On Thursday the 18th of August we attended the first annual Leeds Fringe Festival Press Launch at The New Conservatory.

First up was Sammy Lee, an acoustic artist, who gave a strong opening with the combination of his voice and guitar playing skill. Usually the first act of the night has some trouble quietening the crowd down for the performance, but within a couple of songs, Sammy had almost a half of the bar crowding round to get a better view.

Following him, was a selection from Leeds Burlesque, part of the Dr. Sketchy's franchise - Anna Fur Laxis started this section off, performing her 'Viva Bettie' act - a burlesque-come-strip-tease act. This consisted of her performing with a dual personality and a costume consisting of two distinct sides, making it a memorising, and often comical, performance. Much to our surprise the audience was comprised mainly of women, which was a surprise as we thought that it would have appealed more to the men in the audience. Anna has toured internationally, performing in countries all over the world and winning multiple awards.

The third act was another from Dr. Sketchy - a live Burlesque-portrait-drawing act. We loved the fact that you could win prizes by participating, but we felt that if you weren't part of the act, it wasn't as much fun and a little repetitive as this act lasted for a little over 10 minutes.

Ben Greaves was up next, another acoustic artist, playing both guitar and piano. There was an empathetic theme in the majority of his songs, to which the audience could relate, and he drew a good crowd because of this. He also had good rapport with the crowd, engaging in conversation and attempting to make everyone a part of the performance.

The fifth performance was Scott Wainright who was a completely unique act, combining elements of beat boxing with blues music; using a variety of instruments, including a harmonica which definitely set him apart from the previous acts of the night. He also performed a duet with Lisa-Marie Glover and her exceptional voice had they had a great harmonisation. Scott seemed a little uncomfortable up on stage, however this was just a part of the act, or his stage persona, as he connected brilliantly with the crowd, telling jokes and anecdotes and engaging directly with several members of the audience.

Matt Bentley was up next and we found that his music was really easy to get into and you could definitely tap along to it - even his more "depressing" songs. He put a great deal of heart and soul into his songs making it a memorable performance. As with many of the acts, he also engaged with the crowd. Though only playing a short set, the crowd reacted well and made it known.

Closing up the night was the acoustic incarnation of the Claire Cameron Band. Claire sang the lyrics with her usual ethereal style while she expertly played the baby-grand piano that adorns The New Conservatory stage area. The rest of the band utilised bongos and a guitar to great effect, with the crowd swarming around the stage to see the performance, despite the advancing hours on a Thursday night.

While this event was one of three that were kicking off the Leeds Fringe Festival, the end of the night could not have been better at The New Conservatory, a great atmosphere in a great venue which may be unknown to many - catching a future event here is a must! - for a great cause in Martin House Hospice! Even if you missed the event you can still donate here!

- Tasha Smith and Philippa Smith

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