No Chelsea Fringe Festival in 2024

With the founder-director Tim Richardson stepping down, the team have decided to suspend the festival for the foreseeable future in order to focus on other work and projects.

Chelsea Fringe Festival
credit: Chelsea Fringe Festival

As a result, there will be no Chelsea Fringe in 2024. While there may well be future iterations of the Fringe, this will require a new prospective director and volunteer group to come forward with a credible vision for the Fringe’s future.

Outgoing Fringe director Tim Richardson says: “It’s been a joy and a privilege to lead the Fringe across these years. The main thing I did not predict is the number of friends I have made through doing this, and the value of the spirit of comradeship among us. All our decisions, large and small, are made at our monthly meetings, after discussion by majority vote, and as a result it’s been an amazingly collaborative venture. I’m so grateful to all those who have participated in the Fringe and created such imaginative events, to the smaller number who have come forward to volunteer and given of their time and creative thought, and to the many who have supported the festival in other ways — not least by actually going to the events, which can sometimes sound a bit challenging ‘on paper’! But now it feels like it’s the right time for all of us to step back and allow the Fringe to develop under new leadership, or else for the festival to go quiet for a while”.

The Fringe was conceived in 2010 as an alternative to the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show, and initially incurred what the team described as “the wrath of the almighty Royal Horticultural Society and its shows team”. But it forged on – in the face of threats of legal action, and with scant financial resources – and quickly established itself as a truly alternative showcase of gardening/landscape activity embracing not only horticulture (mainly in the form of community and guerrilla gardening) but also the arts, crafts, performance, history, and therapeutic practice.

Since then, there have been more than 2,200 events (many of these being festivals which themselves comprise multiple events), mostly in London but also across the UK and abroad. Some 25 countries have participated, from Japan to Australia to Canada to Italy to Slovenia to Austria, and the Fringe team has made many friends around the world as a result. Events have ranged from large-scale performances and ‘happenings’ (such as the Fringe taking over the space in front of Battersea Power Station prior to its redevelopment) to tiny pop-up events for just a handful of people (the treehouse cinema in a Hackney community garden). The Fringe even had a royal visit in its first year, when the then Duchess of Cornwall (now the Queen) visited four Fringe sites in Hackney — high-profile attention which helped save at least one of these projects from imminent closure.

What has made the Chelsea Fringe even more remarkable is that all of this has been achieved without the help of corporate or civic sponsorship or funding of any kind (barring its second year, when the National Trust supported the festival).

The Chelsea Fringe is a community interest company (CIC) founded by Festival Director Tim Richardson in 2011. All progress to date has been achieved by a team of dedicated volunteers donating their time. The Chelsea Fringe is entirely independent of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, though acts with its support.

Any interested individuals and/or groups are encouraged to come forward if they have a credible vision for the Fringe’s future via for an informal discussion with the current team.