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Fringe Artists Handbook: Introduction

Updated: Feb 14

Edinburgh's Royal Mile -  a street crowded with street performers and audiences watching them. One performer stands on a tight-rope.
Edinburgh's Royal Mile - Kerryanne Hewlett 2023

Welcome, Fringe Artist! First-timer or old-timer, welcome and congratulations. You’ve embraced that your artistic voice is completely unique to you and are looking to get it out there on your own terms.

‘Oh, artist? But I do comedy, I’m no artist’. Shut up, you’re an artist too! I’m sorry to break it to you, but comedy is also art. Just one that often gets undermined, and we all need to do better at valuing the skill and talent that is required to do it.

When you’re an independent artist who wants to participate in Edinburgh Fringe and other festivals, there is a lot of discourse to dissuade you from doing that.

You’re not middleclass so won’t find the money. You’re not at a Russell-group university with a pre-established society. You’re not a student at all, so would be completely out of place. There’s over 3,000 Edinburgh shows available, why would anyone want to see yours?

Whilst I’m going to debunk a lot of these concerns, you wouldn’t be an idiot for having them. For one, it does cost a lot of money. In Edinburgh particularly, the accommodation crisis is an unavoidable issue that does make it genuinely difficult for artists to access the festival. Worse still, it makes it difficult for the audience to stay. I know of several cases of people staying in Glasgow, and commuting to Edinburgh for a daytrip.

Yet, despite all the listed issues presenting themselves to me at some point, I still managed to get myself to Edinburgh. It took me over two years to save for our first run, but I made it happen. I am working class, I didn’t get into a ‘top tier’ university that gave me any support, but I got there.

My theatre company Biscuit Barrel Comedy has now completed four full runs of Edinburgh Fringe since 2018. We had humble beginnings performing in a thirty-seat venue, whilst also having perhaps the best summer of my life. Cut to 2023, and we had a ninety-seat theatre at Gilded Balloon Teviot and sold over 1,700 tickets. For this year, our total box office gross is valued at almost £25,000.

Persistence has been key to our growing success. Whilst there’s every chance you could rock up on your first year and explode into the next Fleabag, you cannot plan for that. It’s about going up there and getting stuff wrong, so you can progressively whittle down what NOT to do. Through building on our show’s success each consecutive time, we have worked our way through the Fringe circuit and got to the place we wanted to be.

In an upcoming entry of this blog, I will go through methods of fundraising that can help you get to Edinburgh. Crowdfunding, shows, sponsorships etc. However, that’s not exactly how I did it. In fact, whilst we did put on shows on our campus to raise money, a lot of it also came directly from my side-job's wages. It’s not something I would advise, but I cannot get away from the fact that it is just part of my story.

There is no one way of becoming a successful Fringe artist, just as much as measuring ‘success' itself varies person-to-person. I am not famous, nor do I have an agent. However, my production was attended by enough people to pay both myself and a team of six people a decent earnings for the month’s work that we had embarked on, as well as bring funding into the company. For me, that is a successful project.

In this blog, I am going to go through tips and background information on participating in Fringe theatre, with a particular focus on Edinburgh. I will also be discussing other festivals, as well as common concerns such as finance and getting industry attention.

Yes, over 3,000 shows go to Edinburgh every year. However, between those shows, over 2.5 million tickets are sold. There is room for you in that number.

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