Checking in with Downtown

Part 13

Hamilton Fringe Festival

The Hamilton Fringe Festival has become a community staple event downtown since its inception in 2003. Throughout COVID-19 they were innovative in their mission to continue to unite audiences through art. 2021’s festival saw adjustments to include indoor venues designed to accommodate social distancing and expanded opportunities for outdoor and/or online shows including the unique Skip The Glitches series which allowed audiences to order a 20-minute performance right to their own front lawn. The 18th Hamilton Fringe Festival is back live and in-person for this year from July 20 – 31, 2022, with performances beginning July 21st!

The first Fringe festival took place in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1947. The oldest and largest Canadian Fringe Festival was established much later on in 1982 in Edmonton, Alberta. Since then, the concept has spread to many other cities across Canada. Hamilton Fringe Festival’s 2022 lineup features more theatre, dance, and music than ever before, with over 350 performances on 14 stages by 60+ artistic companies from local, national, and international communities.

Hamilton Fringe Festival is an action-packed performance festival, so understandably there is a lot going on at any given moment. For this reason, the Festival Program is your indispensable guide as to what’s happening where and when. The program will soon be available as an accessible PDF, or to pick up at one of several locations across Hamilton. If you see something in the program that sparks your interest don’t be afraid to risk the low price of a Fringe ticket to find that hidden gem! One of the goals of Fringe is to seek out new experiences. The festival takes place at more than 15 indoor and outdoor physical venues across the City of Hamilton. If you’re looking for a place to hang out with fellow Fringers and discuss performances, grab a drink, or enjoy a show the Fringe Club Outdoor Patio & Outdoor Stage can both be found outside Theatre Aquarius at 190 King William St. For everyone looking to enjoy from home, check out the Bring Your Own Virtual Venue series––their exciting slate of online shows.

Hamilton Fringe Festival offers loads of family programming specifically created for Fringers of all ages to enjoy. Family Fringe Hub programming at Bridgeworks Event Space includes Family Fringe shows and Kids Club Camp workshops as wide-ranging and fun as the Hamilton Fringe Festival shows presented on stage. Workshop topics include music, dance, storytelling, and more. Kids Club Camp will be opening up FREE daily arts-based workshops July 25-31! Find more details here.

Hamilton Fringe Festival passes have two steps: (1) buying; (2) booking. If you bought a pass, don’t forget to book your tickets. You can buy a pass and select your tickets all at once or you can buy your pass online in advance, and sign in again later to book your tickets by browsing through the event listings. Don’t forget your Fringe Backer Button. Every Fringe patron over the age of 12 needs to wear a Fringe Backer Button to access paid in-person shows. Backer Buttons are available online here and at all in-person venues. You only need to buy a Backer Button once, the same Button will get you into all the Hamilton Fringe Festival shows in town.

The Hamilton Festival Theatre Company (HFTco), the group that brings Fringe to life, now produces several additional annual activities that include year-round Artist Development programming (ALERT, Theatre PD Day, SPARK, Kids Club Camp), a community-embedded winter festival (Frost Bites), The Gilded Hammer Awards, as well as other community arts services.

Fringe Festival has always been an important event in downtown Hamilton, not only for showcasing amazing artists, but for helping to foster a sense of community that reaches across the city. Even through having to cancel 2020’s traditional Hamilton Fringe Festival organizers were still able to pull together What The Fest?! in response, providing digital and physically distant performances by artists originally scheduled to perform. As a community we are still dealing with the realities of COVID-19 and all the ripple effects that have come along with it. Events like the Hamilton Fringe Festival are a big help in bringing people together again to share in a unique experience. It’s organizations like Hamilton Festival Theatre Co that have always brought excitement and vitality to downtown and they are the ones that will continue to do so, learn more about all they do here.

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The Downtown Update is the e-newsletter sent by the Downtown Hamilton Business Improvement Area to keep both members of the BIA and interested supporters of Downtown up-to-date with activities and issues in the core of our community.