Tag Archives: Edinburgh Fringe Festival

There’s No Festival Like Edinburgh

13 Aug

Royal MileWords by Rosalind Romer

There has been a lot of animosity towards the Festival this year. The curmudgeons complain every year and the bubble has supposedly been about to burst for decades, but this year seems to have gone up a gear. There is enough vitriol at the moment. Like many others, I am stressed out and fearful because of Trump, Johnson, Brexit, climate deadlines getting closer… the list goes on. The Festival has let me breathe. I see that other people feel the same way, performers are processing and reflecting those fears through art and starting conversations which could change the world. Views are being challenged and minds are being opened.

Enter Bonnie Prince Bob and his rant that’s gone viral. I have tried to ignore him like a troll, hoping it would go away but people are still repeating his opinions. It has got to me, tipped over the edge by an Edinburgh taxi driver who after various lazy comments about how awful the Festival is (despite being his busiest month for making a living) proudly announced that he has never seen a show during the Festival. He also said that I had a “well-trained” partner because he took some time off work to spend time with our one-year-old and enable me to work during the Festival. A snarl came out of my mouth and he started talking about the weather.

So. Bonnie Prince Bob. I have risen to your clickbait so here goes.

One point I totally agree with is the spike in rent in August. The only people who benefit are greedy property owners. This is an unfortunate by-product of the success of the Festival, but it’s supply and demand. As long as human beings can get away with it, they will. So legislate. Cap the rent. Maybe some of the figureheads of the Festival can help with this, so appeal to them, don’t write them off.

Harry Potter and shops selling tat on the Royal Mile? Yup, it’s tacky. It’s got nothing to do with the Festival. It’s tacky all year round. Speak to the Council.

The Festival does not help every single person in Edinburgh, but does anything? Many people in poorer areas do find it prohibitively expensive to come into town. But that’s not the Festival’s fault and again, it happens all year round. Appeal to Edinburgh Council and Lothian buses to make journeys more affordable. Speak to the Scottish Government and Westminster to stop poverty in our ridiculously wealthy country. Stopping the Festival will not eradicate poverty. Should we shut down the museums in the centre of town while we’re at it? No, that would be crazy. Many all-year-round attractions and Festival events are free, and the provision for free children’s entertainment has grown in recent years.

And what about the mini-Wimbledon accusation? Many of the food stalls are from Edinburgh, and many of the consumers are not. So bringing money into local businesses is a good thing, isn’t it? As for the locals or those staying in a flat for a month, you can bring a sandwich and a lot of bars put a jug of tap water on the bar for you to help yourself. As for the “Etonian Oligarchy”, I can only assume you mean Ed and Charlie from Underbelly. The percentage of Etonians at the Edinburgh Festival is miniscule compared to the Conservative Government. Is it not better to overcharge people for drinks in a gorgeous beer garden (and yes, take some of the profits back to London, but they do have an office in Edinburgh all year round) than to systematically fuck up the country like their schoolmates? Plus they have some excellent shows to open your mind or even escape from reality for a little while. And if you really can’t stomach it, there are hundreds of other venues. Loads of venues have events and bars in Edinburgh all year so go and support them if you prefer. It’s your choice. As far as I am concerned, people from the rest of the UK and people from abroad are all welcome.

Another criticism over the last few years has been the exploitation of workers, which makes a bit of sense from the outside. However, many venue workers get accommodation and a venue pass, as well as their pay in a lot of cases. For the people who would spend every last penny on shows, this is worth thousands of pounds (see accommodation above). The festivals support over 2500 jobs in Edinburgh, which can only be a good thing. You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. It’s the chicken and egg situation all over again. Yes, the Living Wage is an admirable aim, and supermarket giants can afford it, even if they don’t pay it. Yes, 6-month unpaid internships with no accommodation are exploitation, and can only be taken up by the wealthy. Flyering for one month and seeing a ton of free shows you wanted to see anyway is hardly the same thing.

The festivals can’t afford to pay more, and already rely heavily on rapidly reducing arts funding and corporate sponsorship (which also comes under fire in Bonny Prince Bob’s rant). Living wage would break them. The big venues come under fire for the huge percentage of ticket sales they take (usually 40%) but it’s not like they are spending it on cigars and lobster (well, maybe at the lobster van on Bristo Square). The costs of running a venue, including marketing, staff, often building theatres from scratch, sound and lighting equipment and health and safety are colossal. The Free Fringe operates on a bucket system so it’s possible to make a bit of money (or lose less once accommodation is taken into account), but you may or may not be in a rowdy pub with bright lights and pub furniture spoiling sightlines. There are pros and cons for each but that’s for another time.

Yes, town is busy and it takes ages to get to work. It’s annoying, I know. But it’s one month of the year and it shouldn’t be a surprise by now. And hey, maybe you’ll even have some fun or learn or feel something watching a show. For me the highs far outweigh the irritations.

If you don’t like the Festival, fine, but don’t ruin everyone else’s fun. I am one of the two thirds of locals who have seen Festival shows in the last two years, so don’t you dare speak for us when you say there’s no Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Festival.

And breathe. Let me describe some of my Festival experiences in the last two weeks.

I have roared with laughter at Jessica Fostekew’s Hench until my whole body ached, along with everyone else in the audience. That group of people will never be together again but we shared a sense of camaraderie that day. Jessica made me realise that the pain of childbirth wasn’t my fault, that somehow if I’d breathed “better” it wouldn’t have ripped me apart, physically and emotionally. Thank you, Jessica Fostekew, for letting me see how ridiculous that idea was.

I have sobbed my eyes out in the Pleasance Courtyard after seeing the incredibly powerful show by Bryony Kimmings, I’m a Phoenix, Bitch. Her show is about a trauma and subsequent recovery. As I mentioned, I have a one-year-old, who happened to be getting a routine check-up at the hospital that night. If you’ve seen the show you’ll get the significance. He’s fine and was always going to be fine that evening, which is why I went to see a show, but I sat with an excruciating amount of guilt, which by the end of the show was released forever from somewhere deep inside. Thank you, Bryony Kimmings.

Before the Fringe, I did a series of questions for my favourite comedians. One question asked who or what each act would like to have waiting for them after the show. Amy Matthews had answered with a very specific beer and it was too tempting to resist. I put a big red shiny bow on the can of beer and presented it to her after the show. The look of excitement, confusion and joy on Amy’s face was wonderful. I know I technically gave you the present, but thank you, Amy Matthews. Your reaction made me so happy.

Yesterday I ended up seeing an amazing sold-out show because I bumped into a friend whose brother (who I had never met) had a spare ticket. We watched the show like we were old friends.

I realise these mean far more to me than you, but they are examples of the interaction you can enjoy if you embrace the spirit of the Fringe. It’s the deeply personal nature of the shows and human interaction that make the Festival so magical for me. Edinburgh hosts the greatest arts festival in the world and it is something we should all be immensely proud of.

To the taxi driver, thank you for making me realise that your opinion doesn’t change my experience. This Festival matters to me and to thousands of others. And to everyone who says they don’t like the Festival, maybe it’s time you gave it a try rather than churning out old clichés. And if it’s really not your thing, let the rest of us have some fun.

A 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Interview with Lou Sanders 

9 Jun

With the 2015 Fringe guide in our pockets, we are all getting very excited at Punchline for this year’s Edinburgh Festival. In the run up to the festival, we will be previewing shows and interviewing our favourite acts. Let’s kick things off with a lady whose new show is set to be big, bold and brilliant, Lou Sanders.

Lou Sanders

Lou Sanders

Hello Lou, how are you? 
I’m terrific thank you. I am writing this from France and it’s hard to be sad in France. Though I think Amelie was slightly anxious and she is really French.

Are you excited about performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival?
Yes I am actually. I never used to get excited but I sort of am excited. And not just for the audiences.

How many times have you performed at the festival before?
This is my 4th hour show.

Your show has an intriguing title, where did it come from?
Someone sat right on my pee pee penis and it really hurt.

Without giving too much away, what is your show about?
It’s about me trying to get into Eton College for boys to get a better education and advance myself.

What can the Edinburgh audience expect from your show?
Expect to see a woman trying to get in to a private boys school. Jokes, anecdotes and an erection.*

*Your own

What do your preparations for the Festival involve?
Lots of previews, writing and honing. Also, like a top athlete, I put a blanket ban on any love making for the Edinburgh season and 2 months before hand just so I can focus. It’s going really well so far.

What does the Edinburgh Festival mean to you?
Good times, frustrating times. Intensity and a loss of money. Also the rainy season and then investment of a new spring coat.

Will you be taking part in any other shows?
Here and there yes but not regular shows.

What other acts do you recommend we catch during the festival?
Pick a show based on which flyerer you would most like to pash and take it from there.

Lou Sanders will perform her show “Lou Sanders: Excuse Me, You’re Sitting on My Penis Again” at The Laughing Horse @ City Cafe, 17.30 each night during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Follow Lou on Twitter @lousanders

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