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What is the biggest attraction of Barnstaple’s Fringe TheatreFest?

Theater companies across North Devon, the South West, the UK and the US of A are waiting with baited breath.

They all want to be a part of Barnstaple’s Fringe TheatreFest but are dependent on their names being drawn out of a hat on Saturday 28th January.

When companies apply to perform at a ticketed venue, their name gets thrown into the Theatrefest hat. It’s the same for everyone – from seasoned professionals with years of international touring experience to local elementary school kids taking their first tentative steps.

“We’ll literally have everything crossed between today and the draw!” writes one of the companies. “This game means the world to me. And that’s the main reason why TheatreFest is such an invigorating experience.

Companies pitch their work not to make big bucks, but because they passionately believe in what they offer. Whether it’s skits, intense drama, street dancing, music, magic and more, everyone involved is there because they care.

This is as true of the large number of volunteers who make the event happen as it is of the performers. And that energy is contagious.

TheatreFest is 17 years old. It has built a reputation as perhaps the most welcoming Fringe festival in the country. Therefore, more companies apply for places than can be accommodated.

Gill Nathanson (left) and Liz Hayton are ready for the big reveal! – Credit: Fringe TheatreFest

The Hat Draw at the Queen’s Theater on January 28 is where everyone will find out what shows will be on offer at the Summer Festival. It’s a nail-biter for companies, but also a fun and social event – and a chance to learn more about Fringe Theatrefest.

From noon there will be free tea, coffee, cake and music, the bar will be open. There will be an exhibit explaining what TheatreFest is and people to answer questions.

The draw itself will take place at 2 p.m. Fringe TheatreFest is run with the help of an army of volunteers and the support of the City Council, the Queen’s Theater and local businesses and institutions.

Thanks to sponsorships from local businesses, TheatreFest is accessible to both companies and audiences.

“We are really grateful to our overall festival sponsor, Nalu Homes,” says festival co-director Gill Nathanson.

“There is an opportunity for businesses to sponsor individual venues. If you’re interested in getting involved with a great local, not-for-profit event, head over to our website and get in touch to find out more.”

You don’t have to be a theater lover to enjoy volunteering at TheatreFest. The buzz is irresistible. Many volunteers return year after year – they can’t stay away.

The system allows people to choose shifts to suit their circumstances and therefore be involved as little or as fully as they want.

“Come and test us in person at the hat draw on Saturday 28th January from 12-3pm at the Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple. If you can’t make it, explore the Fringe TheatreFest website: www.theatrefest.co.uk.”

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