London Fringe, Edinburgh Fringe, Too Much Fringe? 

Convener(s): Josh Neicho

Participants: Patricia, Jessica Manley, Anonk Mishti, Thomas Hescott, Dan Simon, Tyne Rafaeli, Robert Wells, Lindsey Hope Pearlman

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

LONDON FESTIVAL FRINGE to run this summer, same dates as Edinburgh festival, moving force is GREG TALLENT, South Bank university lecturer in social media, “jazz pianist, fashion photographer, sound recordist, stand-up, used to run model agency”, others on board include Holly Payton of the World Festival Network. Tallent ran London Bridge Festival July 2009. Venues signed up so far include the Southwark Playhouse, Old Operating Theatre, New Players Theatre in Soho, Leicester Square Theatre, Actor’s Church Covent Garden, Rosemary Branch and the 20th Century Theatre in Notting Hill. Aims to celebrate and promote London as the “biggest arts capital in the world”, showcasing young talent in comedy, burlesque, music, fiction writing, instant film-making as well as theatre with a “broader scope than Edinburgh”. Focused around 8 AWARDS given by specialists in different arts fields. Feeling that Edinburgh has become too established and London event should be held at same time as August is peak tourist season and London is big enough to command an audience at the same time as Edinburgh. Long-term vision to get big London arts venues involved so there is a London Festival as well as a London Festival Fringe. The Conservatives nationally and in City Hall have been supportive. But criticism in the press eg from SIMON FANSHAWE, and VERONICA LEE who says it is “incredibly wrong-headed” and “remarkably ill-mannered” to hold such an event at the same time as Edinburgh when theatre is under lots of financial pressure.

Participants felt the Festival was bring held in the wrong venues if it was trying to showcase emerging talent (why established theatres albeit Fringe ones) and inappropriate for the time of year and the festival mood. Also wrong time to hold it at the same time as Edinburgh in August, there would be more sense bringing together Edinburgh previews as a festival in their own right in July. Querying of the old-fashioned way of paying up front to be considered to perform (is this just a cash cow, taking advantage of young students who want to do a show after they graduate?)

Better to get out of London to Latitude, Brighton, Edinburgh etc for summer fun. How about a festival in a tent in a London park like the music festivals. How will press come if all the arts critics are in Eburgh? What about maximizing disabled access to come and see the shows?

Comparison with NEW YORK where the International Fringe is a bit of a joke (why get NY theaters doing huge numbers of shows all year round have to 300 more in a short space of time?) URINETOWN an exception as a success from the New York fringe festival. The distinction between a curated festival with the best of a particular art, which is appropriate for a big city, and a festival with open entry. Better model is the Canadian fringe circuit – CAFF, completely open entry and participants get 100 per cent of ticket sales back. Some US festivals under the CAFF banner – could London be too? J