The Edinburgh Fringe is the world's largest arts festival, and the 72nd edition runs in the Scottish capital from 3-27 August 2018. Here, we answer 6 questions from Curtain Call team member Emily O'Shea, who is about to embark on her first Fringe. We cover everything from finding tickets to promoting your show.
1. There are so many shows, how can you decide what to see?
There are indeed a lot of shows - 3548 at the last count - so firstly, forget the idea that you can see everything (this feat is a logistical impossibility anyway). And beware booking too much in advance; you want to leave enough space in your schedule so that you can book up the hot shows that inevitably rise to the surface once reviews start appearing and word of mouth starts spreading. As a performer you will likely have a venue pass, enabling you to see everything in your venue for free. Make the most of it, and try to meet the companies afterwards to encourage them to come and see your show. This artist camaraderie is key to getting those crucial early bums on seats. Looking beyond your own venue, the Fringe programme is an obvious place to start, but with so many listings it can be difficult to narrow down. So look out for the free Fringe publications that can be found around the venues - eg Fest, Three Weeks, The Skinny - which contain features and reviews to help you decide. And word of mouth will inevitably be a key factor; it won't be long until your flatmates and company members start stoking your Fringe FOMO...
2. How do I get tickets?
Getting tickets to the Edinburgh Fringe is easy; you can book online (or via the app), at the Fringe box office on the Royal Mile or via one of the many venue box offices. Keep an eye out for 2-4-1 deals, half price tickets and even freebies that companies will often dish out early on to generate word of mouth. If you're a participant, besides your venue pass you may be able to offer reciprocal deals to other companies, enabling you to see a broad range of work for free. Some shows will also let you in last minute if they have capacity and you show your accreditation. But be courteous, and always try to spread the word for them, both online and off, in return for a free ticket.
3. What's the best place to network?
The Edinburgh Fringe is a great place to meet fellow artists, as well as agents and producers who could prove to be invaluable contacts. A good place to start is at your own venue, as mentioned above. Hang out in the bar (if your venue has one), chat to the other companies, and initiate as many conversations as you can. Major networking hotspots include the Pleasance Courtyard and Dome (especially Brookes' Bar, if you can get in). Other VIP options include the Gilded Balloon Loft bar, which tends to fill up with big names in the small hours, and you should also check out the many bars around Underbelly and Assembly Rooms. The Traverse is a key theatre venue where artists mix readily with audience members, and Summerhall is always teeming with theatrical movers and shakers. But don't stress it too much; you'll find that networking happens organically over the course of the festival - go with the flow and you can't go far wrong.
Quick tip: good old fashioned business cards are a great way of passing on your contact details in a hurry.
4. What are the best places to eat/drink?
This is a biggie, and we could potentially fill an entire article on this topic alone. There are always new places popping up and you will invariably find your own little cafe/bar that no-one else has mentioned. But a few solid recommendations include:
Mosque Kitchen - handily situated on Nicolson Square Gardens, this is one of the few places that offers a delicious hot meal (curry, served on disposable plates) for under a fiver. It has a distinctly 'school canteen' vibe that is just right for the febrile Fringe.
Baked Potato Shop - just off the Royal Mile on Cockburn Street, this tiny baked potato emporium offers one of the largest feeds in Edinburgh. The portions are gargantuan and there is a filling for everyone, from hummus to haggis.
Lebowskis - located near the Traverse, this Glasgow import set up shop in Edinburgh 10 years ago and is a great option for a sit-in meal. Themed around the eponymous film, the fare is suitably American in flavour from the Dude cocktails to the giant burgers.
However, a word of warning: If you're staying for the whole Fringe, your budget is going to suffer if you eat out every day. Try to be prudent by planning packed lunches and cook-at-home options; or to save time, combine the two.
Top tip: Pack two decent-sized tupperware boxes and portable cutlery, and always carry a water bottle.
5. What's the general timeline of a day at the fringe?
This is a bit of a 'piece of string' question, as it very much depends on your show schedule. If you're performing at midday, for example, you'll need to be up reasonably early to promote and prepare for the day's performance. If you have an evening show you can afford the luxury of a lie-in but will need to stay energised (and, needless to say, sober) as the day goes on. Either way, try to work in a few rest days, where you don't go too mad seeing shows and socialising. The Edinburgh Fringe very much a marathon not a sprint, and rewards those who take things steadily rather than burning out in the first week. There are many lovely walks to be taken around the city, which can be a good way to get some headspace and recharge the batteries.
6. How do I get people to come and see my show?
Ah, the million dollar question! The truth is there is no guaranteed way to find an audience, but there are certainly some tried and tested methods. Flyering is the classic, but try to avoid the 'in-yer-face' approach and instead see it as a chance to start conversations. Like any social interaction, you want to make a good impression. Make sure the venue has posters for your show on display, and also be sure to use any social media channels you have at your disposal. Good reviews will help, so be sure to send invites round the major publications. And as mentioned above, network as much as you can with fellow artists to help build word of mouth. Remember, promotion at the Edinburgh Fringe is a two-way street; if you help others to sell their shows, they're much more likely to help you.
Top tip: Read our article dedicated to the subject of promoting your show at the Edinburgh Fringe!
Check out Emily's show, Hillary's Kitchen, from 20-25 August at theSpace @ Surgeon's Hall.
If you're involved in the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe and would like to blog for us, please get in touch
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