When I began to work with Fringe Review, I opined that I hated the Edinburgh Fringe. Over the years I have softened and my old joke that people believe we have a cultural supermarket each August, and think it is Sainsbury’s when it is actually Aldi or Lidl has been used so often it is a personal cliché. It has been the interaction with artists that have made my view become that less judgmental and more understandable.
I don’t hate it anymore but the feelings around it have never disappeared.
This year I have re-evaluated those feelings and now know what it is that I dislike about it.
It came to be crystalised not just by the fact that our esteemed editor Paul Levy won’t be able to come up this year because the cost of accommodation has become more expensive than keeping the heating on in a 2 up 2 down in February.
It began to form when things came back last year. It was the Fringe Society that did it. The Society came back with one photocopier, an office miles away from the centre of activity and removed the awfully handy app.
This year they have found a new office, spent a few Millions on securing it and the app will be back.
And then have asked for more money.
Now, let’s be clear. The central programme, the app and the organisation at the middle of it all is a good thing. I like good things and when we had the opportunity to use the big office in the centre of the Fringe with a decent toilet, good coffee, excellent office space and an easy to meet venue that did not require the sale of a child to get a cappuccino, it was also a good thing.
But the new money, like the previous money would appear to be going on administration.
Now, I don’t want to see Millions on the stage for the Fringe – that is not what it is all about. And the Phoebe Waller-Bridge cash being spent out without strings attached is a brilliant move. Sending cash out without admin is exactly what is needed to support artists – they should be making the work not making the tea whilst they melt into a spreadsheet.
And then I realised why it was that I did not like the Fringe.
Somebody tweeted out when the news broke that the Festival Fringe wanted /needed more money that this is not THE Fringe. THE Fringe is the artists. And that is what I dislike about it. The two are never apart in some people’s eyes. It is the concept of it, the massive nature of the biggest book of options and the commercial chutzpah that rips cash out of the artists daily. That is what annoys me. I may have enjoyed the size of the office that we used, I may even have enjoyed the camaraderie and the ease of access to tickets that the app gave us. OR that the marketing of the festival is so well organised – they have very dedicated people who care working in their offices.
BUT the Fringe is the work.
I want that cash to go on performances and performers and not on support to sell more whilst venues charge over the odds, hotels make a killing and the rest of the supporters who make a lot out of it get a pass when it needs to be paid for.