchor Green);
  • The Marine Masterclass Lounge (at the Marine Hotel); and,
  • The Bookshelf (in North Berwick Library car park).

The John Muir Green will be a focal point for a series of events including:

  • Scottish Seabird Centre sessions;
  • East Lothian Countryside Ranger excursions;
  • Classroom Envirocrafts; and,
  • Sustainability and Sensibility: a series of high-profile speakers sharing their experiences and views on what it will take to ensure our planet is fit for future generations.

Funding and services from Event Scotland, East Lothian Council and other partners, including the Courier, have allowed the festival to return.

East Lothian Courier: Candi Staton

Candi Staton is among the performers

Organisers say they will focus on a programme that deepens community engagement, aids local economic recovery from the pandemic and ensures performances with live audiences take place in Covid-secure environments.

Festival director Rory Steel said: “Over the past year, we’ve seen just what a vital contribution communities play in public health and wellbeing. Our intention this year is to celebrate the strength of the East Lothian community, invite others in and create new opportunities for people to connect, as well as bring exciting new talent and established names to the region.

“With the festival bringing £1.5m of economic benefit to East Lothian, we hope to provide a welcome boost as we recover from the pandemic.

“While these are challenging times for event planners, the team has been keeping a positive mindset and is preparing for a number of eventualities as to exactly how the festival will be delivered.

“Safety is the primary concern of any event organiser and we will be guided by the latest Scottish and local government directives over the coming months.

“We have been hugely encouraged by the support shown to us by our sponsors and grant-funding bodies.”

East Lothian Courier: Rory Steele and Jackie Shuttleworth

Festival general manager Jackie Shuttleworth and director Rory Steel

Councillor John McMillan, East Lothian Provost, said: “It’s great news that Fringe by the Sea will be going ahead this year and in a format that will allow this to happen safely.

“East Lothian Council has supported Fringe by the Sea since its inception and I’m delighted that we are continuing to do so.

“Events and festivals really help to put East Lothian on the cultural map and are a great draw for both local residents and those coming from further afield.”

Hilary Smith, chair of North Berwick Coastal Area Partnership, said: “Fringe by the Sea 2021 is giving the whole community something really positive to look forward to.”

Visit www.fringebythesea.com