Postby Shamus Maxwell » 08 Sep 2015, 21:53

The venue:

The venue is organised over three floors, with a bar downstairs, three rooms on the first floor and four on the second (though this configuration can be varied as it has to be partially rebuilt each year). The George Next Door is on the floor above, part of the same building but with a different entrance another floor up.

On the plus side:
- the venue is very centrally located and there's a lot of footfall to entice in with flyers.
- the room itself was a decent size, and even with the two large columns in it, there were about 40-50 seats with unrestricted views of the stage – possibly more could have been squeezed in.

Negatives / things it would be nice to improve:

- the UpOneM room itself: nicer lights had been put in but not connected, leaving us with basic strip lighting; there was a strong smell of urine on some days coming from the toilets above, and there was no ventilation. If more acts had turned up on the get-in, maybe it would have been easier to do more work together to improve it. I bought a light (which most acts chipped in for), Laura and I built a wing out of clothes racks and bedsheets, and Andrew Gentilli bought fans, all of which made a difference, but more could be done and if I were doing it again I would try to make more changes to improve the space, such as putting up a backdrop that didn't keep falling down, improving the lighting further and draping more cloth around the walls to give the room a less cold and dirty feel.

- the building is confusing to punters, judging from the number of people wandering around looking lost! Decent signage would be a really big help, but due to the nature of the building, human helpers are probably more important. With some extra effort at coordination, all the acts in the building between them might be enough to direct punters around, but it didn't quite happen this year. It might help if the bar on the first floor outside our room had been open, and some tables and chairs placed outside: the licensee would make more money, all the shows on that floor and the one above would have increased general traffic, and staff would be around to direct people to the correct rooms. The extra noise would have been more than worth it (provided there wasn't any music, which would have bled terribly into all the rooms on that floor).

- there was some noise bleed from other rooms, but this was only really a problem because the doors were very hard to close and would spring open at random throughout the show.

- there was also noise bleed from the bar downstairs, which was playing melancholy acoustic music amplified at volumes that would have done the Ministry of Sound proud. This mostly affected other shows in UpOneS and L. I watched a couple of these, and at quiet moments it seemed they were being soundtracked by that music, which as a punter I felt was a real problem. Quieter and perhaps less miserable music would make a big difference next year.

- the toilets downstairs needed more maintenance work to keep them in a state fit to be used; if the bar had been busier they would have been seriously inadequate.


- the worst and most upsetting thing that happened during the whole fringe was learning that someone who represented another act in the building had been redirecting punters to go and see that show instead, telling them that our show and others had been cancelled or simply cajoling them into changing their minds. We struggled for numbers during that whole period, averaging about 6-7, with buckets about £15-20. Maybe we would have struggled anyway – we'll never know how many punters and or how much bucket money we missed out on. Our audiences (and bucket takes) briefly rocketed after it stopped, but then again it was the busiest weekend of the fringe.
I suppose there's not much that can be done to stop this happening in the first place, but as I understand it, it took several days or possibly over a week between the moment someone at the venue first became aware of it and the time anything was done about it (and in the end all it took was telling the act in question, who sacked this person when he found out). If this happens again, anyone who is known to be doing this should be banned from the building immediately – or at least the other acts should be told so they could have the chance to do something about it.

- some of the venue staff (not all) made it feel like we were in enemy territory rather than sharing a venue for mutual benefit! When the bouncers started searching everyone's bags and not letting in anyone under the age of 18 or if they were carrying any kind of food or drink it took getting Frank Galbraith involved to sort it out.
Three days from the end of our run, Laura was flyering in the bar and the bar manager came up to her and shouted in her face, asking 'How dare you flyer in here?' She was utterly bewildered, and tried to explain that this really wasn't a weird thing to do given we were doing our show in the venue, and that she'd been doing it for many nights in full view without being challenged. The manager seemed to think he was in competition with us for punters. He was so aggressive that a bouncer assumed there was some kind of trouble and came over to investigate. Laura was very shaken, which isn't how you want to feel just before you do a show!
We need to work with the venue to make a place people want to hang around in and see shows. If flyering in the venue bar is going to be banned (which I think would be odd), this should at least be made clear to everyone at the beginning of the run.

I believe all the negative points I've listed are things that can be addressed next year, and if changes are made, CGH generally and even UpOneM could be good venues.

I would rate my experience as positive overall. There were audiences to be had, even if they were often small, and the experience of performing in the heart of Edinburgh for three weeks was invaluable. Frank Galbraith and James Gregory did well in difficult circumstances, and Frank in particular was invaluable in sorting things out between the venue and us.

The get-in and get-out worked pretty smoothly, although it would have been nice if more acts had turned up for both, and particularly the get-out!
Shamus Maxwell
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Joined: September 2015

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