Students write about Little Ed Fringe Festival

Artsbeat has agreed to print a selection of articles written by students studying magazine writing at the University of Derby. As part of their course they were tasked with interviewing someone and writing a feature for arts beat. Thirty students took part and three were chosen to be part of the feature about the Little Ed Fringe Festival in Derby which appeared in the print edition. There are also some other pieces written by the students below.


Little Ed, a fringe-style festival in its second year in Derby seeks to present performances which are new, edgy and a little bit different, in places you wouldn’t expect.

Last year saw poetry in a barber’s shop, comedy in a clothes shop and belly dancing in a café.  This year there are bound to be plenty of surprises.

The acts already announced include scratch performances by Aoife O’Connor, Alistair Lane and James Wallace at QUAD; comedy at The Lord Nelson, featuring The Manics and Improv Provocateur; as well as new work from Simon Caine and Tales of Whatever at Derby Cathedral’s new space The Sanctuary.

Little Ed’s Big Saturday will include pop up performances and interactive workshops plus the adult fringe at Bookcafe, and the kids’ fringe at Doughnotts featuring Leanne Moden, Ashley Lloyd Smith and The Edi Johnston Bit. 

The festival, organised by Furthest From The Sea, is a coming together of artists, businesses and organisations to create something really special for Derby.  

As well as this, Little Ed is all about mental health  – encouraging conversation (both from the stage and amongst an audience), holding workshops and engaging the community in raising awareness.  

One of the event’s founding members, Matt McGuinness will also be getting involved in performing with his show We Are What We Overcome which raises awareness of mental health issues.

Such issues are something Matt says he is unwilling to shy away from. 

“I talk about anything with mental health, whether that be suicide or depression or whatever else,” he said. 

He smiles as he speaks of his near bewilderment at the way people can sometimes skirt around the issue. 

“I always think of it like Voldemort; don’t mention his name. If you don’t mention his name, he becomes more powerful than he should be.” 

Part of the above interview was by Kieran Eedy

The festival will be staged in Derby’s Cathedral Quarter from May 9-11. 

Aoife O’Connor feature written by Téa C. James

Being asked by Little Ed organisers to perform for the 2019 festival in Derby has been a great achievement for university student and poet, Aoife O’Connor. 

She was involved in the fringes of the festival last year, but Aoife knew she wanted to perform herself, in order to showcase her poetic talents to a wider audience. 

She says that the festival is an amazing chance for the underdogs to have their work performed, as well as promoting the importance of positive mental health.

Focusing more on political and controversial subjects, Aoife plans to use her spoken word poetry to create an unforgettable experience for the audience. 

She says that her poetry has been a work in progress since last year as she is always adapting it in order to create the best pieces she can. 

Since she was 14 years old, Aoife has been involved in youth groups that perform slam poetry and has won many competitions. 

“I have been very privileged with the support I have been given,” she said explaining that it helped build her confidence with every performance. 

This has enabled her to become competitive with her work and she says she is always excited to be centre stage.  

“I write in order to perform for crowds. It is terrifying but also very liberating,” Aoife said.

She encourages the audience to click their fingers when they hear a line that they love during her performances.

“It creates an incredible atmosphere for the performers, as well as the audience,” she explained.

Aoife has already created her own YouTube channel and published journals and articles for various organisations and one day hopes to publish her own work. 

For now, however, she is thrilled to continue performing her poetry.

Go along to watch Aoife O’Connor perform at QUAD on May 9, and click and cheer along with the audience. 

Smoking Guns Theatre feature written by Lucy O’Sullivan

As arts students, leaving university, Fatih Goksu, Andy Mandoiu and Harry Smith chose to place their futures in their own hands and set up Smoking Guns Theatre Group in Derby. 

Their shows tackle issues significant to modern men, such as men’s mental health, body dysmorphia, and toxic masculinity. 

Their latest show, One Night of Dread, which they will be performing as part of the Little Ed Festival, plugs into a recent social surge in role-playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons.
The Dread game involves pulling bricks from a Jenga block when vital decisions are made to see if your character survives through the night. 

In this collaborative storytelling adventure through the horror genre, the audience will make decisions that will affect the story, so no two performances will be the same.

Andy playfully describes it as “The Avengers of Theatre; you can watch it, be happy for an hour and a half and go back home”.

But how did the three of them get into theatre? 

When Fatih joined a youth theatre group, he found that by being someone else, he could be himself. 

“I always say that I didn’t choose theatre, it chose me,” he said.

For Andy, inspiration was actor Robin Williams in role as Peter Pan in the film Hook. 

“Hook. I love the magic of it. I watch it every year on my birthday,” he said grinning.

Smoking Guns have been working with Furthest from the Sea for a couple of years and credit the organisation with being helpful in their transformation from students to a theatre company.

They will be performing One Night of Dread at The Box, QUAD on May 9. 

Taking Theatre Out of Theatres feature written by Tia Owen

This May sees Derbyshire company Furthest from the Sea host their second Little Ed Fringe Festival, a day-long programme of Edinburgh Fringe-style entertainment with a mental health focus. It will feature a host of local performers – including Smoking Guns Theatre Company.

The company is a product of three University of Derby graduates with a lifelong love of the arts.

For Fatih Göksu, this began with youth theatre. “I was very shy,” he explains, “[and] I had problems communicating how I felt.”

He said that theatre allowed him to be himself while being other people as well. “I like to joke that I never chose to do theatre, it kind of chose me.”

Andy Mandoiu’s inspiration also came from his upbringing.

He talked about Romania’s lack of a ‘theatre industry’ saying, “People will go to see big Hollywood films at the cinema, but they don’t go to see theatre. That’s why I chose to come to England, because here there is a theatre culture.”

Dedication is clear in their work: to learn about toxic masculinity for their show Trans Tatum, the team spent six months waking up at six in the morning to go to the gym. The show took its toll: Mandoiu admits that “every time we rehearsed we had to take an hour and a half just to let our bodies recover.”

One Night of Dread, their Little Ed offering, is less taxing, but just as intriguing.  Based on role-playing games, the audience are split between two storytellers with a character each.

They’re put inside an interactive ”horror scenario” where their choices – and Jenga skills – determine the character’s fate. Mandoiu says its appeal comes from how “even if you come and see the same story two or three times, it’ll never be the same.”

The team see Little Ed as helping promote their work on a non-traditional stage. “We want to take theatre out of theatres,” says Göksu. “A lot of our audiences that we would love to come and see our shows don’t want to come to theatres.”

If you fit that bill, Dread is a show you won’t want to miss.

Matt McGuinness feature written by Rachel Underwood

Matt McGuinness writes his own songs and performs in a band called MCN. At the festival, however, he will be doing a live podcast where he and three others will be chatting about mental health which is something “men don’t stereotypically like talking about” as he believes this isn’t the way it should be.

Mental health is a huge part in McGuinness’ performance. He was very open and said “I’ve talked about my own mental health issues, things that have happened, problems I’ve had”. He didn’t skirt around the topic as “people with mental health tend to do” and said that the live version of his podcast is trying to show mental illness shouldn’t be taboo.

On stage he will be “just chatting about mental health and how people should look for help”. He believes that people “should be able to talk about mental health, depression, and suicide” in an open way as his friend and panellist Nick thought he was “special with his mental health problems but actually loads of people have them”. The more they are spoken about, the more obvious it becomes that it’s “not special at all” and many are going through the same issues.

The festival isn’t just about mental health, although a lot of performers will be touching on the topic. He said he was also looking forward to the street performers as “in Edinburgh, last year, I ended up having breakfast with a lot of them”.

You can catch his live podcast “We are what we overcome”at The Quad on the Thursday – he’ll be joined by Psychotherapist Wes Evans and improve artist Nick Tyler. It’s definitely a show to watch as he’ll be “very happy to talk about anything” and he thinks “that’s the good thing about the Podcast and about the show.”