Welcome to Edinburgh: Five tips for surviving this year’s #EdFringe

In Edinburgh Festival, Features, Festivals, Inspiring people, Opinion, Scotland by Chris GradyLeave a Comment

The morning after my first day at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and I already feel inspired, welcomed, excited by theatre, blind-dated, connected to old friends, pleased by the work of new friends, and slightly blurry from a few drinks with mates. So a typical day for many of the thousands of others who started their Fringe yesterday.

I only saw four shows yesterday and used the rest of the time to check in with venues, pick up my tickets for the other 30 or so shows, have a couple of surgeries with artists opening shows here, and say hello to some fellows long-haul travellers.

TIP 1 FOR EDFRINGE: Carry your flyers (or your business cards) at all times. As I got off the bus at 9am yesterday I encountered a performer I knew. He was excited about his show opening today. He didn’t have a flyer – now all I remember is him mentioning it was playing at the Pleasance.   Another solo performer, later at night, didn’t have a flyer and suggested I google the show. Remember we may only get access to the internet in our digs at 1am and the chance of my remembering who I’ve met, what they told me, is slim. So give me something – a flyer, a business card, a piece of paper with your show/name on. Presuming you want me to write about your show, or even see your show.

First meeting was with dark clown artist Narin Oz with her show #DirtyWoman. She came for a surgery to explore how to get the right people in to see her show which is 20+ performances of work in progress, as she builds the power of her creation for national and international touring, and returning to EdFringe 2018 with the finished work. Usual advice is “only bring your best work” to Edinburgh, but here she is being very clear – she is showing a work in development with all the messy bits (and with mud there will definitely be messy bits), and her clown will carry us/you all through the experience. It is great to meet someone so passionate about her work, who is already “on it” with getting the right people connected. She knows exactly the London venue she will showcase the work for industry backers after Edinburgh. “Who do you want on the front row of your show each day?” I asked – a producer – someone who might be interested in working with me to produce the show. So I asked her for a small advert which I will put up for her around my networks, but I thought I’d share here:

Hello everyone!

My name is Narin Oz and I am looking for a producer to produce my show #DirtyWoman. At the moment the show is work in progress (showing at the Ed Fringe Festival) which will grow throughout the fringe with the potential to be showcased in London upon return at either Museum of Comedy and Soho Theatre. The aim is to tour England, America, Canada and Australia and to do fringe festivals. 

Feel free to come along this bizarre journey if you are at The Fringe. The address is: The Cuckoos Nest 69 Home Street (Basement) Venue 106 (free fringe) 4:15pm 3rd-27th August.  I have already played The Cavendish Arms and have had some marvellous feed back. Please take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y4332D4vsk Please feel free to contact me on narinoz [at] rocketmail [dot] com.

Lots of love Narin Oz www.narinoz.com Thank you very much. 

After a quick check in to learn about the new musical theatre awards which are planned to replace the ones which Andy Barnes and I created 10 years ago, and a quick plug of a show to the amazing Mervyn Stutter, it was off to my first show “Brothers” at Underbelly (Med Quad 12:10) which is written and produced by Piers Cottee-Jones who is joining the MA in Creative Producing at Mountview in September. In support of Mind and Calm, it explores five male university flatmates and the challenges they all face with surviving the world of study pressure, life pressure, peer pressure, date pressure, and brother rivalry. Many many big ideas touched on in a play which blends monologue, physicality, song, situation tragi-comedy, and lads drama. First preview [see picture above], appreciative audience, and for me (at the very least) there is one piece of storytelling at the heart of the piece which was worth the price of the ticket alone – a look back at the 14year old self of a bullied lad at school. I would love to single out the fine actor who delivered this piece with heart and authenticity, but I don’t (as might be expected at a preview) have a programme with names. So go buy a ticket, see the show, learn more about the real challenges of young mental health, feel how the company grow as an ensemble as they feed of the audience and get a sense of EdFringe, and pick up a programme to tell me who was in it.  [And a PS – I gather Piers would be pleased to speak with any school or 6th form interested in staging the play themselves, as a way of opening the debate across a community of young people – get in touch with him]

TIP 2 For Edinburgh: Have a programme/cast list available at the door. I saw 5 shows and 16 actors and 3 pieces of new writing and work by 5 directors and producers, and I can’t name check them here in my blog because there were no programmes. An A6 piece of paper with your names, contact details for the producer/company, website or facebook page, twitter handle, and credits is all that is needed. Most people come to Edinburgh to be noticed, and to get an audience by word of mouth – help me (and ALL your audiences) to do the job you need us to do.

Then I was just wandering the Pleasance Courtyard and caught up with director and co-founder of Three’s Company, Yaz Al Shaater. He is up directing Joe Sellman-Leava in Monster for Worklight Theatre. [Here I can name check because I have a flyer beside me www.worklighttheatre.co.uk. I just had time to grab a ticket and see the show, unexpectedly, because I was there. Again first preview of a new work – and wow it packs a punch and shows the skill of Joe as a multiple role player at times almost psychotic split personality as he channels Mike Tyson and Patrick Stewart along with the Bard to deliver a true(ish) story of a new play Joe has previously been cast in, and explores violence and masculinity. My first encounter with Joe’s work and I understand why the Scotsman called his last piece Labels “polished, personal, & provocative”. I suspect reviewers will have much to cheer when they get to Pleasance Upstairs at 3.15pm. Joe is also playing Labels later in the fringe – two shows of intensity a day is tough for any actor.

TIP 3 For Edinburgh – Take care of yourself – it’s a marathon not a sprint. Whether you are an actor, a venue worker, a producer, a reviewer/promoter, or an audience member, Edinburgh is like a different world from all others in August. Remember vegetables and fruit are good for you. Sleep is allowed. Cobble foot is a thing. And drinking plenty of fluids does not necessarily mean Tenants. Edinburgh has swimming pools, great places to walk, space to meditate, churches and buildings to find sanctuary, and history/fund stuff to explore that is nothing to do with theatre.

And now a quick trip to C Venues for The Improv Musical. This time celebrating the involvement of another MA Creative Producer for next year Ellie Fitz-Gerald who is with her company everyday at 5.20 creating a new musical before your very eyes. A company of enthusiastic and quick-witted student performers took many of the ideas from the audience – especially a brilliantly involving young lad out with his family who was over the moon to be involved in the creation of a show. This afternoon I shared in the creation of “Don’t Rain on my Tardis” a 1920s desert musical featuring The Doctor, a Darlek, the Great Gatsby and a tea party with the scorpions. If Showstopper – the gold star of their craft – are looking for some emerging “yes” improvisers then there are a couple of great recruits in this company. [No programme so I can’t credit anyone]

TIP 4 For Edinburgh – Who Do You Want on Your Front Row ? – you can’t market your shows to everyone, and so really knowing why you are in Edinburgh, what success will look like, who you want to notice you, and what you want to be taking away from this waterlogged but ever extraordinary summer – important questions. My suggestion to so many companies and performers is to choose 5 different people/characters/tribes that you want to attract. Be very very specific. So for Improv it might be “a tourist/local family with 2 11-13 year old kids who love the theatre” (and will pay for their tickets so the performers can eat). It might be a Showstopper or another improve company that is interested in new talent, especially if they are based in (say) Manchester where one of the company really want to be based and make their way as a performer. Be very specific. What other shows might they be going to see. Answer that question and it helps with exit flyering. Where might they be when not in a show. Answering that might take you to a particular bar/courtyard. And then you can talk with them about your show and your aspirations.

And finally on a quiet Fringe day I went to see a new show “Dates at the Speed of Sound”  directed by an old school friend, Julian Garner, which is part of the Start to Finnish season. Two quick blind date plays which were painful in their uncomfortableness, and joyful in their comedy…and then we were all invited to experience real blind dating. Beautifully organized by the Finnish producers we each had 1 minute to meet around 13 of our fellow audience members and chat. Now whether real sparks connected across the table in that time for others, I will never know. I did exchange cards with one creative, and learned about another show I want to try and catch. I enjoyed the experience which is the absolute ultimate realization of my final tip.

TIP 5 For Edinburgh – Talk to Everyone ? Ask them about themselves ? This is not a month to be quiet, shy, and hide away, hoping the right people will come to your show. It is a time to be out there trying to find the right people to talk to. Everyone with a lanyard is in Edinburgh for a reason – to see shows, be excited, and spot something special. To start a conversation ask them a question – what have you seen ?, What show are you doing ?, What brings you to Edinburgh (if not wearing a lanyard). Just start talking to people in queues, at tables, in theatres (before the lights go down) and on the bus (when sober). 14 people in 14 minutes at a speed dating may be excessive, but I did meet some lovely people.

And now it is time for a drink. A gentle wander to the wonderful Storytelling Centre where they have been launching their season on the High Street/Royal Mile and where the amazing Mairi Campbell  will be sharing her show Pulse, directed by my wife Kath Burlinson, opening today (Thur 3rd) and then playing alternate days through the festival, alternating with Puppet State’s Leaf by Niggle. Two treats of shows at 5pm each day. Don’t miss

So That’s Day One of my visit to the Fringe

A quick PS – Leafleting is an art – don’t just hand them out, care for your fliers and the connection you are making to your potential customers. Talk to the people you are approaching, find out what they like, and then engage and (if appropriate) give them a leaflet. So much better if they ask for one, rather than you thrust it into their paper-recycling-hand. A couple of callouts to excellent flyer people, about shows I may or may not manage to get to: “Gutted” by Conker Group and Home at the Pleasance 2.40pm, Tobacco from Baxter Theatre in Cape Town at Assembly 12.00noon (sorry to disturb your rehearsal as I passed through and asked the way – thanks for being so welcoming), and Soft Subject (A Love Story) by Hyphen Theatre Company again Assembly at 16:25.

Until my next blog – signing off Star/Eddate 170802

Chris Grady
Chris Grady is a creative and business life coach who has worked in arts and project management for more than 30 years, running marketing departments and creating festivals and theatres in Bristol, Plymouth, Edinburgh, Buxton, Keswick, London and Bury St Edmonds. He has also run the Vivian Ellis Prize for new musicals, and written Your Life in Theatre, a careers guide for all stages of your career. He is preparing an MA for Theatre Producers with Mountview Academy for Theatre Arts. Chris blogs about arts management at www.chrisgrady.org.
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Chris Grady
Chris Grady is a creative and business life coach who has worked in arts and project management for more than 30 years, running marketing departments and creating festivals and theatres in Bristol, Plymouth, Edinburgh, Buxton, Keswick, London and Bury St Edmonds. He has also run the Vivian Ellis Prize for new musicals, and written Your Life in Theatre, a careers guide for all stages of your career. He is preparing an MA for Theatre Producers with Mountview Academy for Theatre Arts. Chris blogs about arts management at www.chrisgrady.org.