Are you taking a show to The Edinburgh Fringe?
No, I am not.
I have a problematic relationship with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
I have taken one show there in my time as an artist, I was 18. It was one of the biggest learning curves of my career. Without proper PR and Marketing we struggled to get audiences large as we had hoped, the average audience size at an Edinburgh show that year was I believe around 6. This is partly because there is so much to see. You only have to walk down the royal mile (a road I diligently avoid when at the fringe) to find this out.
Is this kind of over saturation exciting? Well yes. As a 15 year old going to Edinburgh for the first time with my step-mother I fell in love. I had never felt so close to hundreds and hundreds of people who, like me, shared a love of performance. Here we all were gathered together to do it, and see it and celebrate it. I was absolutely sure I wanted to be a member of this community. Going from show to show was an emotional and physical rollercoaster. Some shows blew my tiny 15 year old brain, and some remain some of the worst work I have ever seen (at this point I hadn’t gained the skill of weedling out a good blurb from a bad).
So back I headed the year after, the beginning of my annual pilgrimage, and a few years later I took a show. It was my A-level drama piece, a fairytal-y, dream like, white faced, puppety, musical-y Blue Beard. ‘So far, so Edinburgh’ as Fringe Review described it, but in that review we were highly recommended. We appeared in the Scotsman because they did a little feature of shows with beards in the title and we were pictured alongside Beardyman (thanks Beardyman PR for the leg up there). People liked us, because we embodied what the fringe is all about, that anyone can naively and bravely make and present performance. A bunch of young, creative, unafraid and provocative women (this was probably the corsets rather than any political agenda) can say look what happened inside our brains, look what we made, do you like it? is it good?
And that is why Edinburgh is partially so wonderful and so fraught, because most of it in my opinion isn’t good.
Edinburgh continues to sadden me.
The arts in general continues to sadden me sometimes because of the gap between good and money. Thousands of pounds can produce a terrible show, and pennies can produce something wonderful. I know too many artists who would like to take good, urgent and necessary work to the fringe, but can’t because it is not financially viable, and too much of a risk to personal finances.
I get the majority of my income from working in a cafe and I am but one person. The concept of raising the minimum (from my budgets about £7,000) to take a show to Edinburgh is a big ask, and thats not including the cost of making the show, which would have had to be done on a shoestring.
At the fringe I would have been penniless and broke, presenting a show that I would probably be unhappy with due to a of a lack of resources, then it not getting the exposure I wanted due to a lack of resources and feeling angry, tired and unfulfilled. I don’t want my performance work to feel unfulfilling, I am in this for the long run and need to avoid personal and financial burn out.
You may wonder why people are asking for money to take shows to Edinburgh, and it’s because there is very little funding to support companies to take shows there, as it is over-saturated. This is why people like my friends have to fundraise, asking their friends and family to support them. Unfortunately this is being a professional in the Arts.
Going to Edinburgh will not only mean they have the opportunity to reach a wider audience, including theatre-goers, other artists, potential collaborators, producers, tour bookers, funding bodies and venues. These connections will probably lead to a tour and make them more sustainable as a company, and giving them work/ income over the next year.
I want them to be working in theatre for the next year (they will be regardless because they are ace and talented, and determined) but Edinburgh will help.
These girls have given me a sofa to sleep on whenever I need it.
An ear to listen when I need to be heard.
A critical eye when in creative panic.
A cup of tea when nothing else will do.
They are my peers, my friends and I am so flipping proud of them.
Support them, please, they are too good to burn out.