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 venues are most sought-after? Why?
The Free Sisters, The Counting House and Espionage are always the most sought after venues – I think as they are the big multi-room venues they are seen as the venues that have the most buzz about them, and they are all located right in the middle of the ‘Fringe area’ of Edinburgh. The Free Sisters and Counting House have six performance spaces each, and Espionage four performance spaces.
In the last couple of years with its courtyard and outdoor food & bars the Free Sisters is always the most favourite, many people have said that is seen as the Pleasance Courtyard of free venues.
When should potential shows start contacting you to discuss becoming part of the Free Festival?
Interested performers can contact us at any time for an informal chat about shows, usually an email is the best way, and then the formal application process starts in earnest at the end of December. We usually end up having a good few conversations during one Fringe about the next one with interested performers!
What are some common mistakes people make when applying for a slot?
Not being flexible – only applying for one venue/time. This doesn’t help us when trying to fit a programme together. We ask people to supply several choices of room and times, and often they will just put a single choice
Not being realistic – newer acts and unknowns applying for prime time in big rooms; performers that are realistic certainly end up with more of a chance of getting a space
Not telling us what we need to know – Amongst other things we ask for a description of the show, the performers and supporting documents (e.g. scripts, videos, preview dates) so we can work out if the show is good and will work for us; we ask for technical specifications (so we can make sure the performance space would work for them); we ask for a marketing plan to see how serious they are in producing their show. If some or all of these are missing, or the information is vague it certainly doesn’t help (e.g. Show Description: “Comedy Show”; Tech Specs: “A mic”; Marketing; “some flyers”) it makes them look like they have put no thought into it, and are going to make little effort in producing and marketing the show!
Is there anyone who shouldn't be applying for the Free Festival?
We like to take applications from everyone – you can always find a surprise hit from a complete unknown coming up with a brilliant idea, but in general performers less likely to succeed are:
If we think the performer is trying to do more than they are capable of – new comedians trying to do hour shows before doing four handers/two handers; someone writing their first play who hasn’t already written it by January. Performers need to be realistic about what they are capable of.
Anyone who has never been to Edinburgh before for the Fringe, even to visit – it is usually these performers that are unaware of what is involved, and how different and stressful producing shows in Edinburgh is to anywhere else in the world.
Anyone who thinks they can do a show without registering with the Fringe – it shows an act is not serious about the Fringe or their production as they are not interested in arts industry/press/media/support/opportunities, and they are not interested in investing in marketing for their show.
Tips on flyer design?
Striking image on the front, with show title and good quotes/reviews – all the detailed information on the back.
Make it professional – it needs to look good and stand out with 3,000 other shows flyers in Edinburgh. Get a designer to put together, don’t do it yourself.
Proof reading is the most important thing – always surprised at the number of flyers that have information missing (start times, venue, venue number, location etc)
Tips for surviving Fringe Flu?
Daily Smoothie to get the vitamin intake you just don’t get from deep fried offal and chips!
Favourite place in Edinburgh?
The Meadows – chill out and have a quiet lunch away from the madness
Where do you go to relax?
Portobello is always a favourite when the weather is good – nice beach, few nice places to eat, and is a much more relaxed than central Edinburgh. Feels like you are on holiday from the Fringe.
The Shore in Leith. Very close, just off the bottom of Leith Walk – Some nice restaurants, quiet during the day, and a good break from the Fringe chaos.
The Meadows (see above!)
Favourite Fringe moment?
The final night of Late’n’Live when it was in its old venue on the Cowgate (the last Fringe before it burnt down) – ending the festival with Daniel Kitson, Johnny Vegas, Adam Hills and many others arsing around on stage, all in top form and dealing with the old raucous Late’n’Live audience topped up by loads of drunk comedians. That was, I think, the third year of me coming up to the Fringe and it made me realise how great and addictive the Fringe can be. Sadly Late’n’Live has never been the same after that and its move to Teviot.
How do you deal with post-Fringe blues?
Most years I end up booking a holiday straight after the Fringe – it helps with the blues and also the recovery at the same time.
Follow Alex @AlexPetty2