Underword at Fingers, 7.50pm.

Performer reviews of their venues/shows/experience in 2009

Underword at Fingers, 7.50pm.

Postby underword » 03 Sep 2009, 17:54

Underword was 22 different shows of spoken word, with no material repeated over the entire run. We put 73 poets/writers on stage in total, plus a small theatre company of 8 and a magic double act. Our total audience over the run was 860, and nightly attendance varied from 18 to 74. On any night which featured named acts, we split the bucket take with them, and still made a slight profit; all of which I inevitably turned over to the Thistle Street Bar.

OK that's the figures. As a venue I found Fingers to be good but not great. The owner May was initially cautious and keen to draw a line between the Fringe activity and the venue's existence as a late-night piano and drinking haunt. However she relaxed a bit when she saw we were going to treat her equipment carefully. Despite the nominal 45 capacity there were only about 12 chairs. We sourced 15 more from a gala in Ratho and with the addition of booths and benches there were about enough seats. There was also significant standing room at the back which was a useful overflow on the busy nights.

Negatives: noisy air conditioning, badly placed pillars, not wheelchair accessible, a honking great piano taking up 50% of the stage space, and brutal bar prices (£3.90 for a pint of Tennent's). The last is the killer and I had many conversations with May about it. It irritated her when people left to drink round the corner, or ordered water to go with their free show; but in truth this was market forces at work and she would have made significantly more money if her booze had been cheaper. Also the venue is a little off the beaten track but you can't have everything.

Positives: very supportive staff: once we'd gained their trust May and Guy were helpful and encouraging, sometimes fun to work with. Intimate but spacious venue which could take about 100 but didn't feel empty with 18. In-house PA setup which required very little work. Bar staff keen to help manage the chairs and tables, handled all the empty glasses etc. Nooks and crannies for audience to occupy, always a good thing.

The larger programme did see a few changes over the run. Enjoyed excellent relations with Utter! and Tango Cabaret. For the first couple of weeks we were never sure if Kabarett's Kleine Komedie was doing a 9pm show due to unavoidable family trouble. Simon Munnery did a great job filling in during the last week and was very nice the couple of times we ran over -- something of a danger when the show changes every night.

Richard from Utter! thinks we lost audience due to there being a gap between the main two spoken word shows. Even though we always cross-promoted he's probably right. He took a more aggressive approach to media coverage and cold flyering than we did; we used local networks more and asked our performers to promote the entire run, not just their own night. The two approaches should work well together. I also hoped 22 different nights would attract a lot of repeat trade. This did happen but not as much as I wanted.

The quality of performance was great, the venue was fine apart from the drink prices, and while I was sometimes disappointed with the audience, I'm satisfied with the figures for the run as a whole. There were some very memorable nights and much quality networking afterwards -- so thank you for that, Free Fringe and PBH.

Oh yeah -- we also had a night in aid of a safe sex charity and raised enough to buy 720 condoms. Yes, that's one condom every 4.17 seconds.
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Joined: June 2009
Location: Edinburgh

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