Simon Day, 26 January 2014

We have a problem with Edinburgh Fringe. As a showcasing opportunity it is

unparalleled in terms of potential results for national touring. And whilst there are a

developing series of mainly venue led initiatives to soften the blow or support artists

taking work to the Fringe, the fact remains that personal finance is a huge (often

insurmountable) barrier to many, which seems at the least, unfair, at worse, a key part

of a wider profound problem with the limited range of voices and experiences shared

in our community and industry with audiences.


Carrie Rhys-Davies from Tobacco Factory Theatre outlined the venues' approach to

communicating with artists and seeing new work, including a discussion about nature

of scouting networks/processes. Became obvious, that on the whole, most of us don't

really know about the reality of any given venues actual processes. Transparency felt

valuable, useful and empowering. It was suggested that more venues would benefit

from simply stating plainly and visibly what they do when they're invited to see work.

Broader point being that developing greater trust between venues and artists is the

foundation of the solution to so many of our problems.

Ovalhouse reminded us that it's OK to pick up the phone.

Action Hero and others have good experience of booking a tour outside of Edinburgh,

with one or two key promoters seeing work at the right time and one thing leading to

another. It is possible.


A strong sense that artists can help each other through co-self-producing shared

showcasing opportunities. It's already happening on a small and informal scale with

some people, especially in touring pub theatre scene in the regions. Positive

experience of talking up someone else's work for a change: ask not what that artist

can do for you but what you can do for that artist. What goes around comes around.

There's a question mark over whether by touting a collection of work from a number of

companies who share a form/discipline/ aesthetic you're effectively pitching yourselves

against each other. Opinions varied.

How can we work between regions? Exchanges? Twinning? What if a bunch of shows

from Bristol came to share their wares in Brighton. Could a bunch of Brighton artists

host us, and could we return the favour? What if it happened at the same time? We

could house swap.


Some discussion about the power of consortiums in identifying and touring new work.

Where i raised a question about potential programmers' anxiety (losing agency, having

to take work they haven't individually chosen etc) in this set-up, it was felt by venues

rather that such an approach can be a healthy part of the mix. This Way Up was given

as a positive example.

House was discussed, in general as a very positive thing, though some worries about

empire building and the sense that it isn't an open shop. Though isn't this an

inevitability of process of identifying viable touring work outside of self selecting

marketplace of something like Ed?

Venues North also put forward as model of good practice.


Brighton Fringe, could, if it develops in the right way, become a viable alternative to

Edinburgh rather than its poor cousin. Key points/questions included:

How can Brighton define itself differently to Edinburgh and play to its strengths?

How can it be made a really attractive offer to programmers?

If companies are to focus on two weekends, what could they do with the week in the


If the Brighton Fringe develops successfully, whose responsibility is it to ensure that

landlords/venues don't ape the behaviour of greedy peers north of the border?

If the opportunity at Brighton is a good one, how can we start to spread the word round

the country?

Artists are eligible to fund their Brighton runs (unlike Edinburgh) - how can we make

the most of this opportunity?

A group of producers inc. Faith Dodkins have a disused church, an an opportunity to

make something happen perhaps.

Sarah is new in post at the festival's Arts industry office and welcomes thoughts, ideas

and feedback: [email protected] - 01273 764900


A really persuasive cry of ‘we’re not rubbish, we're just poor'. How can promoters be

encouraged to wonder off the beaten path?

Very good to hear venues and producers making strong case for importance of

recognising value of work and of an experience despite low production values.

The model of large national tours isn't only option of course, with a good nod towards

importance of being open to ‘slower’ touring models and deeper engagement with


Pulse was mentioned a few times, with promoters well represented there.


Importance of good quality documentation was stressed. Can artists work together to

share resources in creating good trailers? How can trailers be more

effectively/creatively shared and distributed?


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