Charles Pamment Edinburgh Fringe – The Open Access Festival

Edinburgh Fringe – Charles Pamment – Thoughts on the Fringe.

One of the greatest things about the Edinburgh Fringe is that it’s an ‘open access’ festival. By that it’s ethos is simply defined as a platform where anyone can come and perform. All are given a platform to showcase their art.

The festivals 70 year history is embedded in the idea that show content can vary from the weird to the wonderful and though year on year the fringe presents a very high level of established performance it’s still very much a platform for showcasing new, emerging, experimental and original work. Indeed the fringe society lists some 80 genres in their annual programme. Maybe that’s why those that oversee and facilitate the fringe stand strong for these principals and very much continue to encourage that diversity.

So, just how is this varied level of performance critically received? Like all art its ‘subjective’ it invites a varied and different opinion from both audience and reviewer. Certainly reviewers are used to the temporary nature of the fringe and take into account that much of what they see is fresh from the development studio. In fact many shows that gain 4 and 5 star reviews are often in the early stages of development when Producers start to make enquiries about bringing shows to the festival.

When choosing a venue there are many aspects that play a part in a show getting a good audience and receiving a sensible number and level of reviews. A central location, strong technical support, high end service and a friendly environment goes without saying, but, less obvious aspects need exploring.

It’s useful to ask venues about their statistics, ie: footfall numbers, high historic footfall is obviously a good indicator of a successfully managed venue. A venues Awards pedigree, any venue worth their salt should be able to give companies a list of these, they define the level of work the venue is known for producing. Other important assets include the number of box office sales outlets, the more available the more access audiences have. A sensible and defined press office, crucial for a show to be put in the gaze of the media, promoters and awards. And, don’t forget that city wide branding, strong venue branding in prime locations like the Royal Mile and main thoroughfares increases audience recognition for your show.

It’s also important to note what kind of building the venue is located in. The fringe is defined by ‘pop up’ theatres and of course it’s desirable for audiences that they can attend a show in a venue that offers a comfortable and professional environment, more so for the slightly older audience demographic. To that end, sensible facilities, even the obvious, including green rooms, licensed bars, available food, an ambient atmosphere and even air conditioning should be considered as important support mechanisms that maximise access to a constant and varied audience. This simply gives audiences a sense of occasion where they can focus and appreciate the work.

Being ‘Open Access’ also seems to rub off on those taking part, a strong camaraderie is common between performing companies, whether professional companies, seasoned fringe performers or fringe virgins, the festival is a fantastic platform for all to develop their art, from Producer to Director, Performer to Technician, Stage Manager to Press Officer, it’s a unique environment to gain more experience, to meet like minded people, to embrace performance and to encourage and to learn, friends are made for life, overall, its a good place to be.

Please read more about performing on the fringe at

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