Edinburgh Fringe…preparations and virgins

If it was pre-Oscars everyone would be scrabbling for the best designer frock to hold their creative assets. But it isn’t. Its pre-Edinburgh and everyone is trying to ensure that their creative crown jewels are well and truly wrapped within the bountiful goodness of a prime venue. If you’ve never been to the Edinburgh Festival, never thought of the Festival, or never heard of Edinburgh – then I speak in tongues…sorry.

As the Pleasance Theatre team catch sleep after the Comic Relief madness of Mark Watson, they awake to a pile of applications for spaces in their hallowed display cases. Assembly Productions, Underbelly, C_venues, Gilded Balloon, and Space are playing with the available baubles to see what best fit their snug fashion designs for 2015.

Writers, Directors, Companies, Artists of every nation and experience are hoping for a space in the folds of their gowns. If not seeking a display with the curated folds they are looking for the best available Free Fringe slot – where even the free fringe battle for the crown jewels. Its haggis eats haggis out there.

By Fringe early deadline, or Fringe expensive deadline, it will be all over. There will be winners and losers, prime slot cheering and new slot challenges.

I’ve spent a day meeting companies who are seeking to understand the creative alchemy which is Edinburgh – a playwright, an international songbird promoter, a respected musician, and a new theatre company. Each unaware of the other. Each seeking the endorsement of one of the venues of choice.

If you are reading this and there is any sense of resonance, then can I recommend Mark Fisher’s excellent “Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide” and the Fringe downloads, and of course my book “Your Life in Theatre” which is filled with glorious opinion/wisdom.

I have challenged one Edinburgh Festival Fringe Virgin today to write a weekly blog from now to August about what they hear, what they imagine, and what it might feel like to lose yourself, for the very first time, amongst Edinburgh dark satanic venues. I can’t wait to re-read his weekly musings and then the first one or two he writes when he gets there.

I first did Edinburgh in 1976, sleeping in the venue because we couldn’t afford insurance. The drapes and the rats kept me company. I moved up to the International Festival with a press team of 20+ and about as many photocopiers. Then to the Traverse, the Pleasance, and creating my own venue complex.   I am still overwhelmed when I arrive in Edinburgh each summer.

Why I am writing all this. Well… I am old. I have done it and I have the scars and the tales to tell.   So have countless other old greybeards (and not too old slightly receding grey hairs).   ADVICE…remember… we have stories to tell and help to offer…we are many of us still alive to tell the tale…ask us.

If you plan to take a show to Edinburgh:

  1. go there first, so you know the “other planet” that is Edinburgh
  2. take your best work
  3. know why you are there
  4. know who you want in your front row, and why
  5. stay more sober than those you are networking with
  6. have business cards so you can all remember in the morning
  7. grab any free talk/network to meet unexpected people
  8. it is a marathon not a sprint – breathe, take time out, yoga, stop
  9. budget carefully – know how much you could lose
  10. remember everyone wants you to be a success (especially the venues)
  11. eat wisely – dark rooms, alcohol , haggis neeps and tatties are not enough
  12. box office staff love fruit even more than chocolates (they need vitamins)
  13. say thank you to everyone – especially tec team
  14. talk to anyone – they may be useful in the future (but do it sober)
  15. and there are people like me…who love to be asked advice

After you have all found venues, and the programme has gone to bed, I look forward to organizing an April CGO pre-Edinburgh Gathering where those who are directing, performing in, writing, producing, or marketing shows that I know about can come together. It is the greatest show on earth. It can be a lonely place. Working together makes it a great show, and a friendly place.

Good luck to all those who are knee deep in schedules for spaces, times, companies, and budgets across all venues. I know your pain. It is a glorious job – but knackering this month.

See you on the Glorious 5th





  1. All great advice Chris, but surprised the suggestion of providing a handout/programme doesn’t make your top 15. Have you tired of beating that drum? Look forward to seeing you up there as ever. K

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