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Blog: A Fringe Society Rebuttal

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When Steve and I first arrived in Edinburgh we BAULKED at an article in threeweeks by a member of the Fringe Society which basically said that anyone just doing the Fringe for FUN was a LOONIE, and then went on to advise people to do everything that I think is WRONG with the fringe and, INDEED, Professional Corporate Theatre and Comedy in GENERAL.

On Steve's suggestion I emailed threeweeks and offered to write a REBUTTAL. They said "yes", but never got around to publishing it - I can only assume it was TOO MUCH for them, it is the ONLY reason, surely, why they wouldn't? If The Man thinks he can keep such THORTS down that easily he is WRONG, and so here IS that very article:

If This Is Sanity I'd Rather Be Nuts

Leafing through the first ThreeWeeks weekly edition I was shocked to read an advice piece by Alister O’Loughlin, a trustee of The Fringe Society, stating that the Fringe should be seen primarily as a three week long industry conference for maximising networks, seeing shows similar to your own in order to assess the competition, and using every opportunity to hustle for work. "No sane person", he said, "would pay out the money and put in the effort it takes to perform at the Fringe for a month purely for their own enjoyment."

Goodness me, if that's sanity I'd rather be nuts. The article reminded me of the advice "experts" always give to young bands – stop larking about and knuckle down to your instrument. Concentrate on being competent and developing your haircut and maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll let you play Guilfest. "I didn't get where I am today by having fun", they say, "and I don’t like the idea of anyone else getting away with it.”

All right, there are some people who do want to do this as a career and there’s plenty of opportunities for advancement, but surely the Fringe was originally set up to be an upstart alternative to all that, challenging the mainstream festival with a bunch idealists and eccentrics, innovators and anarchists coming together to bring fresh new alternatives and, where possible, get drunk together?

So let’s look beyond the management company comedians and embrace the loonies, the teenage theatre troupes, the international students, the mid-life crises and the Actual Scottish People who've finally cracked and decided to have a go themselves. I came here to be amused and confused, to have extended lie-ins, beer for breakfast, wander down the Royal Mile accumulating flyers, and thoroughly enjoy myself. Are these the ravings of a madman?

Or is the real crackpot the person whose sole aim is to find fame and fortune at the Fringe? There are over 20,000 performers here this year, and there's just not that many CBeebies shows that need presenting. The odds are massively, massively against the fame-hunters, but those of us who came to eat, drink, and be merry are pretty much guaranteed to succeed.

So my advice, from someone with several decades experience of having a good time not making any money, is to grasp the true, original, spirit of The Fringe and enjoy yourself. Do a show for your heart, not your wallet, see other people doing the same and we'll all have a festival that's as exciting, unexpected, and fun as it was always meant to be.

And if you've got time to come and see my show, please do - I might even give you my business card.

(SIDEBAR: i do have business cards. Nobody's ever asked for one!)

posted 31/8/2011 by MJ Hibbett

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