What moves can be made to increase diversity at the Fringe? | We asked Edinburgh comedians how the festival could attract a wider range of performers and audiences

What moves can be made to increase diversity at the Fringe?

We asked Edinburgh comedians how the festival could attract a wider range of performers and audiences

The Edinburgh Fringe is dominated by the white and the middle-class. How could we work towards widening its appeal? Some comedians share their thoughts...

Edinburgh Fringe could look to liaise with ScotRail (now owned by the Scottish Government) to keep late-night trains running (one every hour between midnight & 4am) to Musselburgh and  Glasgow allowing people (acts, tech, bar staff) to pay less in rent to be able to get home safely and affordably after late shows, networking in bars. This would help working-class acts & staff. If there was a train running to Newcastle, I'd not bother with accommodation, go home & come back up every day!  They could also reach out to more black and Asian comedy representatives (that isn't just BBC Asian Network): such as COBO, Luv Entertainment etc to try to bring more acts up. Good work has been done with BBC Asia & Brown Sauce, but more can be done.

Raul Kohli: Full Inglish, City Cafe 4.55pm

Public and private funding opportunities should be in more abundance for emerging artists. While there are grants available, there could be so much more to encourage new and alternative voices to come to the festival. Only in the growth of diversity can the Fringe continue to be a unique arts festival.
Zoe Brownstone & Dom McGovern: Tied for Second  Just The Tonic Subatomic  4:30pm

That’s like asking how do you sell an M&S chicken bhuna to anyone but white middle-class people.  It’s not to everyone’s taste and that’s OK.  A certain demographic of middle-class people like it. The same demographic of middle-class people that think mayonnaise is spicy.  And that’s OK. Not everything has to like everything. Everyone liking everything and everything  being accessible isn’t diversity. In fact it risks becoming homogeneity.   Maybe a better question is how do you make the fringe more exciting. More artistically authentic. more innovative. Maybe ask where has all the authentic culture gone. That’s maybe the question that really needs asking.  Answer that question and put the results into practice and and you’ll get a more diverse selection of performers and audience without worry about box ticking and quotas.
Becky Fury: Identity, Laughing Horse @ Bar 50, 7.45pm

Bursaries and financial prizes for low-income and diverse performers, more inclusion of community and charity run arts spaces for supporting low-income artists and just generally more organised support for low-income and diverse artists.  Outside of the Fringe, a more diverse range of acts need the same amount of stage time and support to develop their act as the more usual mainstream line-ups get. There is pressure on ‘diverse’ acts to be exceptional; otherwise there is an unfair implication that they are just a diversity booking. However, they receive less stage time and support to actually develop their skills than the pal of the resident MC who delivers the same tired act every weekend. A mainstream run of the mill lad comedian does mediocre, it's the audience's fault or it's an off night. The ‘diverse; booking does one mediocre gig and it's because they are bad at performing. There is a terrible double standard in an uneven playing field.
Ruth Hunter: The Ruth is on Fire, The Banshee Labyrinth, 5:10pm

I am a half-deaf, immigrant comedian and yet I think the diversity issue the Fringe is facing is more of a socioeconomic one rather than an ableist/sexist/racial one. People just can't afford to come up to perform OR watch. George Zacharopoulos: Wonderland, Pleasance Dome, 8:30pm

Bottom line is the financial model needs to change - with accommodation in particular as expensive as it is, there’s just no way working class creatives can do the fringe, even if they want to. Once the dial starts to shift on that, diversity will follow to an extent. The fringe is currently a very white, middle-class festival and I can see how at the moment, given the financial investment and risk involved, people from other backgrounds can’t see the appeal. Why spend thousands of pounds if you’re not seeing yourself represented there and aren’t certain there will be audiences who will engage with your work? Similarly as an audience member, why fork out to visit if you’re not sure you’ll see shows that resonate with you? If the risk is limited, I think we’ll see more people giving it a go, from all backgrounds - and once they’re more visible others will follow. That said, the Fringe is currently a difficult place to be working class, a person of colour or disabled. This needs to be coupled with deliberate support to change that - there are some grassroots organisations doing great work like Best in Class, Fringe of Colour, the Neurodiversity Review Awards. But I’d like to see the Fringe Society, venues and organisers doing more to bolster them - in platforming the conversations, creating physical spaces for underrepresented communities, making venues accessible, not programming all white lineups, and ultimately in providing these existing organisations with funding. It shouldn’t be on underrepresented groups to solve the issues they face in a system that wasn’t created with them in mind.
Kathy Maniura: Objectified, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 4.40pm

Funding for diversity, equity and inclusion scholarship programs. Diverse shows succeeding this year helps as it demonstrates an appetite for it, and keeps more people prioritizing it
Avital Ash Workshops Her Suicide Note, Monkey Barrel at The Tron at 10:05 pm

There could be a more concerted effort to make venues accessible for audiences with physical disabilities. I completely understand that some of these sites are directly built into old historical buildings and caves that do not give you a lot to work with. However, if this is the case, then maybe it's time to faze some of these more dated venues out. In recent years, we were in one of these older spaces. Unfortunately, one of our cast has severe asthma and eczema, and the combination of dust and damp would sometimes make it difficult for them to breathe, and they ended up with scarring and grazes all over their body.
Biscuit Barrel: The 69-Sketch Show, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3.40pm

I think more funds for artists will help. Workshops that showcase the creation process that leads to a show. At least then people can judge whether they want to make a show or not
Jaz Mattu Emerges, The Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, 3pm

Promoting and showcasing diverse performers and shows is a great way to attract audiences from diverse backgrounds. New audiences who haven't been to the fringe before tend to be drawn to acts that represent them.
Joe White: Ethiopian and Still Not Hungry, The Gilded Balloon Teviot 9pm

If only I knew the answer to this! Reversing the effects of late stage capitalism, is that something?
Laufey Haralds: Pip, Gilded Balloon, Patter Hoose 4.20pm

The obvious being reduced costs/some form of subsidy for those who need it.  Then there is always the slightly vague "increased diversity in programming" - so more people recognise it as something for them when they look at the line-ups
Matt Hutchinson: Hostile, Assembly Geogre Square 2.30pm

Just stop the damn landlords from being the ones who make the most of the Fringe. It’s an arts festival not a being-a-massive-greedy-tit festival. I’ve saved for years to do my debut and that’s not possible for everyone. Lower the barrier to entry for performers, which will increase who can come and then in turn broaden out the audience.
Adam Flood: Remoulded, Monkey Barrel at The Hive 3:20pm

People need to feel like there's a return on investment at Fringe. At the moment, if the cost per entry is so high, it creates an economic barrier that only acts who can afford to go can go and not people who should be there. Going to Fringe before getting an agent would have bankrupt me in years prior
Bronwyn Sweeney: Off Brand, Pleasance Courtyard, 3:20pm

I think as in all things the root causes for why the audiences and performers skew older, whiter and wealthier (guilty) is that these groups find advantages in all swaths of life. It is great when Fringe makes initiatives to attract more diverse crowds, but we have to solve societal problems first. Sadly, until people stop blaming minorities for their woes and start really hating the corporate overlords, I fear these patterns will repeat. However, small steps and having difficult conversations will improve things steadily.
Abigail Paul: Involuntary Momslaughter, Greenside Riddle's Court 6:35pm

Financial accessibility is the biggest hindrance to expanding diversity. People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds do often bring more depth of experiences and stories to explore. A lot of people do not have jobs that afford them the chance to take a full month off for art, or pay them enough to be able to save the thousands of dollars it takes to put on a show.
Matt Harvey: Wage Against The Machine, Canons' Gait, 8:15pm

This requires active outreach to parts of the world that would never even think to come to Edinburgh but who would contribute mightily to the vibe. Chris Grace: As Scarlett Johansson, Assembly George Square, 1:40pm

Published: 4 Aug 2023

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