INTERNATIONAL fringe companies from around the world are set to converge on Colchester next month as part of the second edition of the city’s fledgling fringe festival.

The term ‘fringe’ is most commonly associated with two things: a hairstyle, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which started in 1947 and remains one of the largest arts festivals in the world.

Less known by those outside the world of the performing arts, however, is that the fringe is a wider genre which denotes the less conventional, less traditional side of drama, comedy, dance, or any other form of the expressive arts.

Indeed, many well-known names started their careers by performing at fringe festivals, with Graham Norton, Rowan Atkinson, Steve Coogan, and Robin Williams all having performed at the events in their early days.

Now, Colchester has the chance to nurture its own future stars by staging a fringe event, thanks in no small part to the efforts of 30-year-old PhD student Cameron Abbott-Betts, who is completing his postgraduate degree at Essex University.

Himself a fringe performer over the years, Mr Abbott-Betts – who grew up in Colchester and attended the Sir Charles Lucas School – decided to throw a fringe festival into the city’s cultural mix after realising the idea would never come to fruition if he didn’t take it on himself.

Colchester’s first fringe had been due to take place in the spring of 2020, but with every event in the performing calendar postponed due to the pandemic, it eventually took the form of the Mayday Shop Window Takeover in April last year.

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The first Colchester Fringe then took place last October, with more than 1,700 people watching 23 theatre companies perform in shops, pubs, nightclubs, and any public space they could fill.

This year, Mr Abbott-Betts has organised a fringe festival which will begin in earnest on Thursday, October 20 and run until Sunday, October 23.

A total of 34 companies from across the world will be performing here in Colchester – and Mr Abbott-Betts is hoping the Colchester Fringe could become one of the jewels in Essex's cultural crown.

He said: "This year, what is interesting is that, following the first Colchester Fringe last year, businesses really want to be involved in the event.

"Our main hub is the Headgate Theatre, and we are also working with Firstsite, Mercury Theatre, Lion Walk, and Culver Square."

Other venues include Coda Bar and the Minories Café.

"[The Colchester Fringe] is about giving a place for new work, being a safe place for artists, and offering a platform for those who sit outside the mainstream – it’s for the weird and wonderful performances which make a fringe festival a fringe festival.

"There’s a bit of everything which means there’s something for everyone, and it’s not just theatre – we have magicians for adults, and magicians for kids, because [fringe] is never just one thing."

Although there is an international flavour to this year’s Colchester Fringe, with fringe companies travelling from California, Switzerland, Italy, and Ireland, about 50 percent of companies and performances are from Essex – making Colchester Fringe a fecund area for creative talent.

"We really try and promote local acts and give them a platform – 50 per cent are from Essex, 25 per cent are from the UK, and the other 25 per cent are international.

"I’m immensely proud of doing this – I really believe it’s important.

"I think the future is really bright for Colchester – we really have the ability to cement this as a cultural hub in Essex.

"Fringe exists on every continent except Antarctica, and I feel really excited Colchester has got one of its own now too."

Tickets for Colchester Fringe can be bought for £7 each via