An Interview with the Chelsea Fringe Festival

We managed to catch up with Tim Richardson, Festival Director of the spectacular Chelsea Fringe Festival, to find out how the festival came about, the planning and preparation that goes into each one, and what to expect from next year’s event. Check out our interview below:

Our Interview with the Chelsea Fringe Festival

1. The Chelsea Fringe Festival has been running for 5 years now. How did the festival start?

I thought it up in bed one morning during Chelsea Flower Show week. I imagined an ‘alternative’ gardens festival, where people could explore links with art, literature, cooking and so on, as well as a celebration of all the amazing work community gardeners do all-year-round.

2. How much planning and preparation goes into setting the festival up each year?

A small volunteer team runs the Fringe – about half a dozen core activists and perhaps 25 more who also contribute when they can. The festival is in May and we start planning and having monthly meetings from September.

We spend most of our time trying to make sure our systems work – the website, online registration and so on – and also encouraging and assisting potential Fringe participants. Then there is our press and PR activity, which is really important, setting up participants’ meetings and other events, and also our map/guide to the Fringe, which we have started producing.

Chelsea Fringe 5

3. What does the festival director do in the run up to each event?

My main job is to try to make sure the efforts of the volunteer team are being directed in the most effective ways. The organisation of the Fringe has changed a lot since it started and so has the structure.

It began with a large number of volunteers (more than 50) who were all feeling their way and trying to make what is a very large festival possible with no funding, whatsoever. In the past few years we have slimmed down on personnel and also made our systems work more smoothly.

4. What did you get up to at this year’s Chelsea Fringe Festival? Was it any different to the previous festivals?

During every Chelsea Fringe, I try to go to events on every day of its three-week duration – usually between one and six events. I also try to visit some of the events going on in other cities away from London, like Bristol and Cambridge, as well as Italy, Austria, and Japan.

Broadly, the focus of the festival has become more intense and celebratory, with more emphasis on events like open days, talks, walks and so on, and a little less on installations.

Chelsea Fringe 2

5. Have you got any plans in mind for next year’s event?

We don’t try to ‘direct’ the Fringe in terms of content – that is all part of the Fringe ethos. But we are looking at trying to expand the reach of the Fringe more widely, throughout the UK. We already have the Isle of Mull and West Cornwall on board for 2017, so the geographical spread is pretty wide. But we want more!


We will be catching up with Tim again nearer the 2017 festival to get a closer look at what is happening and the talks and open days available, so stay tuned.

Shedstore and the Chelsea Fringe share a love of all things gardening. Please click here to view our fantastic range of gardening products.