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Edinburgh Fringe: A response to ‘An alternative to the alternative?’

The variety and talent displayed in the Fringe Festival outweighs any worries about elitist management. A response to Isabella Kerr’s ‘An Alternative to the Alternative?’.


Having spent the last four summers working at the Edinburgh Fringe and loving every minute of it, I can’t fathom the idea that there are people out there who aren’t as crazy about it as I am! I can’t quite put my finger on what makes it so great; maybe it’s the incredible buzz it brings to the city, or the fact that Edinburgh during August is a completely unrivalled celebration of the arts, with seven internationally renowned festivals taking place.

With the enormous growth of the Free Fringe over the last few years, performing at the Fringe has become even more accessible by lowering the costs of taking a show up – I’ve even heard tales of people making more money at the Free Fringe than at a traditional venue! Acts are able to perform for simply the cost of an ad in the program, and punters are willing to take risks if they don’t have to buy a ticket, instead just leaving money at the end. The fact that this year’s Best Newcomer Award was won by John Kearns for his show at the Free Fringe demonstrates that it’s no longer simply the Fringe’s baby brother.

Although it’s well-known that many acts go home having made a loss, the Fringe can still act as a springboard for work for the rest of the year. TV executives and producers of other festivals across the globe scout out new talent that they can invest in and help to tour around the world. The prospect of work for the rest of the year makes the risk worthwhile in the eyes of many performers, as a successful Edinburgh can make your career in this industry.

Even the suggestion that artists are being exploited by “posh English blokes” makes my blood boil. Although men may be at the forefront on the stage, increasingly they are being directed, produced and publicised by a group of formidable women. I’ve spent the last three years working at the Gilded Balloon (one of the “Big Four” venues of the Fringe) where women outnumber men ten to one in management positions, and to me it seems as though women are making the choice to remain offstage.

Despite this, there’s definitely been a female comedy boom in the last few years, with Aisling Bea winning “So You Think You’re Funny?” (an award for new stand-up comedy talent that has launched the careers of many comedians, including Peter Kay and Dylan Moran) in 2012, and Bridget Christie winning the highly-coveted Foster’s Comedy Award this year for her comedic take on feminism.

Whatever your cup of entertainment tea, you can be sure to find it in Edinburgh during August. The Camden Fringe might be growing, but for now it’s still only full of previews and acts warming up for their month in Edinburgh, something which doesn’t seem likely to change in the future.


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