Edinburgh Fringe: What’s right?  What’s wrong?

Convener(s):  Sally Christopher

Participants: Lots of lovely people who came and went….

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

What started out as a check list of ‘rights and wrongs’ quickly became an interesting debate on what it is we love and loathe about the sprawling beast that is the Edinburgh Fringe.  Naturally, what one person loved…another one loathed.  The following is a collection of some of the thoughts and experiences of the collected group.


What is right / good about the Edinburgh Fringe?

  • It is open to all, in the sense that anyone can perform and be part of the Fringe programme. The idea of a “glorious free for all”.
  • It is a great place for those starting out to cut their teeth – both as a performer or company member.
  • There is a fantastic energy surrounding the Fringe and the city of Edinburgh throughout the month.
  • The sense of carnival / carnage.
  • Putting all the costs of attending aside, a stint in Edinburgh can do great things for your career – whether it is a good review, a sell out show, fantastic publicity, as a networking tool or simply a place to develop your skills.
  • A show can still be a hit in Edinburgh regardless of whether you have a review or not. Word of mouth works at the festival, more so than it may do in London / outside of the Fringe.
  • Careers can be launched of the back of an Edinburgh success / stint in Edinburgh. g. Devil and the Deep Blue Sea / Will Adamsdale winning the Perrier.
  • There is a sense of freedom to perform / produce experimental work (the group referenced Rotozaza’s Etiquette and Melanie Wilson’s work).
  • Edinburgh can provide exposure for companies who may not be well known – European companies / International companies etc
  • Edinburgh encourages communication – whether it is between companies, individuals or punters. Love or loathe the Royal Mile it encourages contact between individuals.


What is wrong / unattractive about Edinburgh?

  • Ticket Prices – too expensive for most. Discussed the concept - the greater the cost of tickets = the less chance there is of people taking a punt on a show.  The days of seeing 3 / 4 shows a day as a punter are dwindling…it’s just too expensive.  A sense of loss, this is what people loved about the Fringe.  Raised ticket prices also makes people rely heavily on reviews / word of mouth…and with so many shows, not all can get reviewed….what happens to the gems / great shows who can’t get noticed?  Also now examples of shows setting a precedent for ‘London’ prices – Fuertebruta charging over twenty pounds for a ticket and still listed in the Fringe guide.
  • The sense of Edinburgh becoming a trade fair – if you have contacts / some sort of clout then that is how you manage to see shows…
  • The clash of comedy versus theatre. The idea that comedy is dominating the festival….  Perhaps the comedy shows only see Edinburgh as launch pad to further their radio / TV careers?
  • Marketing – those with the biggest budget dominate the festival.
  • Expense – accommodation, venue, marketing and PR, living expenses…all add up to an often unachievable amount.
  • Flyering (a) – not environmentally friendly…large amounts of waste.
  • Flyering (b) – is it an aggressive (and sometimes annoying) quest for bums on seats or a genuine desire from companies to share their work with audiences?
  • Quality – the quality of some shows was questioned… Some members of the group wondered whether this would matter so much if they had only paid a fiver…  Should quality even be questioned when it is a festival open to all?
  • Edinburgh is often a poor environment in which to watch a show…performance space and the rush to consume as many shows as possible. The idea of an Edinburgh sugar rush…
  • Bums on seats – the quest for an audience can consume a company, rather than enjoying the experience / performance / connection with an audience. But what alternative is there when it is so expensive?
  • Is the Fringe ‘fringey’ enough? How much is still about the fringe?  Are there risky / edgy / radical shows anymore?  The group split here…some said yes, some said no.  We commented on the loss of Rocket / Demarco…
  • Stress – individuals and groups can return home jaded and exhausted. Thought that it is down to the individual…Edinburgh isn’t right for all.


Thoughts we had and questions we asked….

  • Does the Edinburgh Fringe know what it is?
  • Does the Edinburgh Fringe know what it wants to be?
  • Has the Edinburgh Fringe reached its saturation point?
  • Has it got too big? And how big is too big? We discussed the 2007 growth of the Edinburgh Fringe…and the expansion of the large venues…how did they fair?  What affect did this have on the festival as a whole?
  • Is it a case of wading through multiple shows of varying quality in order to get to the “good”?
  • Who’s making all the money at the Edinburgh Fringe? Edinburgh University?  Edinburgh Council?
  • Is Edinburgh more about marketing and advertising than quality?
  • Should we look to promoting shows predominantly by the internet / word of mouth / radio rather than paper flyers to cut back on waste and cost?
  • Is the format of the Fringe guide the best way to deliver the programme?
  • What is the aftermath of the Edinburgh Fringe? Once you’ve stepped out of the Edinburgh bubble what does it actually pay you back?
  • Is too much emphasis put on the Edinburgh Fringe?
  • How much does Edinburgh matter to those outside of the bubble? How much impact does it make in society….compared to airtime / column inches that Glastonbury gets etc?
  • Free Fringe – is this where we should be heading? Is this the future of the Fringe?  A sense of collaboration / anti – establishment.  Will it help develop radical work?  Examples of companies achieving success after only spending forty pounds and some of their free time to perform their show…
  • Would we follow the same model of the Edinburgh Fringe if we were to set it up now?
  • How does it compare to the Brighton Fringe and Manchester Fringe? We discussed how Brighton and Manchester have a sense of pride, community focus and dedication to the place that Edinburgh perhaps does not.
  • What could the Fringe do to improve its relationships with Edinburgh city as a whole? We discussed the idea of the Fringe parachuting in - creating mess, using the city and then leaving in a whirlwind.  Could artists / companies give something back to the community?  How can we connect it to the place?  Agreed that the festival does provide a vast income for the city – tourism, accommodation, shops, restaurants etc.


That’s it! 


If anyone would like to add to this debate, or has any thoughts / stories / Edinburgh experiences then please email me at [email protected] …. as this is going to be the topic for my monster MA dissertation!  Thanks.