Chelsea Fringe Coming to Henley

Chelsea Fringe

What do London, Vienna, Milan, Melbourne, and Henley-on-Thames have in common? Of course, there are the stylish residents, interesting architecture and good restaurants. But from next year, there’ll be something else.  Something particularly inspiring.  We’ll all be in the 2015 Chelsea Fringe.

What is the Chelsea Fringe?  If you haven’t experienced this heart-warming alternative gardening festival, you’re in for a treat.  Thanks to a local florist, Jane Macfarlane Duckworth, and gardener Victoria Newton, Henley will be taking part in the fourth of what has now become a very popular annual event.  Fringe Founder and Director, Tim Richardson came to Henley yesterday to talk about its beginnings.

Just four years ago, Tim had a moment of inspiration.  Why not organise a three-week long celebration of gardening to run alongside and be endorsed by the RHS Chelsea Flower Show?  Unlike the long-standing Flower Show, it would be accessible to everyone.  It wouldn’t have prizes or large budgets and nothing would be commissioned.  Run by volunteers and open to all, it would be a true ‘Fringe’ event.

In the first year, Tim invited ideas.  The only stipulation was that they were ‘on topic’.  They had to be related to gardens, flowers, veg growing or landscape. They also had to be legal and interesting.

Rather than the 10 to 20 entries that Tim had expected, 100 inspiring and creative garden-related events sprang up around London. Appreciative audiences enjoyed everything from pop-up art installations to community garden celebrations.  By 2014, the Chelsea Fringe had expanded to 25o events, half of which were held outside London.

From next year, Henley will be on the Chelsea Fringe map alongside places like Nagoya, Melbourne and Brighton.  That isn’t a terrible cliche.  You’ll have to stay in touch with developments to see what it entails.

Henley’s opening Chelsea Fringe 2015 event will be the Henley Floral Flotilla to be held on Saturday 16 May.  There’s plenty of opportunity to get involved.  Perhaps you’d like to grow flowers for the display?  Or take part in the Flotilla in boats large or small?

As Tim says, ‘It’s all about ideas’.  Do you have ideas for your own event?  Quirky is good. Already in the pipeline are an art installation in Mill Meadows and a Floral Art Exhibition at the Fire Station.  Could your school or local society get involved?  Or your street or cul-de-sac?

Tim’s advice is that the best events usually last no longer than a day.  He’s been to almost every Fringe event in the last three years and says that he’s ‘never been to a dud’.  So get thinking.  Just remember – ‘on topic’, legal, and interesting.

Contact:   Jane Macfarlane Duckworth – or Victoria Newton –