Taking Attendants to Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023 was a massive learning experience for our whole team. Ava and Jason did most of the organising with regards to finding a venue, sorting accommodation and marketing the show. We started from a very low base, basically knowing nothing about putting on a show at EdFringe, and had a very steep learning curve. But we loved the experience and would definitely do it again.
Here are Ava’s top tips for putting on a show at EdFringe:
1. Plan early and take tips from anyone who’s been before
As we had no idea where to start, we talked to anyone and everyone we could find who’d been to EdFringe before. Friends knew people who’d been before, so we chatted with them and collected a huge range of suggestions. These included places to stay, venues to consider, tips for marketing and much else. You’ll know someone who knows someone who’s been before, so ask around. We started planning in January, meaning we had plenty of time to read the excellent artist information on EdFringe.com.
2. What is your show about and finding a venue
If you can’t explain to someone what your show is about, you can’t explain it to a venue. You need to find your own venue from the extensive list supplied by EdFringe. You have to contact the venues, explain your show, including genre, content and running time, and then hope that one or more venues offer you a slot in their programme. Most venues are hiring you the space for a particular time slot. You have to get in, setup, bring in the audience, perform, get the audience out, and breakdown all within that slot, so you need to know your timings. We chose a 55 seater venue with theSpaceUK, as we were aiming to sell at least 30 seats a show, and felt anything more than half full would be a nice audience. With hindsight we wish we’d gone bigger as we sold out, but much better to sell out than perform to an almost empty venue each day.
Personal Note – Make sure you know the arrangements for tech! – We were lucky that we had Jason with us, who stepped in at the last minute to run the lighting and sound, as we hadn’t realised we needed our own person.
3. Talk to everyone and anyone you see who is involved in the fringe
Most venues provide you with a festival id and lanyard, and that is like opening a door to a new world. Suddenly you have permission to chat to anyone else wearing a lanyard, as you are part of the huge EdFringe family. This is a great way to make friends and connect with other creatives while also promoting your show. Start conversations in bars, queues, and while visiting venues to see other shows. By doing this I was able to meet loads of other artists and creatives who were visiting or taking part in the fringe – creating opportunities for myself in the future and forming a community while you’re up there at the edfringe. It can be quite isolating if you don’t have other people who can empathise with you and support you.
4. Use social media wisely before you arrive
Use social media to your advantage, reach out to other artists, tag creatives and ask questions. Not only is it a great way to promote your show and get ticket sales going, but it also allows you to form a small community of other shows and companies. When you arrive in Edinburgh you won’t feel quite so unprepared and isolated! Having a few other shows you want to go and support (and who you know will support you) is a great feeling and can really help structure your time in Edinburgh. We created social media specifically for Attendants, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.
5. Say yes to the opportunities you’re offered
There will be lots of opportunities given to you before and during Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Say yes to as many as you can. The three of us in Attendants got offered the chance to perform in a Feminist Showcase on the first Monday of the Festival. We were offered the opportunity as we’d been chatting with the organisers, Tinted Theatre, on social media before we arrived in Edinburgh. We were really nervous before taking part, but are so pleased we said yes, and loved the evening more than we could of imagined. Things like that showcase will allow you to connect with others and support them (while also gaining support for your own show) and providing more opportunities outside of EdFringe. For me, these opportunities boosted my confidence, made us feel we really belonged at the Festival, and made the experience of EdFringe so much more enjoyable. It’s important to note that you have to pick the right opportunities for you, don’t feel pressured to say yes to everything, but push the boundaries of your comfort zone as they can be amazing.
6. Make time to go and see other shows
Going to see and support other shows was one of the highlights of my EdFringe, especially ones in your own venue or with the same company. Seeing other shows can be really rewarding and can inspire you greatly. Staying behind to chat to the cast after and congratulating them on their show can be a great way to interact and meet other people. Most venues have great bars nearby to visit with other creatives!
7. Try to enjoy flyering and don’t get frustrated when you’re told no
Flyering can be stressful and may not be very successful all the time (especially on the mile). Go in with a positive attitude and try not to worry about whether people take a flyer or not. Edinburgh is a massive tourist hub especially in August and there are many locals and tourists who are not interested in the Festival, in taking flyers or seeing shows. People can be particularly rude (especially on the Mile) but don’t be disheartened by this, rather focus on the people who do enthusiastically take one and choose to book tickets for your show.
8. Don’t rely on the Mile to flyer
As I’ve outlined, the Mile is hectic and full of people not there for the fringe. Try to find places just off the mile where people may be more interested in taking flyers. We found targeting show queues or flyering as people left shows worked really well, and we chose places like outside bookshops and cafes where more people interested in the festival and the arts could usually be found. Immediately outside our venue just before we performed also worked well and was a good distraction from the pre show nerves.
I would recommend flyering the mile at least once in your visit. It’s an EdFringe experience you need to have! You’ll meet loads of other interesting creatives, see some fascinating sights, like Norse gods, a biscuit selection & dancing bananas to name but a few, plus there are loads of street performers, a lot of confused tourists, and a few frustrated locals – All part of the melting pot of EdFringe.
9. Be kind to your production team
It really pays off to be nice to your production team, as they’ll be the ones helping you set up and get sorted for every performance. Being patient with them and saying thank you can ensure smoother performances and setups. Things will inevitably go wrong to a greater or lesser degree, and often it will be your production team sorting the issues. If you have a good relationship with them everything runs smoother. We found bribing ours with donuts worked well!
These are just some of the things I learnt from my first visit to Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I loved being part of the enormous creative family, and will definitely be back at the Festival again. Hope you have an amazing experience when you go.