THIS summer's Great Yorkshire Fringe in York has an exciting new venue, The Arts Barge

York’s upcoming new floating arts venue will be in use as a work in progress from Wednesday, opening with a pre-Fringe event ahead of the July 18 to 28 festival.

Moored next to Tower Gardens at Skeldergate Bridge, the Arts Barge, on the former animal feeds and grain barge Selby Tony, is in a very basic state of conversion. "No frills, just thrills," as Hannah West, co-director of the Arts Barge Project puts it.

Here are the Arts Barge headlights during the Great Yorkshire Fringe:

Pre-Fringe event, July 17, 7.30pm

Arts Barge Opening Night features Northumbrian folk legend Alistair Anderson and some of York’s finest folkies, including The Stillhouse Duo.

"Alistair has fond memories of playing at the old York Arts Centre in the 1980s and we're honoured to have him open The Arts Barge," says Hannah.

"Alistair is donating his time to raise funds to finish the Selby Tony conversion work and this is a 'pay what you feel’ event."

Rust, July 18, 2pm, 6pm, 9pm

Rust is an immersive spoken-word show developed by Northern Electric Arts Collective in response to the rescue and re-purposing of heritage barge Selby Tony. Appropriately, it will be performed for the very first time on board the barge.

Alex Hitchcock Quintet, July 19, 8pm; Rendez Manouche, July 20, 8pm

"London is sending some of it’s finest young jazz musicians to use The Arts Barge as a jazz playground – and with a jazz approach to the whole thing, just wait and see what unfolds," says Hannah.

"What we can say, for sure, is that on the Friday evening Ouroboros presents the fabulous Alex Hitchcock Quintet. Saturday evening will bring together exceptional gypsy jazz musicians from the local and regional jazz scene for the very special Rendez Manouche."

Tim Eriksen: Hardcore Americana, July 21, 7.30pm

"Tim is acclaimed for transforming the American tradition with his startling interpretations of old ballads, love songs, shapenote gospel and dance tunes from New England and Southern Appalachia," says Hannah. "And don't miss Tim’s free Shapenote Singing Workshop at 3pm."

Heaven’s Gate, by Cosmic Collective, July 23, 7.30pm; How To Beat Up Your Dad (The Musical), by Caravan Guys Theatre Company, July 27, 6pm

"This is your chance to see two York-born young theatricals, Joe Feeney and Theo Mason Wood, back from the Big Smoke with their very own first productions," says Hannah.

Phoenix Puppets in Fenist The Falcon, July 26, 1pm

"For children and families, Phoenix Puppets perform Fenist The Falcon on the barge with a cast of rod, hand and string puppets to take you across the threshold between the worlds," says Hannah.

"You can also make your own puppet with the Phoenix puppeteers and help perform a show in the Free Fringe Riverside marquee on July 25 from 2pm to 4pm."

Matthew Sharpe, Tommy Foggo, Superhero!, July 27 and 28, 1pm

"Cellist Mathew Sharpe's Tommy Foggo, Superhero! tells a magical multi-media tale of a life saved by music," says Hannah. "This is an amazing, one-hour cello playing, interactive story and song drama."

Great Yorkshire Fringe events, including comedians Iain MacDonald, Carla Pol, Alan Shed and York's Josh Benson will take place on the barge between July 24 and 28, while the Arts Barge five-day Free Fringe Riverside Festival is happening in Tower Gardens.

"This is a laidback, friendly community arts festival with music, theatre, dance, sofas and arts for all ages," says Hannah.

"After the Great Yorkshire Fringe, the Arts Barge Riverside Festival just keeps on giving, with events until August 8." For more information and tickets, visit

Charles Hutchinson