The 2016 St-Ambroise Fringe Festival Kicks Off

Festival Programme Launches with 800+ Performances

The Fringe Festival will take on a pinball inspired visual influence this year, according to Blackmore. Poster courtesy St-Ambroise Fringe Festival.

“Fringe”: steering away from the mainstream, perhaps unconventional—on the outskirts. Fringe arts tend to be a little weird, a bit out of the norm.

While the St-Ambroise Fringe Festival has evolved since its humble Anglo-theatre community beginnings, the gala of performance art shows that it hasn’t changed much in character over the last 26 years.

On May 10, the festival launched its programme guide at MainLine Gallery, setting the stage for a sweet summer of unique performances starting May 30, and running until June 19.

Now in its 26th year, the Fringe Festival is a Montreal staple, known for inviting both local and international artists. Playing host to a variety of performance art shows, including traditional theatre, comedy, puppets and live music—the festival has no limits when it comes to mediums.

As night fell, the programme launch party at the MainLine Gallery had just begun. Across the street at North Star Pin Ball, a barcade nestled cozily on St. Laurent Blvd., I stepped in to find Amy Blackmore, the Executive and Artistic Director of the festival.

Amy Blackmore speaking at the launch party on May 10. Photos Ocean DeRouchie

Blackmore has been working with the Fringe Festival since she was 17. It’s easy to see that Fringe is her passion, and when she speaks, she talks lovingly of the quarter of a decade-old festival.

“I promote the Fringe as a whole, but then it’s up to the artist within that to really shine and hopefully do great work and sell out a bunch of shows,” she said warmly. “You know, a lot of artistic directors program festivals and curate, but my main job is really to uphold the integrity of the festival, and our four principles that relate to diversity, accessibility and artistic freedom.”

The four key elements that allow festivals to operate the way they do include: a lottery-style artist selection; a promise of uncensored work; accessible ticket prices; and that 100 per cent of ticket sales go to the respective artists.

“The idea is that the arts should be an accessible endeavour, and open access—and we really want to encourage that,” she said.

“The idea is that the arts should be an accessible endeavour, and open access—and we really want to encourage that.” – Amy Blackmore, festival director

For those new to the Fringe Festival, Blackmore explained this could be the best year yet. With the addition of the food truck turned performance stage, La Fille du Laitier, and a partnership with Mural, a festival celebrating urban art that boasts live performances and a gargantuan street sale that takes up the better part of St. Laurent Blvd.—Fringe is now gearing up to host a number of newcomers, and with open arms.

Bumblebees are the Fringe Festival mascots, and festivalgoers are encouraged to tweet about the #fringebuzz.

“We’re 26—we’re old now. But we’re still doing the exact same thing we’ve always done,” she said. “And the interesting thing about that is that everyone is going up around us, and you know, the Fringe used to be this tiny secret that the English theatre community was holding onto. Then it kind of just grew from there.” Blackmore added that the Fringe has become a great platform for indie rock music as well.

While the festival may have finally hit the mainstream, Blackmore said they will continue to make waves in the ways in which the festivals always has. “We’re not changing, but maybe people are opening up more,” she commented.

For Fringe newbies, the best place to catch a glimpse of what to come will be at Café Campus on May 30, where 80 production companies will to take the stage for two minutes each, in an attempt to convince viewers to come to their shows.

“It’s really a chose your own adventure thing,” explained Blackmore.

With the swanky programme guide in one hand, and with the previews at the Fringe For All, festival goers will be able to plan their performance calendars.

The St-Ambroise Fringe Festival looks set to be a hit. The Link will be providing coverage with show reviews, artist interviews and more.

Fringe For All // May 30 // Cafe Campus // 7 p.m. // Free // More Info