Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

I can't believe that it's September already! August has been and gone so quickly!
It feels weird as my whole year had been geared up towards August because that's when one of the most important things on my list 'Take a show to Edinburgh' was going to happen (hopefully). After applying at the end of 2013 I accepted an offer to perform as part of the PBH Free Fringe back in March.

For anyone that doesn't know. "The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (or simply The Fringe) is the world's largest arts festival, with the 2012 event spanning 25 days totalling over 2,695 shows from 47 countries in 279 venues. Established in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, it takes place annually in Scotland's capital, in the month of August. The Fringe is a showcase for the performing arts, particularly theatre and comedy (which has seen substantial growth in recent years), although dance and music are also represented." As is SPOKEN WORD!

I've been to Edinburgh once before. In the summer of 2008. I didn't take of a show of course. I went up for a long weekend with 149 other 18-25 year olds as part of a scheme called The Network. Which aimed to give participants practical knowledge of working in the television industry.

I had an amazing time. I was there to take part in Creative Writing workshops which were unreal. As part of the workshops we wrote short scenes with a Coronation Street Producer (who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago) before having these scenes read on stage by two young actresses including one Michelle Keegan!

It was a truly brilliant long weekend. As well as the workshops, I made some great friends (two of who I am fortunate to still good friends with today), got very drunk (pretty much stayed drunk the whole time), nearly succeeded in my plan to chat up every girl in Edinburgh (only stopping when one lovely girl actually like the nonsense I was sprouting or my face or something haha) and even found time to go and see some shows.

Here is a picture with some of the lovely people that I met on that weekend (that's me on the far left with the silly floppy hair). We all look so young!

I actually walked past this spot around 10 times a day everyday that I was in Edinburgh this year as it was 100yrds away from my venue.

Back in 2008 I had such a fantastic time. I will always remember it as one of the best weekends ever and ever since I have always wanted to go back up. But this time I didn't want to go up just to see the festival (although that would be amazing too) no I wanted to take a show up myself. And this year I finally got my chance. I nearly did it last year. I wanted to take up a one man play I wrote called 'one lump or two' but for several reasons including the fact that I spent the whole of last summer not wanting to get out of bed, it didn't happen.

But here I am in the summer of 2014 with the chance to take a show up to the Fringe but first of all I need a show! What should I do? Maybe I can resurrect the one man play? No, I know. It's so obvious! I'll do a show based on the:

So I have an idea for a show. What next?

Taking a show to Edinburgh - even on the PBH Free Fringe which is a bit different to the Fringe, you don't have to pay for a venue - is an expensive do!

Just think about all the outgoings for a second.
  • travel
  • accommodation
  • living expenses
  • props
  • flyers and posters
  • other things I've forgotten

Therefore, if you're going to do it properly - still not paying for a venue - it's going to set you back anywhere up to £1000. Maybe even more!

But I'm Anthony Hett and this is the Year31Project and so of course I'm not going to do it the right way. I'm going to spend 10hrs - there and back - on a coach and then sleep for several nights on my friends settee. Because that is how I roll! (by which I mean - that is because I am an unorganised and very poor douchebag!)

That said. Even though I will be doing it as cheaply as possible - for no other reason than because I am flat broke - there are still things that I need to pay for that are completely essential and not exactly cheap. Like flyers and posters! If you want an audience you need to get out there with all the other idiots on the Royal Mile and hand out flyers (all day!). This set me back a cool £125!

A good flyer/poster is extremely important. I'm quite happy with mine. Especially as I did it myself using nothing but Word at 2am one night the week before I went up:

Another way to advertise (for free) is to try and perform at other people's events. Here is a picture of me doing just that. I would try and do more of this if I do it again:

The next thing I had to arrange was my travel. How to get to Edinburgh? The way I see I don't have my own car and soI had four options. I can go by:

Plane? Surely that's way out of my budget? I don't even check the prices.

Train? The train is £130. Not too bad but I probably need to find something a bit cheaper if I can.

Coach? The coach is £45 which is more in my price bracket.

Hitchhike? I've tried Hitchhiking before. It was a lot of fun but I think hitchhiking all the way to Edinburgh is going to be a long, hard and draining journey and so although it's free (and I'm poor) I think I'll give it a miss this time.

I go with the coach. It appears to be the best option. The only option really. Here we are entering Scotland:

I wish I could have taken the train. It would have been a lot more comfortable and takes less than half the time but the train cost nearly three times as much and I can't afford to put my comfort first *cries*. I once spent six hours on a coach to Manchester and I said never again but I book the 10 hour long coach journey and hope for the best.

& the coach actually isn't too bad. This might be because I actually plan something for a change and pack well for the journey:

And with the help of Count Dracula, the Karate Kid and football gossip, the 10 hour journey just flies by. Well not quite but it's no where near as bad as I thought it would be! I've plenty of snacks, a neck pillow and two whole (leather) seats to myself and so the journey is fairly comfortable too.

Now for the final piece of the puzzle: accommodation. Finding anywhere to stay in Edinburgh while the festival is on is both difficult and of course expensive. However, there are ways around it. Obviously it helps if you have friends that either live in Edinburgh or are up there for the festival, who are willing to put you up for a few nights. Luckily for me my friend Gigi (who was also in my short film Letters) was up at the Fringe in a play about Joan of Arc. Brilliantly she let me stay with her for the first 3 nights. Which was wonderful. Not only because I saved £120 by doing so but also because I got to hang out with her and the other lovely people involved with her play (while I was staying there and pretty much every night afterwards too) and she warm and tasty food.

Then for my remaining 4 nights I rented a room on a student campus. In a place called Pollock Halls:

Halls are an excellent place to stay while at the festival. They're quite basic but I spent very little time in my actual room. It was simply somewhere to lay my head at night. They are perfect for this and reasonably cheap too. £40 a night for a room with a shared bathroom (which is what I paid for) and £75 for a room with an en-suit (ideal for couples).

Here is my room:

It was spot on. I found Pollock Halls online. And straight away I could see that it was just what I needed. But it was only when I got there that I realised that not only was it perfect for my stay but it was actually also where I had stayed with The Network six years earlier. Not only the same campus but the very same building! What a brilliant coincidence. It brought back a lot of lovely memories.

So £125 (flyers), £45 (travel), £155 (accommodation) and £150 (food, tickets for shows etc) means that I spent around £475 on my Edinburgh adventure. Taking the money I took in donations into consideration as well as my voluntary contribution of £3 a performance made to the PBH Free Fringe and my adventure cost me around £450. Which actually isn't too bad but that was very much doing it on the cheap!

Now onto the week itself.
Edinburgh is a lovely place. Although it's geography is quite confusing, I spent a large chunk of the first few days completely lost and everywhere is literally up a huge hill. I mean you go up a huge hill to go to a show and then you go up a huge hill to go home. It makes no sense. It is a charming place!

My show was in the small downstairs room of a pub called The Royal Oak:

The room was great. Nothing special. It was simply the downstairs room in a pub and it was very small. It would only take around 15 people to fill it. But getting 15 people to come when there are literally thousands of other shows to go and see would prove quite a task and so I certainly didn't have a problem with the size of the room. The venue was also very central, just a 2 minute walk from both the Royal Mile and the main PBH venue and spoken word hub the Banshee Labyrinth. So it was just great.

Now doing a show at Edinburgh is hard work! Let's not pretend otherwise. I would get up, sort out a couple of things for the show, go flyering, do the show, go flyering, see some shows, exit flyer the shows, go home and get some sleep (nowhere near enough) and get up "early" again the next day and start the wonderfully tiring process all over again. It was an extremely busy and tiring week - I don't know how people cope doing it for the whole month - but I enjoyed every single second of it.

And importantly - most importantly - the show went really quite well. Here is an awful picture of me with my list (how small do my eyes look!!!):

The beginning of the week was tough. I really wasn't very good at flyering. I was too nervous and didn't have a pitch. I would just stand on the street and hand out my flyers to anyone willing to take one and that was it. But as the week went on I got better, more confident, I worked on a pitch and it really seemed to work. It turns out I'm actually quite good at flyering :). I actually think the pitch for the show was better than the show itself. Awkward haha. This is a picture of my audience from the Thursday show:

13 happy faces smiling back at me - thank you everyone who came to any of the five shows - and I think I'm right in saying that all of these lovely people came because at some point that day or the day before I had given them a flyer! So although a lot of people will tell you that flyering doesn't work - it won't if you simply give out your flyers without selling the show, as there are so many other things to see and do - if you work on a pitch and really sell your show to people, then this photograph above is proof that flyering can work. And if you're doing a little one person, free show flyering is vital!

Ok so 13 people is not a massive audience. I think we can all agree on that but I went to plenty of very good shows with much smaller audiences. My audience numbers were 6, 5, 3, 13 & 12. Which I'm really happy with. The first few shows were a bit sketchy. In terms of audience numbers and my performance. After a couple ok stuttering performances and small audiences, I was feeling pretty "reflective" on the Wednesday. I told my parents maybe not to come up on the Thursday as they had planned and I was worried that I might have to cancel the Thursday show altogether due to having no audience. But I didn't give up! I went out and flyered even harder than I had before and somehow managed to get my biggest audience on the Thursday (sorry mum and dad!).

On the first couple of days I was still very much finding my feet. I probably should have prepared better but I'm Anthony Hett and as you're probably working out, planning and organising are not my strongest points. Everything is always a bit last minute with me! But as the week went on I got into a bit more. More people came - it's hard to perform in front of really small audiences - I finally found my feet - after looking for them for three whole days they were on the end of my legs. Who'd have thought? haha - and I think that the last two shows were actually quite good?

Now, the way the PBH Free Fringe works is that the shows are free but people are encouraged to leave donations at the end if they have enjoyed the show. & like everything else this warmed up a little as the week went on.

On the first day I got enough money for a sandwich, a drink and some chocolate:

But by the last two days I started doing pretty well for donations.

On the Thursday I got £25.01, lots of nice comments and even a hug:

& on the Friday I got £15.18 a banana, more nice comments and more hugs:

Unfortunately I'm not a big fan of bananas but people seemed to enjoy the show and I finished the week on a high!

I left on the Saturday morning feeling like my show had been something of a small success. Plus on top of that I got to see lots of great things and met lots of wonderful new people. It was such a fantastic week and such a massive learning curve. I learnt so much (mostly by doing things wrong). What more could you want than that? & yes I had such an amazing time that I definitely hope to do it all again next year - only for longer next time.

Now this is the Year31Project and so there were several things that I wanted to do for the first time while I was in Edinburgh including: eat haggis, eat a deep fried mars bar and shave my head. Unfortunately on all of these counts I failed miserably. I was just too busy or some other such poor excuse. However, in 'Taking a show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe' I succeeded and what could be more important than that???

Take a show to Edinburgh TICK!


And to finish off here is a little poem about my experience:

Goodbye Edinburgh,
You wind swept,
Rain soaked,
Beautiful bitch of a city.
Where everything seems to be up hill,
Everything appears so far away,
And everything feels like such hard work.
But I wouldn't have you any other way,
And I miss you already.
Let's stay in touch.
Let's me up again.
What are you doing this time next year?

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