I have often written over the years about the special club which was formed one rainy morning on the banks of Derwentwater unbeknownst to the illustrious guests gathered there. Dame Judi Dench may have been centre stage, but around her, on the edges of the space, just behind the chains and the suits gathered to meet her, there were four of us with rolled umbrellas ready to escort the stars as needed through the rain. It was there, twenty years ago, that Prince Philip was appointed Patron of this club, and all front-of-house managers and arts support workers the world over were given automatic honorary membership. A club for those who may be off-stage or at least off-centre, in support of the stars of the show.
I’d like to dedicate this blog to a group of new members, appointed to the hallowed membership for exemplary service during the Battle of Edinburgh in the year of our lord 2017.
Behind every one of the 3000 plus companies of theatrical giants centre stage at Edinburgh Fringe there is a small team of staff at a special centre dedicated to their wellbeing. Fringe Central is where they can hide and re-group. Where they can find a stapler and photocopier to append stars to their uniform posters, and where they can find a myriad support structure, seminars and workshops to enrich their career progression.
It is hard to believe the dedication of this team of Fringe Central staff who are there calmly answering questions and directing creative traffic from morning till night, and then maybe, if they are lucky and still have the stamina, going out to see one or two shows. In addition to supporting the performers they seem to have an ever present calm smile and welcome for all of us promoters and lanyard specialists who offer workshops and gatherings for the performers. It is a pleasure to be there and find a calm spot to offer our skills and services.
So thank you to them and all those other unsung heroes of the Three Steps Behind Club. You may not know you are members, but if you read this blog you will understand a little more of the roles which offer instant membership.
This week I have been doing my membership refresher course, before going to teach a Masters in the subject (masquerading as a creative producers’ course). My role this week has been to drive a mix of creative artists from their digs to their workshop morning, lunch, and evening. Do a little gentle tea and coffee preparation. Make a quick unscheduled run to the doctors for someone, and push a very full trolley around the supermarche on the twice weekly feeding-the-five-thousand shopping trip. My job – to help make sure these 9 artists and their three creative leaders can do the best work they can in the space and time they have available. I love the anonymity of the process, and the space between when I can get some of my own freelance work done in the glorious setting of an idyllic valley in France. We members need to check-in to be sure we are still eligible for this very special club.
For those who go to the theatre, head around galleries and concert halls, or wonder who is behind the door market admin in any centre of the arts and creativity anywhere in the world – just look out for those who are just there to make things flow and allow performers and audience to meet with cheers and glory. I like our virtual club, especially when no-one knows its there.
But finally, on a serious note, thank you to all at Fringe Central and the whole of the Fringe office for making that meeting of performers and audience possible. See you next year.