Box Tale Soup’s Paperless Fringe

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Box Tale Soup’s Noel Byrne tells the tale of getting sell-out houses without the need to fell trees…

Is a paperless Fringe really possible, or necessary? If you’re a new  company bringing work to the Festival for the first time, of course you  want to do everything you can to promote your show, and the conventional  wisdom suggests that flyers are a big part of that – after all,  everybody does it, right? But coming to the Fringe for many years, I’d  begun to question how effective some flyers really were. In my time on  the Royal Mile, although some do a brilliant job of engaging passers-by  and selling their show, I’ve often seen flyers handed out without care  or attention, stuffed into unwilling hands or pockets, only to go  straight into the next bin, or worse, straight onto the pavement. On one  occasion I even watched someone discard a few hundred flyers on a  doorstep, only for them to scatter and blow down the street just a few  moments later. There sometimes seems to be a sense of quantity over  quality, that simply getting rid of as many flyers as possible is the  key to success. In fact, I believe that if you have a good pitch and an  actual conversation with someone, maybe you don’t always need the flyer. 

When we came to Edinburgh in 2022 with Gulliver, we had nervously  committed to a ‘paperless’ Fringe – printing only the handful of flyers  required by our venue, and with none to hand out on the streets of the  Festival. Instead, we had a sandwich board with our poster on, and a  sign explaining our lack of flyers and requesting that people take a 

photo, or scan our QR code for tickets and information. It was a  nerve-wracking decision – we weren’t sure whether it would be effective,  and because of the intense competition for audience attention at the  Fringe, it could be a costly mistake.

By the end of the month we were convinced that we had done the right  thing. In an odd coincidence, there was a bin strike over the last 12  days of the Festival, and it brought to light the sheer quantity of  rubbish and incredible waste generated. Earlier in the month we had  already had many local residents thank us on the streets for trying  something different, and plenty of intrigued audience dutifully taking  photos and scanning codes, but as the rubbish piled higher these  interactions increased. We found more and more people coming up to ask  about what we were doing and the flyer-free approach.

Sustainability has always been an important part of what we do as a  company, not just in environmental terms, but also financially and  practically. To succeed and continue as a theatre company, you need to  make careful use of resources, and we have a little saying, ‘don’t be  wasteful, be creative’, that we try to extend to everything we do. We  had always flyered carefully, printing smaller quantities, and trying  only to hand them out to those who seemed interested in the show. But  even then, it bothered us to see them thrown away or left behind, and we  wondered what we could do about it.


For this year’s Fringe, we have no flyers at all, just our sandwich  board and our QR code signs, and although there is (thankfully) no bin  strike, the response has still been extremely positive. We’ve had  wonderful audiences, filling our venue, and I feel that perhaps people. have been more proactive in trying to help us spread the word about the  show because of our paperless efforts. We are, of course, in a fortunate  position – we have been coming to the Fringe for several years, and have  established an audience, all of which makes the job of promoting our work somewhat easier. For first time companies or newer artists, we realise the same thing may not work, and that flyering well can make a  big difference. However, just as the Fringe has moved to paperless  ticketing, perhaps those who are more established might consider taking  a leap of faith, and trying something a little different – don’t be  wasteful, be creative.

Casting the Runes is at Edinburgh Fringe 2023, 11.45am at Pleasance Courtyard
Director – Adam Lenson
Performers – Noel Byrne & Antonia Christophers
Composer – Dan Melrose
Operator – Immie Stokes
Running time – 60 minutes

Booking here until Aug 27th 2023