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