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Making the most of the Edinburgh Fringe: Before the Festival

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is an incredible experience and can offers creatives the opportunity to boost their projects and careers. But it can also be very overwhelming, particularly if it's your first time taking a show. In this blog, I'll take you through the lessons I've learned taking a show to the Fringe as a producer, and making plenty of mistakes along the way, to help you make the most of the festival.

Taking a show to the Fringe and find this advice useful? Tag me on my socials - I'd love to hear about your experience heading to Edinburgh this summer!

A black and white photograph of two actors in a scene at the Fringe
Shauna Riley and Jamie Tibke in The Quentin Dentin Show, produced by Hannah Elsy at the Fringe in 2015. Photo credit: Joey Kiney Whitmore

Set priorities

Before going to the Fringe, ask yourself what you hope to get out of it and define your goals. Hearing success stories of well-known creatives such as Phoebe Waller-Bridge who made their name at the Edinburgh Fringe can be inspiring, but 'becoming famous' is a very non-specific aim to have. View the Fringe as a strategic business decision for the future of your show or creative career. Taking a piece to the Fringe can, for example, open up future touring opportunities for your show and help you connect you with producers who may collaborate with you in the future. But the best way to make the most of these opportunities is to be specific in how you approach people, and what you approach them for.

For some people, it might be building connections for UK or international touring. For others, it might be getting press to come and see their show, particularly if they're from somewhere unlikely to typically attract many reviewers. For others, it might just be exposing their work to a broader audience (you might like to check out my article on scratch nights and audience feedback if this is one of your priorities).

A typical Fringe production won't turn a financial profit on its own, but it can be part of a bigger long-term strategy for you. For example, when I took The Quentin Dentin Show up to Edinburgh, we didn't make any money from our Fringe run, but the Fringe run catalysed us getting booked for a London transfer in the upstairs space at the Arts Theatre.

To work out a strategy, take your time to think about how you and your project can benefit from the Fringe. Whatever your aims, setting them in advance of the Fringe is the first step to achieving them.

Get ready

Make your life easier by having everything ready before you head to Edinburgh. Create press/tour packs, take promotional or production shots, collate cast and creative team bios and social media handles. Having your materials prepared means that any reviews you collect can be slotted in easily and shared straight away. Life at the Fringe is hectic so the more you can do in advance, the better.

Look after yourself in the run-up to the Fringe. While exciting, the Fringe can also be tiring so make sure your battery's fully charged by taking care of yourself mentally and physically before you head to Edinburgh. Do you really need that extra script readthrough or could you and the rest of the team all use an early night?

Put the word out

There isn't a silver bullet to Edinburgh Fringe marketing success, but having a multipronged approach will get you off to the best start. While flyering at the festival is great, there are some effective ways to spread the word about your piece before the Fringe starts.

A black and white photos of two performers on stage at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Photo credit: Joey Kiney Whitmore

Prepare a press release in plenty of time and make the most of the Fringe's media contacts list. Take the extra time to choose relevant contacts and write personalised emails: this is more likely to capture the imagination of the person receiving the email than sending a blanket email to the whole contacts list. I'd recommend starting to send these press emails at least six weeks before the Fringe starts. If you're doing previews in the months leading up to the Fringe, invite the media contacts to come along and see your show then (if the piece is ready). They're probably much less busy in July than they will be in August at the festival.

Getting press interest in your show can be tough, so don't worry if you're struggling to entice reviewers. Social media and word of mouth are fantastic assets too. If you've done previews before the Fringe, get the audience to post about it online and chat to their friends about the show. Encourage the cast and crew to post about rehearsals and their positive experiences working on the show on their own social media and share it to the show's main accounts.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Got any thoughts or advice you would include? Let me know on social media and best of luck for your Fringe run!

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