Liam Rudden: Baffling world of life on the Fringe

Tony Carpenter and Philip Hutchinson as Laurel and Hardy on Edinburgh's High Street during the Fringe Festival. Pic:  Jane Barlow
Tony Carpenter and Philip Hutchinson as Laurel and Hardy on Edinburgh's High Street during the Fringe Festival. Pic: Jane Barlow
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IT’S around this time of year, believe it or not, that I start getting requests for advice about appearing at the Fringe - usually from first timers. Too soon? Not really. Venues are currently vying to complete their programming, there are tickets already on sale, and the ‘early bird’ deadline, which guarantees a discounted entry in the Fringe programme, is fast approaching.

‘How do we guarantee audiences?’ is perhaps the most asked questions.

‘You can’t...’, is the simple answer.

Fringe folklore has long maintained the average audience during August is a meagre six. Sometimes, it’s not even that.

The biggest problem when talking to newbies is explaining the sheer scale of the Festival; that there are around 3000 performances a day. It’s such a staggering number that, until they arrive amid the ‘creative mayhem,’ it’s almost impossible to imagine.

My first gambit, usually, is to paint as bleak an image as possible and put them off: ‘If you can’t afford to lose your investment, don’t come.’

Very few make a profit on the Fringe; those coming from overseas, with the added expense of flights and accommodation as well as production costs, have next to no chance.

The nay saying seldom works, their passion to play ‘Edinburgh’, the world’s largest arts festival is all consuming.

Sadly, many who come leave disillusioned, never to return - not good for the health of the Fringe, which has already seen some high profile favourites eschew the Capital, come August. Venues andthe council really need to come up with a more favourable model.

So, though for three weeks (and a bit) the Fringe might be the most exciting place on the planet, and while I’d still encourage folk to do ‘Edinburgh’ at least once, just don’t come expecting venues paved with gold. On the other hand, one of those six in the audience might just be the person to launch your career.