Checking in with Downtown

Part 13: Hamilton Fringe Festival

One of Hamilton’s most iconic events, the Hamilton Fringe Festival, returns for 2023! The Hamilton Fringe Festival has been a community staple in Hamilton since its inception in 2003, as it always brings fun, excitement, and talent to the city. This year the Hamilton Fringe Festival runs from July 19 to July 30.

The world’s very first Fringe Festival took place in Edinburgh in 1947, which then became the inspiration for Canada’s first Fringe Festival, the Edmonton Fringe Festival in 1982. The success of Edmonton’s Fringe Festival led to more festivals being adopted across Canada and the United States, and the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals’ membership now includes 34 festivals. Fringe Festivals across the world are dedicated to cultivating and fostering independent artistic exploration for both artists and audiences.

This year the Hamilton Fringe Festival includes more than 350 performances from 50+ artistic companies happening on 11 stages across the city. The fact that there is so much happening at once means that your Hamilton Fringe Festival program is going to become your new best friend for the duration of the festival. You can view a PDF copy of the program here, or pick up a physical copy at a variety of venues around the city, including Redchurch Café + Gallery (68 King Street East), RELAY Coffee Roasters (27 King William Street), and Tourism Hamilton (28 James Street North). You can find a list of festival program pick-up locations here.

This year’s festivities are started by the Hamilton Fringe Kick-Off, a party that includes fun, friends, and 60 second pitches from this year’s Fringe artists as they try to convince you to see their shows. This event is happening at the Fringe Club Outdoor Stage (outside of Theatre Aquarius, 190 King William Street) on July 19 at 7:30 pm. Entry is free or by donation, and this event is a great way to learn more about the Fringe Festival and what is happening during its run. After that, there is a variety of incredible shows happening, with such a high number that you are sure to find something that you enjoy, regardless of genre. If you are looking for shows that you can attend with your entire family, make sure to pay special attention to Family Fringe, happening at Mills Hardware. These are three family-friendly shows, so join them to sing and dance together. Another exciting opportunity during the festival is the Fringe Mini Bar Series, happening at the Casbah Lounge. This includes four plays that are all twenty minutes or less, and you can grab a pint and enjoy some incredible theatre at the same time. Finally, Fringe Club is an exciting opportunity as it is the home of free performances, workshops and drop-in events, all taking place outside of Theatre Aquarius. The Fringe Outdoor Stage hosts events such as the Hamilton Fringe Kick-Off, the Fringe All- Access series, the DISCOLAB cabaret and more, and they are all free! They also host Kids Club Workshops daily from July 25 to July 28, from 2 to 3 pm. On July 29 starting at 11 am, they are also hosting Kids Club Fun Day, with a variety of fun activities. Make sure to check your programs, as the events described above are only some of the incredible offerings during the Hamilton Fringe Festival!

There are two important changes to make note of for this year’s Fringe Festival. The first is that Hamilton Fringe no longer requires a “Backer Button” to attend ticketed shows, and instead invites you to support the festival by donating and joining the Fringe Benefits program. When you buy tickets and attend Fringe events, they will ask you to “Tip the Fringe” and donate what you feel is right. In return for this donation you can receive a Fringe Benefits Button to wear with pride, and these buttons can get you exclusive discounts at participating businesses.  You can find a full list of participating businesses here. The second important update is that there are now some Mask-Mandatory Performances, where all audience members, volunteers and staff are required to wear masks in the playing space. These performances will be marked by “MM” in your program.

Advanced tickets can be purchased online right until show time, and tickets are also available at the door beginning 45 minutes prior to show time. While you can purchase tickets for a specific show, there are also multi-show passes that give you the opportunity to save booking fees if you plan to explore multiple shows throughout the festival’s run. You can purchase tickets or passes here.

In addition to the Hamilton Fringe Festival, Hamilton Festival Theatre Co also produces a variety of annual activities that you are also sure to enjoy, including year-round Artist Development programming (ALERT, Theatre PD Day, SPARK, Kids Club Camp), a community-embedded winter festival (Frost Bites) and more.  You can find more information about the Hamilton Fringe Festival and purchase tickets here. You can also follow HFTCo on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to learn more about their variety of incredible and valuable programming.

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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.