2:35pm - AI (Alex Oliver And Ian Lane) - Middle Floor

2:35pm - AI (Alex Oliver And Ian Lane) - Middle Floor

Postby Aloofified » 02 Sep 2015, 17:18

The Venue
Silk is a modern three-floor commerical nightclub in the shadows beneath the Edinburgh Castle. Our show was on the Middle Floor, which is the club's main dancefloor adjacent to its longest bar. Room capacity is around 60-80 seated, with plenty more room for standing audience if necessary.

Performance area
The performance area for Silk Middle is at the north end of the dancefloor, in front of the raised 'VIP' seating area (which functions as the backstage area) and next to the DJ booth. The Free Fringe backdrop formed a partial wall to cover the backstage area, but on the whole anyone walking behind there mid-show is likely to be visible to audience members.

There are no separating doors or curtains between the performance area and the bar, meaning that there were occasional noise and visual distractions from people ordering at the bar or walking past the room. One notable flaw with the venue layout is that due to the stage configuration of the Lower and Upper floors blocking off their respective doors into the toilet stairwell, the entrance to the toilets for every floor ended up being via Middle. This meant that audience members from Lower and Upper had to take a circuitous route via Middle in order to get to toilets on the ground floor, which resulted in audience members having to walk past the Middle performance area during shows. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any other way around this, but it at least didn't prove overly distracting for our particular show.

Technical set-up
PA system was excellent quality - all speakers were the nightclub's own so were built in and well maintained, and the levels were controlled via a proper club mixer with automatic music talk-over functionality for the microphone, which was an unexpected added bonus.

There were frequent problems with the venue's lighting, as the spots kept failing intermittently, so there often ended up being limited lighting on the performers' faces. For this reason, it generally worked better when the house lights were up, although the stage area still tended to be slightly darker than the audience area in this regard. Prospective performers at this venue might be best advised to invest in a spotlight for the fringe where possible to ensure consistency.

The Middle floor was kept well air-conditioned by the staff, so audiences didn't have to sit in sweltering conditions, which was a major plus.

Bar staff and supervisors were generally friendly and willing to help when required.

Advertisement / Marketing
Most of the audience we obtained was through flyering. We didn't pay to go in the main Fringe booklet this year, which may have been a mistake. Also, as our show format was a generic stand-up double bill, our minimalist poster design was possibly a little too oblique in terms of conveying what our show was to prospective audience, so we probably suffered in this regard as well.

Location-wise, Silk is on the fairly peripheral King's Stables Road, down which the only other public facilities of note are a music shop and a car park. Consequently, it gets very little footfall, so the nearest patch for sufficient flyering was Grassmarket. I designed a map for the flyer which, with the benefit of hindsight, I would have designed differently, as much of the area that it shows (in particular, a lot of the streets West of Silk) is not particularly useful for finding the venue. A map showing Silk at the far left, with the Royal Mile and Cowgate areas included, would possibly have made the venue location clearer to a wider area of prospective punters.

Beyond the venue number above the door, there was little to indicate what exactly was going on inside apart from the official Free Fringe line-up posters next to the venue's front door. This turned out to be quite far from the pavement where most casual passers by would walk, so it seems the venue picked up very little passing trade and only attracted people who were aware of specific shows. On set-up day, we asked the venue manager about the potential for signs or posters for the street, but she seemed somewhat disinterested, dismissing our suggestions with warnings about flyposting and then discussing the matter no further. I, and I believe many other of the performers at Silk, would've been happy to club together to invest in temporary signage at Silk (akin to the black arrows outside Cabaret Voltaire) or any other ways that we could have made the venue more generally visible as a Free Fringe location, but I believe this would have needed to occur at the discretion of the venue, and sadly the support and interest did not appear to be there.

The main areas for placing our posters in the venue were the lobby and the main stairwell. Towards the weekend, evening visitors to the nightclub had a tendency to rip down the posters for the vast majority of shows, as well as the Middle Floor sign outside the door, so we usually needed to replace these by Sunday of each week.

Audience / Bucket
Smallest audience = 0, largest audience = 21, average audience = 8. Five shows in the second half of the run were pulled due to no audience, which seemed to coincide with a general decline in audience numbers for many other shows I spoke to in the third week. One of our shows in the first week was almost pulled until 4 very game audience arrived 35 minutes late, so we did significantly shortened sets to them, and they turned out to be one of our most responsive audiences. Generally though, the audience-to-empty-seats ratio seemed to result in a rather self-conscious audience atmosphere, so most of the gigs were tough, though by no means unrewarding. On the plus side, the early afternoon timeslot meant that our audiences were largely attentive and rarely caused any trouble.

From speaking to other acts and members of staff, it appears that shows with particularly strong USPs and marketing strategies managed to pull in consistently good audiences at Silk (most notably Stand-Up Philosophy), so I would warn that shows that do not have particular confidence in these areas may be particularly likely to struggle at this venue.

Bucket takings were generally high considering the numbers. Average bucket taking (ignoring pulled shows) was just below £20 per show, and there were very few mid-show walkouts. I believe that having a strong and unusual speech involving two 'buckets' helped us a lot in this regard.

The Show Itself
A more-or-less no frills stand-up double bill, in which myself and Alex did just under 30 minutes each. We generally got good feedback at the end, and even got asked to sign posters for a couple of fans (yes, really!).

I found that shows within Silk were on the whole very communicative with each other, and there were no problems with the show transitions from our end.

Overall, Silk has many decent facilities in its favour as a Free Fringe venue, but the location currently puts most shows (bar those with particularly distinctive hooks) at a huge disadvantage.

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