What to say about the unstoppable technicolor juggernaut that is the Fringe Festival. A marvel of creativity and logistics? Certainly. A shining example of the many forms art can take? Sure. But how are you supposed to find those hidden gems, those life-changing spectacles, those weirder-than-weird marvels that make the entire Fringe worth it?
You’re already in the right place. For the other 49 weeks of the year, our goal here at Edinburgh49 is to provide the capital with quality reviews of the creative scene. But, when Fringe rolls around, we pat the dust off Edinburgh49+3 , and send our talented team out to provide unique, insightful coverage of the greatest arts event in the currently explored universe.
Whether you’re a producer looking to promote, or an audience member looking for your next festival fix – we’ve got you covered, all Fringe long.
Check back soon for our recommended shows for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019.
Our most recent Festivals 2018 coverage:
- Underground Railroad Game (Traverse: 2-26 Aug: 22:00: 85 mins) (8/28/2018)
- Freeman (Pleasance Courtyard: 1-27 Aug: 17:00: 60 mins) (8/27/2018)
- Daliso Chaponda: What The African Said (Gilded Balloon at the Museum: 19-26 Aug: 19:30: 60 mins) (8/23/2018)
- Athena Kugblenu: Follow the Leader (Underbelly Bristo Square: 1-26 Aug: 17:30: 60 mins) (8/23/2018)
- The Flyboys: A Postmodern Swing Sensation (Gilded Balloon @ Rose Theatre: 1-24th Aug: 22:30: 60 mins) (8/22/2018)
- I Love You Mum… I Promise I Won’t Die (theSpace @ Venue 45: 20-25th Aug: 15:40: 70 mins) (8/22/2018)
Click below to see all our Festivals 2019 coverage:
49 THINGS (+3) YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE FRINGE
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is unique. Uniquely big as well as uniquely varied, and therefore uniquely competitive. Here’s our very thorough guide to our favorite three weeks of the year…
- Don’t expect love from ALL the locals. Between the doubled population, raised prices and heavy traffic, plenty of residents find something to complain about during festival season. BUT the Fringe is worth over a quarter of a billion pounds to the Scottish economy annually and brings in £245m to Edinburgh alone – so don’t feel too bad.*
- Fringe Season means more than just Fringe. In late June you can also check out the Edinburgh International Film Festival, July holds the Jazz and Blues festival, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival usually runs in tandem with the Fringe. Getting your show out there doesn’t just mean sticking to August, and it certainly doesn’t just limit you to the Fringe.
- Weird is normal, different is hard. Every year, Edinburgh’s streets become a strange and exciting new landscape. Relying just on outlandish appearances and costumes may be a slam dunk elsewhere, but Fringe is the one place where actions speak volumes louder than appearances. Go beyond aesthetics – promote what makes your show unique!
- Take full advantage of the free Festival Fringe Programme, published by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. Available digitally and physically, the FFP is essentially the festival bible. Use it to find out what you’d like to see, and what else your potential audiences might also be interested in.
- Use your place in the “chain of shows”. Audience members will go to countless performances over Fringe, and typically tend towards a specific type of entertainment. Find out who is doing something similar to you, and ask if you can hand flyers to their audiences after their show is over. Offer them the same.
- Think of unique ways to hand out promotional material. Anyone walking down the Royal Mile is going to be confronted with an ocean of flyerers, and will become desensitized fairly quickly. There’s plenty of ways to get people interested in taking your material. Living statues, musical numbers and improv scenes are just a few of the many ways you can frame your flyering with flair.
- Use the VIP lounges. ‘Important person’ is a relative concept but each of the main venues has a lounge where producers and pundits can escape the crowds. You’ll find as much friendly advice, support and sympathy as you will posturing and preening.
- Know your niche. The Fringe features live performance from every genre imaginable. For almost every single one there are norms and standards: from who reviews shows and their standard metrics, to opportunities to showcase your work through other organisations every show has options and considerations. Make sure you know yours.
- Prioritise your review requests. Research whether there are any specialist publications who are very likely to be interesting in reviewing your show, and maybe even announce it through their channels. Big, generic publications may have a broad reach, but nothing is a substitute for enthusiasm.
- Whether you’ve already accrued reviews from touring or are starting with a blank slate, it’s important to demonstrate media interest as soon as it happens. Get stapling! Audiences love trusted indications of quality, and no flyer or poster should be without fresh ratings and reviews.
- Venture outside your internet bubble. Sharing material on Facebook and Twitter is all well and good, but you’re intrinsically limited to your personal connections. There’s a wild internet frontier out there, waiting for the taking – mailing groups, specialist forums and subreddits are just a handful of ways you can extend your reach.
- There is such a thing as bad publicity! If your materials are unengaging, poorly formatted or just plain bad, it’ll likely be counted against you. Audiences and reviewers make their first impressions based on your marketing, and even if you’re the next Hamilton, it’ll do little to help you if nobody turns up.
- One word: Accessibility. Despite their beauty, nobody is coming to your website or show page primarily to trawl through rehearsal photos. Ensure your basics (dates, times, places) are immediately and easily visible, and that those with poor connectivity won’t have to load unnecessary assets.
- Keep your printed materials clear and striking. Printed material is going to be your main channel of communication, and you only have a few moments to show the public what yours is all about. Material which is bold and clearly relates the tone and point of your show is a must.
- When going face-to-face, target the audiences most likely to be interested in your show. Working a line of cricket fans queuing to see the blokes from Test Match Special, explaining to each in turn the background to your biopic about a Hollywood producer from the ‘70s, may keep THEM occupied until doors open, but YOU won’t sell many tickets. Read the schedules.
- Techies talk, so do front of house folk. Engage with them. There’s no such thing as an empty house. Behind the lighting and sound desk or box office counter is likely to be a seriously astute critic. Get them along and get them on board – when prospective audience members ask box office staff for recommendations, you want your show to get first mention.
THE ONE EVENT YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO MISS
- ‘Meet the Media’ is organised by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. It’s a unique event where you can spend face-to-face time with media representatives from the various titles. It’s also completely free and requires no tickets. Remember to bring hard copies of your marketing materials and be prepared to queue! Meet the Media 2019 will be held on August 3rd from 1pm to 6pm.
PULL-OUT QUOTES & STAR RATINGS
- The stars reign supreme. Despite heated debate amongst producers and pundits, audiences are nevertheless drawn to stars like moths to a flame. If you receive a positive review from a publication which uses a star system, make sure those stars are something the audience knows about as soon as they see your material.
- Include pull-quotes from each review to sit alongside the star rating. Pick quotes that express some insight into your work, rather than just selecting the most favorable single adjectives. If you’re not confident in the number of stars, just include a pull-quote – they’re still very effective.
- Pull-quotes make for reliable daily Twitter content. You should try and draw multiple quotes from one review (so long as you properly reference each).
- When tweeting pull-quotes, try including the reviewer’s & title’s account to encourage retweets.
TRADITIONAL PRINT MEDIA
- Don’t rely too much on the traditional print and broadcast outlets. Budgets are like tyres, if you slash them you won’t get far. The big titles have fewer resources to cover the Fringe than ever. If you concentrate exclusively on household-name brands you may find you end up with no coverage at all.
- Remember that, much like bloggers, not all print reviewers are in the same situation. Some are experienced arts writers with production pedigrees of their own, while others are enthusiastic amateurs starting out their careers through practical training schemes. Some are writing for highly commercial operations, others are taking time out from their paid engagements to pursue their passion for the arts. Find out who is who.
- A good review from The Scotsman remains the most valued endorsement at the Fringe. But with its last reported daily circulation figures now well below 20,000, you can’t just stand on the juggernaut alone. Now, more than ever, shows must diversify.
- The Herald is dangerously easy to overlook; it’s The Scotsman’s big local rival and an increasingly important voice at the Fringe. Their highly prestigious awards, Herald Angels, are almost unique in the fact that absolutely any show is eligible to win one – but you’re only in with a chance if you manage to get one of their reviewers in.
- The Edinburgh Evening News is from the same stable as The Scotsman, but it’s editorially independent. It has a quite different readership too, so it’s well worth approaching both. Controversially, they rate out of 7 stars rather than the conventional 5.
- Don’t discount the free paper Metro – it has relatively extensive Fringe coverage and a large circulation. A good review in Metro isn’t (yet) a badge of pride, but we’ve heard anecdotally that it does great things for ticket sales.
- UK national newspapers also have a presence in Edinburgh, though they’re not the force they once were. If you manage to get coverage, enjoy your good fortune. The Guardian, Times, Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail are among the most visible, while a review in the Financial Times is one of the most prestigious.
- Founded in 2002, Fest Magazine has grown to produce 125,000 free copies in six issues during the Fringe. But producer beware – Fest is notoriously (and proudly) stingy with its star ratings.
- Quantity is no guarantee of quality! It may be tempting to rely on New Media outlets alone, especially those who seem to cover multitudes of shows. However, remember that this does come with caveats: the more writers who are working for a publication, the harder it is to do quality control. Beware of outlets which survive by numbers rather than skill.
- The Festival Media Network strives to improve the coverage of arts festivals and promote collaboration between member media. FMN’s members are Broadway Baby, Edinburgh Nights, Fringe Guru, FringeReview, Hairline and ThreeWeeks.
- All Edinburgh Theatre is run by Thom Dibdin, freelance journalist and Scotland Correspondent of The Stage newspaper. The website started out as the Annals of the Edinburgh Stage in 2009, before transforming into All Edinburgh Theatre in 2013.
- Broadway Baby has existed since 1996 when it launched as a free resource for actors to publish their CVs. In 2004 publisher Pete Shaw started adding reviews, since when Broadway Baby has become a major force with over 6,000 reviews published of work staged at Edinburgh, Brighton, New York and London. As well as sourcing articulate and lively writers Broadway Baby copy edits everything that it publishes and boasts cutting-edge behind the scenes IT wizardry.
- Edinburgh Nights is a weekly show for Scotland’s Capital City promoting shows, events, and music that will be taking place that weekend across Edinburgh. Rooted in the Fringe the show is available online and as a podcast. Edinburgh Nights is produced and hosted by the BAFTA nominated broadcaster, and Edinburgh49er, Ewan Spence.
- Fringe Guru, co-founded by occasional Edinburgh49er Richard Stamp, aims for selective quality coverage, in preference to ‘completism’ or rapid growth. Fringe Guru is about trust over size. In contrast to most independent media, Fringe Guru‘s reviewers are generally professional writers rather than active arts practitioners.
- FringeReview, covers Fringe Festivals from Adelaide to Edinburgh and is a passion-project by founder Paul Levy, FringeReview seeks out innovation, challenge, competence and creativity putting an emphasis on supporting producers with peer-review style insight. Billed as ‘The Good Fringe Guide’ FringeReview does not offer star ratings, or publish reviews falling below minimum standards.
- ThreeWeeks is the longest established magazine at the Edinburgh Festival. The stable includes not only a free weekly magazine but also a daily update, website and podcast with coverage of all that goes on in Edinburgh during August, including the International, Book, Art and Politics festivals as well as the Fringe. Since 1996 ThreeWeeks has run a media-skills training programme, providing formal on-the-ground arts journalism training to hundreds of young writers.
COUNTING DOWN TO FRINGE 2019!
- Each venue will have its own Press Office. Some are better than others. Even the largest press office staff don’t have time to do your stapling for you. However, if they do display reviews or attach ratings to posters shown in house, make sure they’re doing it promptly. You’re the customer. You paid to use this venue. Demand a quality after-sales service.
- The Fringe is home to some really great chat & revue shows where punters can hear directly from participants. The legendary Mervyn Stutter is among the best established. Don’t be shy in approaching producers and asking to feature on their sofa in front of an audience. Unestablished revue acts in particular need reliable content.
- There’s a whole article to be written about Twitter and the Fringe. It ought to start with the obvious warning that not every Fringe-goer is on social media. Our 5 golden rules for Twitter: don’t pester; repeat but don’t become repetitious; don’t quarrel; don’t insult; and don’t forget to retweet, follow & favourite beyond the usual suspects.
- Read Broadway Baby’s How To Write a Press Release Journalists Will Want To Read. Then re-read it and pass it on to every public relations professional you know. Then read it again.
- Even if it’s just a single side of black and white A5, consider providing your audience with a programme. There are sound audience engagement reasons for doing so (introducing your company, script, vision etc.) Besides, reviewers can’t name names if they don’t know who anyone is. If you have, or are in, other shows, it’s a good place to mention it. Don’t forget to include your social media contact details.
- Always use a local printer to avoid disappointment. If you need something fast, try talking to Paul at Pace Print and tell him we sent you. [NB. They didn’t pay us, or even ask us to write this. We’ve used Pace Print for a long time and they consistently impress.]
- Don’t underestimate the Free Fringe, especially if you’re just starting out. For established theatre companies the Fringe is a trade show. Their priority is as much to sell shows (to national venue managers) as it is to sell tickets. But if you’re a new player to the game and are looking to test your material, mettle or just public interest in your art, Free Fringe removes many of the financial and logistical barriers you may face in the paid zone.
- But with that in mind, remember that Free Fringe audiences are a much different beast to the usual Fringe. They exist on a spectrum, from people who won’t stay past 5 lines of bad dialogue, to those who stay rooted in a venue from dawn till dusk seeing everything in the lineup. Embrace the chaos.
- Late to the party? If you arrive in Edinburgh after the start of the Fringe, don’t despair. You’ve not missed the bulk of the crowds – in truth, they’re always constantly refreshing. Lamentably, few Fringe-goers abandon hearth and home for the full run, so there is always a steady stream of fresh bodies to fill seats.
- See Edinburgh! It’s a great city and there are plenty of low and no-cost ways to see it, from the Radical Road to the Walter Scott Monument. Sunsets over the Firth of Forth, sunshine over Inverleith Park and the city viewed by night from any of the many hills can offer a happy respite, and there’s a whole host of free museums, events and locations for you to wile away your non-Fringe hours.
- Say goodbye to your money. For many coming to the Fringe is a once in a lifetime experience. For others it’s the start or end of a continuing tour. For everyone it’s a place to workshop ideas in front of an actual audience, night after night. That doesn’t come cheap, so make sure it stays cheerful.
- And remember – Don’t Panic!
+3: EDINBURGH49 GOES TO THE FRINGE
- The eye cannot see itself except by reflection, so to thine own self be true! Does what you’re doing sell tickets to your show? If not, why are you doing it? Does your marketing discourage exactly those punters you should be trying to connect with? You’ve been working on this production since forever. You’ve poured your heart and soul into it. You’ve survived the tantrums and the early triumphs. But are you so close you can no longer see the wood for the trees? Mapping your route to market is something you need to do before the first week of the Fringe, but you also need to be sufficiently flexible to adapt your tactics once you’re on the ground.
- Hell hath no fury like a Twitter storm! Sadly, trolls exist and have been showing up at the festivals since waaay before social media. Anna Kesselaar’s Nude Happening – at the McEwan Hall in the 1960s – drew the ire of the nation’s self-appointed censors and moral custodians. Then, as now, trolls believe they should determine the content of other people’s art. The only reliable remedy is to ignore them. Don’t feed the trolls – it’s attention, not change, they’re after.
- Have patience, good people! While for some success can literally happen over night, for most it really is best to be patient and let word spread. Good shows have a very sneaky way of bubbling into conversations with the right people and can help build momentum during the festival.That doesn’t mean you should expect it: keep plugging away with marketing your show, not forgetting to actually speak to people. Audiences can be fickle and bring their whole family to your show if they like the sound of you in the street – it only takes a couple of those to give you a real boost. Being nice to those in the seats, backstage and front of house can get you a long way.