Aidan Goatley

Aidan Goatley

Why more could mean less for free Edinburgh shows

By Aidan Goatley

I have a vague memory, when I was very young, of my parents having a big argument. I remember thinking that we should all calm down and eat the dinner that was getting cold. In my defence I was four and it was a really, really good stew.

I got the same feeling today when I read about another organisation splitting from the PBH Free Fringe and declaring itself as another option for free comedy at Edinburgh.

Now the origins of the split with the Free Fringe and the Free Festival may be lost in the mists of time (as a Free Fringer of three years I’ve never found out what horrors occurred to cause the split) but this new faction seems to derive from an letter sent to PBH earlier in the year.

Now I have no idea who is behind this and to be honest I have no idea who is on the Free Fringe Committee but I do know that doing the fringe at a free venue has been a godsend. There is no way that I could possibly have been able to afford the venue costs as a new act and get where I have without it.

It did however, always feel that us newer comics just wanted to perform and any rules put towards us, seemed a bit bizarre but were rationalised as that the parents had a spat and if you nodded at the right time the grown ups would assume you knew what was going on and let you get on with it. With any luck there would also be stew.

So why am I raising my head above the parapet?

The new bunch are saying that they have several venues that are assumed to be part of the Free Fringe, have a full committed team on board and will be supported by local companies and produced a brochure going to every home in the city.

Forgive my cynicism but there are an awful lot of promises and a whole lot of questions that come from that.

I’m pretty sure that most venues that give up their space to stage free shows just want to have their rooms full and customers buying drinks. Do they know the difference between the Free Fringe, The Free Festival, The new Freestival and The Heroes of Comedy? (Who have just got on with business and made their own mark on the scene) I doubt it.

So my point is this. If you have several venues getting caught up with in-fighting, you’ll end up with acts not getting the space they expected, venues not getting the shows they need and punters going elsewhere.

The irony being that the ones who will benefit from all of this will be the paid venues, the very organisations that the free fringe is in competition with.

So if you’re a new act thinking of heading up for the first time get all the information you can and make sure your plans are not scuppered by the new parents fighting.

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Published: 7 Dec 2013

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