Buxton’s Green Man grows from pop-up gallery to unique Buxton Fringe venue

Caroline Small, events manager at The Green Man Gallery in Buxton.
Caroline Small, events manager at The Green Man Gallery in Buxton.

With 20 different shows bringing 37 individual performances, Buxton’s Green Man Gallery is growing in importance as a Buxton Festival Fringe managed venue.

Events manager Caroline Small says they were “inundated with requests” this year with performers enjoying the personal service and unique venue spaces that the gallery brings.

“We do so much more than just unlock the door”, she explains.

Ticketing, marketing and front of house are all covered while the historic rooms of the former Royal British Legion building offer great flexibility.

The gallery downstairs with its stage, piano and fantastic acoustics tends to attract musicians and comedians, while the upstairs room feels more intimate.

She says: “It’s lovely for Fringe theatre because you are treading on the audience’s toes and it’s great!”

Caroline’s theatre background is key: “People say it is really helpful to have a venue manager who understands it from the performer’s point of view.”

Originally head of drama at Hope Valley College, she went freelance to write, direct and tour theatre before becoming a “creative agent”, brokering partnerships between creative practitioners and schools.

Serious illness in 2007 stopped her in her tracks but photography became “part of the way to wellness” for her with mindfulness at its core.

She admits: “I’m never more present than when I’m focusing on something through my lens.”

She joined The Green Man Gallery in 2013 soon after it was first established and believes there is a healthy symbiosis between the paintings and the theatre: “People are sitting with the art around them and it adds greatly to the atmosphere of the performance.”

Audience members sometimes return to buy a painting while gallery visitors often pick up flyers and come back to see shows.

Caroline is excited by all the Green Man’s Fringe acts but has a special love of new writing. She says: “That’s what the Fringe is for as far as I’m concerned.”

Shows include Jane and Jim Poetry Theatre’s Town featuring words and music, while XYZ is bringing the dark one-man show The Host.

The variety is remarkable with everything from Michael Gibson’s version of medieval romance Sir Orfeo to Annette Gregory singing jazz standards.

The Green Man Artists are also producing a new exhibition, Something Like the Colour Purple, featuring a closet area with designs painted on the walls in special paint that can only be seen in ultraviolet light.

A not-for-profit, completely self-financing organisation, The Green Man looks to have a bright future.

Changes may be afoot; Caroline feels they are now “too big” to develop with just volunteers and no paid staff.

However the essential nature of the Green Man as an attractive, all-year-round arts venue seems fixed.

She adds: “When we decided to continue the project, which started as a six-month pop up gallery, I said we had to find other income streams because we cannot survive solely on the sale of art.

“The key thing for me was for every space to pay for itself.

“So being a venue that can hire space to people is an essential part of our income.”

Jazz, comedy and pint-sized G&S

The Green Man Gallery is an important player in the theatre and music categories at the Buxton Festival Fringe, which runs from July 4-22.

Debbie Cannon presents a one-woman version of Gawain and the Green Knight, retold from a female perspective.

Old Bones tells the tale of immortal James Napier who made a terrible mistake over 400 years ago and has been trying to undo it ever since.

The Host is a darkly comic, fragmented tale with serious aspirations, no actors or scenery, and only one chair!

PB Theatricals and a talented cast of young adults return with Pint-Sized Pinafore, an abridged performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta, which will also be performed in the Rotunda.

Music fans will be able to enjoy an evening in the company of local singer and songwriter Cathy Rimer.

The excellent jazz singer Annette Gregory returns with her band to present some of the best-loved songs by the likes of Julie London and Sarah Vaughan.

Cenote present their show Of People And Place, with music drawing on traditions and stories from Derbyshire and further afield.