James Ross - volunteer with PBH's Free Fringe, comedian and improviser gave us the low-down on all things PBH - how to apply, what to expect from a venue, how the Free Fringe differs from the Free Festival and from the paid Fringe. Marxist rants are definitely going to ensue. Transcript is below.
In the fortnight before we published Cracking the Fringe, we discovered Freestival, the new contender in the free fringe market for 2014. We managed to get a quick mention of them in the book, but we also contacted them to offer a full interview.
What is Freestival?
Freestival is a fresh new addition to the free scene at the Edinburgh Fringe, dedicated to creativity and quality, and run professionally by people with many years of Edinburgh Fringe Festival experience.
Advertising in the Fringe Guide (the free publication that lists every show at the Fringe that pays for registration) is notoriously expensive. A 1/2 page advert in the Fringe Guide in 2014 costs nearly £3000. Comedian and member of the Fringe Society Gareth Morinan caused a stir in 2013 when he found a loophole: by registering the different dates of his show as separate shows, he was able to taking up almost a whole page of the Fringe Guide with his show, but at a fraction of the cost. We interviewed him about the whole thing.
When did the idea come to you to enter a series of times?
I actually had it first in 2012. I was looking at the Fringe programme and racking my head over how to get value for money out of it, when I noticed the pricing structure for shows doing shorter runs at the festival. So that year I had 7 listings, but it didn't really work; most people assumed I was an idiot for doing 7 different shows (it was actually only 4 different shows). On a side note my good friend Mr Barry Ferns had the same idea that year and listed 5 different shows together, but he admitted to me it also didn't really work.
With interest in free shows at the Edinburgh Fringe growing every year, we decided to interview Alex Petty, who runs Laughing Horse, about applying to the Free Festival.
How do applications for the Free Festival work?
We start taking applications through the Free Festival Website in December (www.freefestival.co.uk), where there are listings and technical specifications of all of our venues for performers to browse, and an online form that gets all of the information we need from performers about them, and their shows to us.
What is your ultimate flyering technique?
I decided that handing out as many flyers as possible was both boring and pointless and so developed a mildly illegal but extremely effective way of my own. I pick either one person out of a group or a lone wanderer and start a conversation. It would usually go like this:
If you're interested in working at a venue for the Fringe, read this. If you're going to be performing at a venue, read this (ie, everyone read this). Rachael's got the inside track on how to pick a venue, how to keep your venue staff onside and what the festival experience is like for venue staff.
Have you been to the Fringe before, and if so, in what capacity?
I first came to the Fringe in 2011 with my university who bring up about 60 first years every year in a theatre company called Z Theatre Company. I came up for 2 weeks and acted in a pretty mediocre play, but got to experience the Fringe and loved it! In 2012 I worked for Pleasance as crew in 10 Dome, then came back in 2013 and ran it.
We connected with Chris Harcum, a Fringe first-timer, over Twitter. He generously answered a few questions about his first time at the Fringe after coming from New York with his solo performance, American Gun Show.
You're based in the US: why did you decide to bring a show to Edinburgh?
I’m an actor and playwright, and I run a theater company in New York City called Elephant Run District. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is something I’ve wanted to do for a number of years to become a better artist and producer. I also wanted to raise my company’s profile. I think of the Fringe as the Olympics of culture and I’ve wanted to experience what that was like. The piece we took was a solo show called American Gun Show. It was a challenging and controversial thinking person’s comedy.
At Cracking the Fringe, our aim is to get you the best advice, so we went to a Fringe lettings agent for all the best tips about finding accommodation in Edinburgh, as well as his tips as a long-time Edinburgh resident.
When's the best time to start looking for accommodation in Edinburgh?
Obviously, the sooner the better (I guess February is a good time to put out some feelers) but remember your first priority is to get your venue sorted (which practically speaking will probably be from March onwards). Once you’ve sorted your venue, sorted out personnel for your show and secured most of the funding then you’re ready to contact us. New properties do come up all the way up to the start of the festival but prices don’t necessarily drop and the choice gets more limited.
Knowing shit-all about design ourselves, we asked one Tom Hyatt to share his most important tips for designing a Fringe poster and poster.
How do you go about coming up with ideas for posters/flyers?
Poster design is a great opportunity to balance form and function; it's like architecture! You look to make something that works simply as an aesthetic experience, but also successfully performs another function - in the case of posters it's delivering information and selling a show. Personally speaking, my taste is to try to achieve the latter by way of the former as best I can.