Buxton Festival Fringe: ‘Creeping Toad’ champions Buxton’s creativity

Storytelling for The Woodland Trust. Photo: L Crossman-Emms and Woodland Trust.
Storytelling for The Woodland Trust. Photo: L Crossman-Emms and Woodland Trust.

Stone and Water, set up to “celebrate the people, landscape and creativity of the Peaks”, is well known for its Fringe children’s events, but this year it is reaching out to an even bigger audience with a brand new event.

The Buxton Pride Picnic will take place at the Pavilion Gardens on July 22.

Gordon MacLellan. Photo courtesy of I Daniel.

Gordon MacLellan. Photo courtesy of I Daniel.

Stone and Water’s Gordon MacLellan explains: “We’ll offer some queer poetry during the picnic and maybe some ‘instant slap’ dramatic makeup.

“We are hoping for rainbow cakes as well and possibly rainbow sandwiches.

“It is a bit of fun but it is also a political statement that says ‘we are all part of the people of the Peaks’.”

He adds: “Speaking personally, not as a Stone and Water rep, I feel that in some ways these are good times for LGBT+ people: we are more public and more recognised and accepted.

Storytelling for The Woodland Trust. Photo: L Crossman-Emms and Woodland Trust.

Storytelling for The Woodland Trust. Photo: L Crossman-Emms and Woodland Trust.

“But almost because of that apparent acceptance, the wider public is less aware of the prejudice that LGBT+ people still experience.

“People are still thrown out of their homes, or ‘queer-bashed’, or heckled and harassed in the street.”

Stone and Water will also be back with another free, drop-in children’s workshop.

“We’ve been doing ‘Tiny!’ days for six or seven years now,” he says.

“The idea is that you make nothing larger than your hand. This year we’ll be making lots of little animals as finger puppets.

“We’re planning garden wildlife: bumblebees, butterflies, ladybirds, mice... but we’ll help people in whatever direction they want to go so I am rather expecting there will be some Tiny! lions, wolves and dolphins too!”

A founder member of Stone and Water, Gordon is an artist and storyteller whose freelance identity is ‘Creeping Toad’.

A zoologist and environmentalist, he says: “I have been a Toad person since I could walk.

“Toads are my totem animals. The patient watchful consideration of a toad is a great skill to cultivate.

“At home, my house tends to become a refuge for exotic amphibians with nowhere else to go!”

Having lived in Buxton for 16 years he says he loves this “meeting place of a town: a crossroads where the wildness of the hills and dales intersects with the easy access to Manchester and a wider urban world”, and it is clear he also loves this time of year.

“I have been doing various things in the Fringe for maybe 14 years.

“I like the sense of creativity that fills the town and the audiences that will come and cheerfully watch, join in or simply laugh.”

The Tiny! Beasts, Birds and Butterflies free workshops for ages two-plus will take place on the old bowling green at the Pavilion Gardens on Sunday July 16, 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm. The Buxton Pride Picnic will be held on Saturday July 22 at the same location, between 3pm and 6pm.