A few thoughts about my slow burning relationship with the Edinburgh Festival.
I’ve just about recovered from a whistle stop visit to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at the end of last week.
Although I graduated from college with a drama degree way back in 1994 and have spent my working life in the theatre and arts sector, my first ever visit to the festival was as recently as 2010. (I decided not to join a group of friends who took a musical version of 100 Years of Solitude there just after we graduated!).
It was in 2010 that we took our production of Farm Boy to the Assembly Rooms on George Street with a great deal of success. We received the official sell-out laurels for selling 98% of available tickets and garnered a raft of great national press reviews. These were a huge help on the subsequent national tour we undertook that year.
I’ll be quite honest and say that I really didn’t like my first experience of Edinburgh. Despite the success of Farm Boy I found it a very claustrophobic place. The Royal Mile was to be avoided at all costs and not being able to walk more than a few yards without having another flyer shoved in your face was hugely frustrating. I saw some good shows, but the bottom line was, I was glad to get out and go home.
In 2011 we returned, but this time with not one but two shows. Those Magnificent Men ran at the Cowbarn on Bristo Square, part of Underbelly and How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup was at The Gilded Balloon – both prior to national tours.
Again I spent five or six days there overseeing our own shows. We were working hard to sell them both; scouring for reviews, constantly reprinting stickers to attach to flyers and posters and convincing people wherever we went that ours were the ‘not to be missed’ shows of 2011.
I had approached my time at the festival with trepidation, based on my first experience but I was much better armed for this second visit. Again, I got to see a lot of other work and with more colleagues there to share the experience with it was a far more enjoyable week. I’d go as far as to say I had a (mostly) good time.
New Perspectives were planning to take a show to the festival again this year, but circumstances meant that in the end we decided not to. Instead a number of our staff visited at different points, just to see a selection of the work on offer. This is hugely important for anyone working in theatre. The chance to see what our peers are producing is crucial both to individual staff and company development.
My own visit started at lunchtime on Thursday 23rd August and ended at 4pm on Saturday 25th. A perfect amount of time; 48 hours, twelve performances (it would have been 13 save for an unavoidable delay to the last performance that would have meant I missed my train). I saw some real gems; from companies I’ve never heard of to events by those travelling up as part of larger programmes of work such as Old Vic New Voices or Escalator East to Edinburgh. I also managed to catch up with colleagues from Nottingham and the wider rural touring sector, and before I knew it I was on the train back to Lincolnshire.
Maybe short and sweet is the way to play it. Don’t give yourself too much time between shows to think?
It was a boon going towards the end of the festival as I planned a programme largely based on the recommendations of friends, colleagues and from the wider world of Twitter! It helped not having to worry about tickets for the half price hut, or whether we’d fit that four star review on a sticker or whether the rain had caused our posters to fall from the wall. I could just pound the streets of the city going from show to show.
And I’ll let you into a little secret. I loved it. I am a convert. I am already anticipating next year whether I go just to see work or whether we decide to take a show there. It’s taken a while, but I’ve been well and truly won over.
Long live the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.