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  • Paul Burns

Tips for a Happy Fringe, by Paul Burns

With Edinburgh Festival Fringe just 6 weeks away, here's my annual series of tips for a happy fringe for all. Not exhaustive & written just from my perspective as someone who has come for many years as a producer, programmer and punter, and now lives in Edinburgh.

First some city tips:

  • Try to be respectful to the people of Edinburgh. Whilst having the festival on your doorstep is a brilliant thing, it does make life a bit more inconvenient for a month - your commute is longer, the streets are busier & it's harder to get into your favourite bars or cafes.

  • Not everyone who lives here can afford to attend shows. On which note, if you're flyering, try not to get too annoyed if someone ignores you. They might have had a tough day or be late to pick their kids up from school (Edinburgh schools go back in August) or get to the dentist.

  • Edinburgh has loads of independent businesses that rely on the extra income they can generate during the fringe as the population surges. So please try to support them rather than buying your coffee from a tax-dodging global corporation.

  • Quick Edinburgh tips: umbrellas don't work here - it's too windy & the pavements are too narrow; buses have a queueing system & you'll be told off by an elderly resident if you jump the queue; the weather when you leave the house is rarely the same when you get home. Layers FTW!

Now some care advice - for yourselves and for others:

  • Even if you don't take them all, take the occasional flyer, and talk to the person about how their fringe is going, even if you have no interest in the show. Those little moments of kindness go a long way.

  • Be nice to front of house at venues. They work long hours, get paid very little & may well be your boss one day. And if you're late & they won't let you into the show, that's probably cos the artist has told them no latecomers. Disrespect them & you're disrespecting the artist.

  • Programmers: try not to complain about being tired and/or hungover, especially if you're being paid to be at the fringe and you're talking to someone who's not.

  • Try not to presume someone's having a good time just because they're getting good audiences and reviews. It can be a really tough month, however the show is going.

  • Be sensitive of those for whom the fringe might be difficult. Those presenting very personal work and those with social anxiety, issues with alcohol or various other personal histories can find it tough. You don't need to know the details to be sensitive to that.

  • Try to interact with people as humans. So maybe avoiding the perennial fringe conversation openers of "what good shows have you seen?" or "what do you do?" and replacing them with a more normal question about their day, their evening plans or if they know a good lunch spot.

  • Quickfire self care tips: rest when you can, take time to yourself, explore Edinburgh (it's not all the fringe), eat proper food (esp fruit & veg), drink lots of water and avoid the word should “I should go to that show/party/bar"). Do what's right for you & your mental health.

Other resources:

My Edinburgh fringe self-care map is here: 'Edinburgh Quiet Spaces & Nice Place' and I'll be updating it with some new tips over the next few days. The fringe society (based at Fringe Central - venue 2) are also able to signpost to a whole range of self-care resources.

Finally, have a great time. It's pretty unique to be surrounded by such a range of brilliant performances and with the right self-care and support, it can feel like a treat and privilege to be in this beautiful city in August. Sending you love & strength & hope to see you there x

Image by Mickael Marso Riviere

With a career spanning music, dance, festivals and producing, Paul Burns is Head of Dance at Creative Scotland, the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland. Between 2015 and 2018, Paul worked as a freelance consultant, leading UK‐wide projects on artist development and international showcasing and undertaking a number of short‐term leadership roles, including interim Artistic Director at Yorkshire Dance (Leeds) and Greenwich Dance (London); Interim Administrative Director at The Place (London); and Associate Director at Dance4 (Nottingham). He has a long history with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, most recently as a judge for the Total Theatre Awards, and a member of selection panels for Made in Scotland and the British Council Edinburgh Showcase.

This blog originally appeared as a thread on Paul’s twitter account (@wechtie)

Image of Paul courtesy (and copyright) of Mickael Marso Riviere who is an ace photographer, ace choreographer and all round good guy.

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