Tickets may have sold out for the RHS Chelsea Flower show, but there’s still plenty of time to visit the Chelsea Fringe

The Chelsea Fringe
First-ever Chelsea Fringe

Dubbed ‘the alternative gardening festival’, the three-week inaugural Chelsea Fringe, which opened on 17 May, has more than 80 registered projects and many of them free of charge.

Conceived by landscape critic and author Tim Richardson, and entirely volunteer run, the Chelsea Fringe is independent of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, but aims to run alongside it just as the Edinburgh Fringe does with the Edinburgh Festival.

Richardson said he had hoped to get maybe 20–30 projects for the first Fringe, so was amazed when the total came to more than 80, many of them devised by international teams and happening all over London – the festival has even had funding from the government of Quebec.

This week’s Fringe highlight was a conversation with US landscape architect Martha Swartz at the Garden Museum, and  over the next two and half weeks projects will span a huge range of initiatives from avant-garde performance art projects to hands-in-the-soil community gardening in inner-city streets, flower-store pop-ups, music and poetry events.

Speaking at the launch at Portobello Dock, the site of Fringe art installation ‘The Floating Forest’ by Montreal design team NIP Paysage, Richardson said the festival was “open access” and that “if it’s about landscapes and gardens, it’s in.”

He said the focus was on interesting and enjoyable projects, rather than worthy ones. “There’s no medals, no prizes and no judging,” he added.

“There’s a new generation of people who are interested in gardening as a mild form of environmental activism and a way of getting to know their neighbours. The Fringe is a community-interest company and I’d like to see it become a registered charity.”

Other events include The Dalston Flower Show curated by landscape project the Dalston Estern Curve; the Garden of Disorientation, a mint-themed space complete with mojito bar in a disused slaughterhouse in Smithfield; and Hidden Hyde Park, a unique walking tour convened by the experts of the Garden History Society.

For a full events listing, go to http://www.chelseafringe.com

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