Ethos and Conditions 2014

Post here anything to do with the 2014 Free Fringe

Ethos and Conditions 2014

Postby PBH » 29 Oct 2013, 23:30

Applying to the Free Fringe 2014

This is the bottom line:

If you want to do a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, the Free Fringe welcomes shows who are good enough, will work as part of a team and contribute in non-money ways. You get a venue free of charge.

You apply by online form with details of your proposed show, including where your work can be seen. An application to one of our venues is an application to all.

You must not simultaneously apply to the Laughing Horse’s pirate “Edinburgh free festival fringe” or be in any negotiations with the Laughing Horse about the Edinburgh Fringe 2014. If accepted by us, members of your show must not be part of any Laughing Horse show at the 2014 Fringe except for one-off unbilled spots in variable bill shows. Only we are the Free Fringe. Anything signed by Alex Petty is Laughing Horse, not us. If you have done a Fringe show with Laughing Horse in 2013 or earlier, you can apply to us for 2014 as long as you do not apply to them. You can do shows with them outside the Fringe. [Edit 28 Jan 2014: since Freestival and Heroes of Comedy are now both affiliated to Laughing Horse, this condition applies also to them from today's date onwards, but not to applications received before today.]

More background; skip if you already know us.

Before we came along, there was only one way to do a show at the Edinburgh Fringe. You paid to rent a performance space; you charged the public the going rate for a show; you got a proportion of the box office back. Most shows made massive losses. The average audience size was six people. The losses could be anywhere between £4000 and £15000.

You can still do it that way if you want. But our system is different.

The Free Fringe is a way of doing the Edinburgh Fringe without having to pay thousands of pounds for venue hire. If accepted, you get a free venue and no charges from us, as long as your show is free to the public. You can have a bucket collection after each show.

Our formula has been proved successful by established acts and newcomers alike. We have won numerous awards.

By joining us you get the support of many other acts and the credibility of being part of a recognised, multiple award winning event. You also get a better chance of people seeing your show, and the good will of the public.

But you must give back. You’ll be saving £4000 to £15000 compared to a paying venue, so it’s reasonable you should give something back. We don’t want your money. We do want your commitment, and we absolutely must have your full co-operation. Unless everybody works for each other and the team, the system doesn’t work. Unless venue teams take the initiative and solve any problems arising in that venue, the system doesn’t work. Unless you give of your expertise and commitment, the system doesn’t work. If you don’t want to do that, don’t apply.

You will get a basic space, usually in a pub or bar, but always separated from the general public by some means — you will not be asked to perform in a corner of a bar to people who haven’t come for the show. There will be a basic PA, found from members’ resources or belonging to the venue. Basic lights, and usually nothing else; everything else you need you must provide in collaboration with other shows at your venue. Anything you provide should be placed at the disposal of other shows in your venue.

The Free Fringe will make no charges on you, not even voluntary ones. There will be charges imposed directly by the Fringe organisation, for Fringe Programme entry and for membership of the Festival Fringe Society Ltd; we do not control these charges. Fringe Programme entry is currently about £322 + VAT, discounted to about £235 + VAT if you get your entry in early. Membership of the Festival Fringe Society Ltd is £10.

Our finances are open to any scrutiny. No member of the Free Fringe gets paid for the work they do for the Free Fringe. We get no kickbacks from suppliers, venues or anybody else.

How it works in great detail. This is what you have to agree to.

1. Your application

If you choose to apply, you must:

    • tell us which other providers of venues you are negotiating with;
    • indicate ways in which you might help the Free Fringe community;
    • not apply for the Laughing Horse’s pirate “free festival”: you must not be in any negotiations with them and you must declare you are not; nobody in your show should be a regular performer at any of their shows at the Fringe;
    • not demand a particular venue. An application to the Free Fringe is an application to all venues. You may express a preference, but you may not say “Canons’ Gait or nothing”.
If you choose to apply, we will look at your work, if possible in live performance, unless we already know you. We will also make a judgment on whether you will indeed do your part for the collective.

Of course you can discuss your particular situation with us.

2. When you’re accepted

Once we have agreed that your show should be part of our programme, i.e. once we’ve offered and you have accepted, that is a firm commitment.

You will immediately withdraw all other applications you have made for that particular show to other venues , and if those other venues come back and make you a counter-offer, you will turn it down.

We and you are from that point fully committed. We will only withdraw if a) you breach these ethos and conditions or b) a force majeure situation arises, such as the venue itself shutting down or withdrawing. In case b) we will do our utmost to find a substitute venue and slot and will collaborate with you in that.

You for your part cannot withdraw or change your mind. If your circumstances change you undertake to discuss the situation with us, and assist as far as possible in finding a solution. You do not have the right to say “we’re not coming after all”. Anybody doing so will never play the Free Fringe in any future year.

3. After you’re accepted

you agree to do all of the following:

3a Before the Fringe

    • If you choose to be in the main Fringe Programme, your entry must have the phrase “PBH’s Free Fringe” as part of the Performer Name field.
    • You must provide enough leaflets/flyers to publicise your show; for a full run, 5000 is normally considered the right number to print.
    • These leaflets/flyers must contain the Free Fringe logo in its original colours, or black and white if the leaflet is black and white.
    • The Free Fringe logo must also be on any posters.
    • You must join the Festival Fringe Society Ltd;
    • You must not make any substantial changes to your show without discussion with the Artistic Director for your section;
    • You must not subcontract your slot;
    • You should offer to loan to the Free Fringe such PA and other equipment you may possess;
    • You should put any special non-performing talents you have at the disposal of the Free Fringe;
    • You must discuss any problems that may threaten your show with the Artistic Director for your section, and not pull out without discussion.
    • If your show has a significant sponsor, that sponsor should take out an advertisement for its products (not for your show) in the Free Fringe programme.

3b. Friday 1st August 2014

    • If performing in the first week, you agree to be at your venue the day before the Free Fringe starts (usually at 1pm) and help with the setup.

3c. During the Fringe

    • Do not give out your own show’s leaflets without also giving out the full Free Fringe Programme;
    • Ensure the condition above is complied with by anybody who is giving out your leaflets, including paid leafleters;
    • Hold the bucket for the show before you, unless that show tells you it does not want you to do this (check with them before your show starts);
    • Finish your run;
    • Perform all shows as scheduled;
    • Find an emergency substitute if you are too ill to do your show on any day;
    • Spend sufficient effort publicising your show by street leafleting and other means;
    • Vote for the candidates of your choice on the Board of the Festival Fringe Society Ltd;
    • Fulfil the door control/greeting duty (2c(i) below) exactly as specified;
    • Support all other Free Fringe shows;
    • If you break anything, or if your show does, or if anything breaks while you’re in charge, own up to it and replace it (or as agreed with the owner);
    • Take good care of all equipment on stage, no matter to whom it belongs, and ensure it cannot be stolen.

3c(i). The door duty

    • Be at your venue on duty from at least 15 minutes before the previous show ends
    • Remain at your venue on duty until at least 15 minutes after the next show starts
    • During these changeover times:
      o Greet incoming audience and show them where to wait
      o Exercise traffic control: stop your audience going in to the previous show in the last few minutes. Make sure the space is clear before letting the new audience up/down/in.
      o Hold the bucket for the previous show if asked to
      o Offer the Free Fringe programme to the outgoing audience
    • At the end of your show:
      o Plug the next show and the Free Fringe generally.
      o Switch the ambient music back on.
      o Leave the stage in a reasonable condition for the next show. Do not leave this job and talk to your audience; do it first.
      o As soon as you can, take over door duty from the show following yours, so they can set up.
3d. The day (usually Sunday 24th August) after the Free Fringe finishes at your venue

    • If performing in the last week, you agree to be at your venue the day after the venue finishes (usually at 1pm) and help with the knockdown and tidying of the venue and the recovery to its owner of property lent to the Free Fringe. In some cases, the knockdown will take place on Saturday 24th after the last show; you agree to be there instead if that is the case.

3e. After the Fringe

    • Write a report on your show and venue, clearly saying what would be helpful to members in future years, and post it on the Free Fringe forums.
    All the above are conditions of the Free Fringe and your run may be terminated if you do not conform to them.

We no longer insist that all full-run shows should be in the main Fringe programme. We do suggest it as a good idea. You get more people noticing your show; you become eligible for awards; you are much more likely to get reviews. Shows new to the fringe are particularly encouraged to do this. The choice, however, is yours.

Types of shows

Our beginnings were in Comedy. We now want to have shows in all the arts, but only when they can be successfully done within our model.

We do not want to mix Comedy with Spoken Word, Theatre or family shows within the same venue. Otherwise audiences may not behave in a way appropriate to the show. We will mix Comedy, Cabaret and Magic in the same venue if we think it appropriate. Otherwise we will try to dedicate different venues to different art forms, although depending on the venues we use and the shows we get we may not completely succeed.

In 2013 we will have programme sections for:
    • comedy
    • drama
    • cabaret
    • magic
    • science and rationalism
    • the spoken word
    • family-friendly shows
    • dance
    • music

We recognise that there may be overlap between many of these areas, and it will be a matter of judgement what goes in which section.

We will discuss proposals for other genres, but whatever is proposed must be a show, not a recital. Edinburgh demands that.

Within comedy, there are many sub-genres, and some are more suitable for some venues. It would help if we could know for each show the type of material expected, for example intellectual vs laddish, experience-based vs surreal, belly-laugh vs slow burn.

Venues 2014

Before end December 2013 we will be determining what venues we shall use in 2014. The search for venues will continue after that, and we hope to find a venue for every show we accept. This is not guaranteed; it is not easy. Every year there are some changes. We will not give out a full list of venues until that process is complete. At time of writing, most major 2013 venues have signed up for 2014.

The uncensored experiences of performers at the 2013 Free Fringe and previous years can be read on, navigating to 2013 — Post Festival Reports, which are then classified by venue. Potential improvements suggested by 2013 performers will be or have been discussed with the venues, and where possible will be implemented.

If you do not know the venues, we will choose for you. An application to the Free Fringe is an application to all venues. You can express preferences, but you cannot give an ultimatum. When we offer you a slot, you may accept, decline or negotiate a change with the Artistic Director for your section.

The Free Fringe Programme

The Free Fringe produces its own programme, listing all shows in time order with an equal-sized listing (in previous years two lines of title, location, dates and times, three lines of blurb plus a picture).

This programme, it is generally agreed, is the single most useful tool for obtaining audience members for your show. At the Fringe, it is highly sought after by the public. In 2013 we printed 100,000 copies.

All shows are obliged to offer the Free Fringe Programme to the public whenever they offer their own fliers. Doing so is a Free Fringe condition. In this way, everybody supports everybody else.

The Free Fringe Programme is financed by the sale of advertising space within it. It is everybody’s responsibility to sell advertising space. If your show is sponsored, you should sell advertising space to your sponsor as part of the deal. If not (very few shows are actually sponsored) you should sell advertising space to appropriate businesses.

We will not sell space to shows themselves. All shows have an equal listing and money should not be able to buy you a better listing.

In 2012 and 2013 we failed to sell enough advertising to finance the programme. We had to resort to an emergency voluntary levy, which was set at £3 or £3.50 per performance. We are very keen that this should NOT happen again. We have over 450 shows and should easily be able to sell enough advertising, or raise enough money through fundraising gigs, as long as our members take responsibility for making this happen.

Your show is therefore responsible for either selling advertising or raising benefit funding to the tune of about £3.50 times the number of performances, so about £80 for a full run. We don’t want this from your pocket. We want you to sell ads or run benefit shows for this.

If you want to see a copy of the 2013 Free Fringe programme, please ask.

Trust and Honour

The Free Fringe works on honour. And on trust. We trust you to do what you promise, and by accepting these conditions you give your promise. We trust you not to damage the programme.

We don’t expect you to:
    • Having accepted an offer, pull out without discussing the situation
    • Having accepted an offer, pull out shortly before the programme deadline
    • Change substantially the content, format or cast of the show without discussion
    • Use us as an ‘insurance offer’ while waiting for a decision from other venues
    • Promise what you can’t deliver
    • Lie
    • Damage equipment without telling anybody
    • Be rude to venue staff
    • Ignore any email sent to you by the Free Fringe, however long it is
    • Accept these conditions and not conform to them.
It would not be necessary to say these things but for a minority of people who have, in the past, shown themselves untrustworthy.

If there’s a problem before the fringe, DISCUSS it with your section Artistic Director. If there’s a problem AT the fringe, DISCUSS it with your Venue Captain. Do NOT make unilateral decisions. There are solutions to most problems. It is important that we know what’s going on AT ALL TIMES.

Performing at the Fringe, especially for those who are new to it

The Fringe is hard. Harder than you can imagine. The average audience is six people. In your first year, you should not expect to do that well. If you come to the Fringe expecting the world to recognise your genius, forget it. The best in the world are there, and that’s who you will have to compete with.

You will have to work hard at street leafleting to get any audience at all. If you get even one, the show goes ahead. Shows are never pulled for low audience numbers. It’s a Fringe tradition and a point of honour.

You will feel like packing up and going home at least once a day. You must not. You tough it out.

Whatever goes wrong is nobody’s fault but yours. Do not blame your venue, your show time, me, the weather, the public, your lack of reviews or anything else. To make your show work, you yourself have to work, and if it’s going badly, work harder.

If you come to be discovered and get famous, you will have a miserable time and you will not succeed. If you concentrate on entertaining the people in front of you, whoever they are, you will have a much better time.

Do not overestimate yourself. Do not do a one-person show until you’re thoroughly ready. Not only are OPSs the least popular type of shows in the Comedy section; the history of the Fringe is littered with the corpses of those who tried to stretch 20 minutes material to cover 50 minutes.

The Fringe is not where you go to get good. The Fringe is where you come when you’re already good. If in doubt, don’t.

We are open to shows of all levels of experience, but the public must know what it’s getting. A show featuring predominantly inexperienced acts must have a blurb that says that.

The Free Fringe isn’t free because it’s rubbish. The Free Fringe isn’t rubbish. We aim to have a programme of shows whose normative standard is equal to the normative standard of shows at the money venues. And we succeed in that.

If you think you’re doing us a favour by applying to us (or condescending to join us), fuck off.


So, if you want to apply after having read this, please use the online form at . If that is not possible, email for help.

We look forward to hearing from you. The team will answer any reasonable question.

Please avoid bullshit. If you have appeared on the same bill as somebody famous, that doesn’t mean you have ‘supported’ them. And it doesn’t say anything about your act. Be honest in your application.

Agents, manager figures and similar: the act personally must accept the conditions, not you on their behalf.

Theatre and Spoken Word shows: no shows with themes of organised religion or “spirituality”. All shows must be shows, and must not be concealed propaganda for any belief system or similar.

Non-original plays must have performance permission duly licensed and in place.

Each application is individual and the importance of each question on the form will vary according to your particular circumstances.

The first round of allocations of shows to spaces is expected at end December 2013. This, if you make the quality threshold, will result in a space and time offer, which you can then accept or renegotiate. Full-run shows are allocated first and part-run shows must fit around the full-run ones. You can make the process easier by making your part-run applications jointly with another show or shows to make up a full run between you.

Once you accept an offer you are bound by these conditions. If you break them, for example by withdrawing without discussing your situation or by not distributing the Free Fringe programme along with your own show fliers, your show may be terminated mid-run and you will not be invited again. The Free Fringe relies on people behaving honourably.

Most people enjoy their time at the Free Fringe. We hope you will.

Peter Buckley Hill

APPENDIX: notes on individual sections.

Read only what applies to you.

Spoken Word Section

Three stages will be dedicated to Spoken Word. This may include Poetry, Storytelling and the work of certain singer-songwriters. There is a separate Artistic Director for Spoken Word, and his/her decision is final. You should be experienced in performance of your work; if your therapist has told you to write ‘poetry’, please don’t apply.

Comedy section

This can include all forms of comedy, except comic plays, which count as Theatre. Otherwise stand-up, musical, sketch and physical comedy all count. Stand-ups are advised not to apply for shows beyond their capabilities. If you’re not getting regular paid 20s, don’t apply for a solo hour.

Cabaret and Magic sections

We tend to programme these in the same venues as Comedy. Shows with large and elaborate technical requirements cannot usually be accommodated. Keep it as simple as possible. There will be no technicians to work sound, and there may not be lighting effects. Whatever needs working, you will have to find someone to work it. Oh, and probably no storage. We need to know the technical issues at time of application.

Theatre section

Keep it simple. You are not going to get a fully rigged theatre, and you are not going to get technical staff. You will, as Peter Brook said, get an empty space and turn it into a theatre. Do not rely on effects; rely on the sheer power of your performance. Keep it simple. The audience want to see acting and writing; do it well and they will suspend their disbelief. Shows who need equipment should provide it; this can be done in collaboration with other shows in your venue.

Science and Rationalism section

We welcome this. What venues we put it in depends on the show. But strive to inform through entertainment. The audience expect to be entertained, not lectured at.

Family-friendly section

This is relatively new to us. We used to put on only adult shows, because all our venues were licensed premises. But now we have at least one venue which can stage family-friendly shows and we want to do more of this. Same applies as to Theatre above; keep it simple. Please tell us whether it’s specifically a children’s show or a show suitable for all ages. If children’s, it will help if you are CRB-cleared. But we’re not a crèche and parents must remain responsible for their children.


Music works best when it’s a show; quiet, thoughtful singer songwriters are at a big disadvantage. We are awaiting word on whether our main 2013 Music venue will return in 2014. More news later in the year; we expect it to be positive. No one-night stands; all acts should do several days.


We’ve never done this before 2012. Often, it needs lots of space and special floors, plus elaborate lighting. We don’t have that. But if you can do a show without these things, talk to us. We now have some Dance shows.

EVERYBODY: keep it simple. You need to be able to rig your show in ten minutes or less (a little more for Theatre, but not much) and de-rig it in the same time. Most shows are 50 or 55 minutes within an hour slot plus 10 or 15 minutes tunround time. Irregular lengths can sometimes be accommodated in Theatre, but rarely elsewhere unless we know by end December and they’re a full run. No part-runs of irregular length.
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Re: Ethos and Conditions 2014

Postby PBH » 07 Oct 2014, 00:02

As you will note, the above is the 2014 version of the Ethos and Conditions. We are re-drafting the Ethos and Conditions for 2015, as we do every year. While some points of detail may change in the new version, none of our principles will change. If, therefore, you are new to the Free Fringe and want to know more, the above will give you a substantial idea of how we work. The 2015 version, which will be the binding one, will be posted here when it's ready.
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