Stockton Fringe to Stockton Weekender in just 22 years!
The inaugural 'Stockton Weekender' took place in August 2011 - but for the previous 20 years our event was known as 'The Stockton Riverside Fringe Festival'...
In the best tradition of fringe festivals, our 'Fringe’ began as a reaction to its older sibling SIRF. Back in the day, in 1991, when SIRF was just a toddler - a group of local musicians were tantalised with promises of appearing on SIRF’s music stage - lofty heights indeed; until our hopes were cruelly dashed - leaving us with nowhere to play, egos to appease and tunes to be heard.
In a sudden and uncharacteristic burst of positive energy; a venue was found and history made with the birth of the very first ‘Fringe’.
It was a troubled birth though. Some of the key movers and shakers ‘over-celebrated’ on the eve of this historic event; then promptly slept in and forgot to bring vital pieces of kit along!
The first ever Fringe nearly went nowhere at all; until ingenuity, persuasion and a spate of begging and borrowing brought the show into being - with only minutes to spare. The first ever Stockton Fringe took place in The Board Hotel; now long demolished - so no Blue Plaque for us then, eh?
We were heading for a dignified exit - never to return to the world of festivals; we’d made our point and would now crawl back to our day jobs and hitherto apathetic attempts to crack musical stardom.
Unfortunately, we figured without the weather…
A very soggy SIRF music stage - featuring Alan Price of The Animals fame, no less - began to take its toll on those present. The last hardy souls who trudged uphill from a rain beaten riverside (damn that August weather!) included a journalist reporting for The Guardian.
Not from a breed known for their dalliance with public houses; this poor unfortunate wandered in cold and dazed - obviously mistaking licensed premises for a chapel or a similar source of refuge?
What resulted was a modest few column inches commenting on the wonders of the music programme on offer - reportage which prompted unprecedented offers of support for the second ever Fringe to be held the following year.
Bugger! We’d only banked on it being a one off; now we’d have to do it all over again.
We did - and we’ve been doing it ever since. Now, the children of some of those early performers are now performing themselves. An entire generation of musicians has grown up knowing nothing of life BF (that’s before fringe to you and me).
Those early days of inter-Stockton-festival rivalries are long behind us - rumour has it we even collaborate with SIRF and help each other out nowadays.
We’re still independently run - we now rely on both entry charges and public support to exist. We’re still ‘The Fringe’ at heart - but my, how we’ve grown? In recent years, we've seen the likes of James, The Pogues, We Are Scientists, Jake Bugg, The Human League, The Lightning Seeds, Mercury Rev, Charlatans, Supergrass, Badly Drawn Boy, The Proclaimers, Happy Mondays, British Sea Power, Paul Heaton, Super Furry Animals, Sea Sick Steve, Cast and Maximo Park all grace the Stockton stage - not forgetting some top notch local artists such as Cattle & Cane, Young Rebel Set and The Chapman Family.
We may have outgrown the name 'Fringe', but we still have the same reason for doing it - promoting local music. But now we do it to much larger crowds; allowing our locals to nick the audiences that the big boys and girls bring into town. It seems to work a treat - with most of our local bands playing possibly the biggest gigs they’ll ever play in their lives when they make an appearance at The Stockton Weekender.
Thanks for supporting us; we can't do it without you...