Ethos & Conditions 2017: superseded by 2018 Ethos & Obligati

All participants must read, understand and comply with these rules as a condition of running an event

Please start here to find out all about The Free Fringe - Applying to the Free Fringe; Types of Shows Allowed; How the Shows Work; Performing at The Fringe for those who are new to it; Venues; Application process

Ethos & Conditions 2017: superseded by 2018 Ethos & Obligati

Postby PBH » 02 Nov 2016, 23:04

Welcome to The Free Fringe Ethos and Conditions status 2nd November 2016. We reserve the right to amend, rewrite and improve these as appropriate. These conditions do not constitute a contract; the relationship between us in non-contractual and relies on you and us keeping our word to each other. Our legal adviser asks us to add: if this were a contract, which it is not, English Law would govern it.

Please read before applying. It may appear long, but to quote a Free Fringer: “if you expect the public to sit through 50 minutes of your show, you can spend 10 minutes reading this”.

How the Free Fringe works:

The Free Fringe does not work like any other set of venues at the Fringe.

Please be clear from the outset: if you get a venue, you must give back to the Free Fringe. You don’t take the venue and go your own sweet way, doing whatever the hell you want. You collaborate with all other Free Fringe shows and support them in the ways we describe below, and in other ways. No prima donnas.

We get the venues free of charge; we pass them on to the performers free of charge; the performers pass it on to the public free of charge.

The performers (you) get the bucket collections. The venues get the bar sales. We, the Free Fringe Ltd, get nothing; we’re a non-profit organization. But we need to raise about £28000 per year for expenses, mostly the printing of the Free Fringe Programme (the Wee Blue Book).

There’s no money to spare, so nothing is provided beyond PA and backdrops.

All the work, before and during the Fringe, is done by you, the performers (with the exception of two very important non-performing members in Edinburgh). So it’s important that everybody does their share of the work.

You’re not competing with each other. You’re working together with each other and supporting each other. And there’s nobody to run to in case of problems; you sort them out yourselves.

Point one: you must be honest and true to your word. This is a non-profit organization, run by unpaid volunteers. We need you to be truthful, and not play games with us. There’s a good reason for everything we ask you to do, even if sometimes you can’t see that reason. We will be straightforward with you, and we ask you to be straightforward with us. That includes full disclosure, and not hiding your intentions behind phrases like “made other arrangements”. If you’re not willing to treat this as a partnership, don’t apply. If you’re not willing to contribute to the Free Fringe in non-money ways, or to support your fellow performers, don’t apply.

Only we are the Free Fringe. Other people may put on free-admission shows in imitation of us, but they’re not us. We’re better than them. And if you’ve applied to them, you can’t apply to us. There are good practical reasons for this. Let me make this clear: you cannot apply to Laughing Horse while you have an open application with us. People who are a named and billed part of your show may not be a named and billed part of a Laughing Horse show. Unbilled open spots in their shows do not break this rule. The same rule applies to shows run by other organisations, e.g. Just the Tonic, Gilded Balloon, where the audience is not charged for admission. You may, however, do paid ticketed shows with them or any other organisation you choose. The principle is simple. If you want a free-admission show, then the public can see it either with us or with another organisation. Not both.

We can’t stress enough that this is not like the money venues. You’re not shopping and you’re not a customer. You’re applying to join a community of performers. If we accept you and you accept us, that’s a commitment on both sides. It means you don’t negotiate with other venues behind our back. It means you don’t pull out after having accepted. If your circumstances change, you discuss it with us but you do not unilaterally pull out. It means you agree to these conditions in their entirety, in their letter and in their spirit.

On our side we will honour the offers we make to you. If the venue itself pulls out or closes down (and this has happened in the past) we will do our best to find a substitute and we will keep you informed at all times. Only if you break these conditions will we cancel your offer or terminate your show.

Free Fringe performers don’t always have a good time at the Fringe, but they have a much better chance of having a good time than with the money venues or with our imitators.

What you need to do during the Fringe:

There are two physical things you have to do at the Fringe:

Distribution of the Wee Blue Book

Anybody who hands out leaflets for your show must also offer the Wee Blue Book to the public. This doesn’t mean having one tatty copy available on request; the offer must be of the Wee Blue Book and your show flier, in that order. This rule applies to anybody who is handing out your show leaflets, whoever they are.

By these means everybody is publicizing everybody else’s show. You will find that the Wee Blue Book brings in more audience than your show’s leaflet. It works to everybody’s advantage.

The door duty

This is how it works:

• 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 Ensure the number of audience members admitted is within the fire/safety capacity of the venue. Apologise to any you have to turn away and suggest other Free Fringe shows they might see.
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 Finish on time, no matter when you started
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.

In addition to these two things, you are expected to take an active part in the running of your venue. You must maintain good relations with the venue’s staff at all times, and realize that they are there to sell refreshments, not to support your show. If they do things for you, it’s a favour, not an obligation.

Your show must go on. Whatever is in the Wee Blue Book (or indeed the central Fringe Programme) must happen.

The right amount of publicity

Because the WBB is so powerful and because the Free Fringe has built up a reputation over its 21 years, there is no need for excess publicity. Yes, you will need to have a presence on the street with leaflets, combined with the Wee Blue Book. But flooding the streets with too many leaflet distributors is counter-productive and anti-social. And having people leaflet for your show who have not themselves seen the show and are not committed to it is a waste of money, and reduces the value of your show. A further waste of money is having more posters than a small number (10 to 30) for around your venue and anywhere else you can put them up. Another waste of money is buying enormous posters (“big head posters”) on public sites, like many shows at the larger money venues do.

You may say: it’s my money, I’ll waste it if I want. No. We don’t like that. By founding the Free Fringe, we’ve saved you thousands of pounds you would otherwise have paid to the money venues. This stops you making a massive loss at the Fringe. If you spend the money you’ve saved on publicity, this forces all similar Free Fringe shows to spend just as much. The result is that everybody spends more and nobody benefits. That’s not why we started the Free Fringe; we started it to make the Fringe better value and a happier experience for the majority of performers. We don’t want our low-cost system to be exploited by people who want to gain fame at the expense of others. Keep your display and publicity to a reasonable level.

Before the Fringe

When you apply, you accept the first two parts of the conditions below. When you accept our space offer, you accept all the rest of the conditions below.

Before you apply:

• Adjust your spam filter to ensure emails from * and go to your inbox, not your spam box.
• Ensure you can get the time off your day job if applicable.
• Ensure you have read these conditions and will comply with them
• Brief all other members of your show
• Ensure you have not applied, nor intend to apply, for any free-admission show not run by us. That includes the “pay for a guaranteed seat or queue for a free one” promoters. You cannot be a named or billed part of a show with any other free-admission promoter. Having done shows for other free-admission promoters in previous years is OK.

As you apply:

• Frame your application as one professional talking to another. Do not include bullshit, exaggeration or hyperbole; this is not a ‘pitch’.
• Select the correct genre for your show. Decisions for each genre (Comedy, Spoken Word etc) are made by the Artistic Director for each genre. He/she is the important person in your application. If in doubt as to genre, read the notes on each section at the bottom of this document.
During negotiations:

• Be honest about your show, yourself and your experience.
• Tell your Artistic Director your honest reaction to your offer
• Negotiate in the Free Fringe spirit, accepting that all venues are imperfect.
• Do not be in negotiations with any other organisation for a free-admission show (see above). Paid shows are acceptable.
• Don’t be a dick.

When you’re accepted:

• Withdraw from all applications you have made to other organisations for the same show.
• Realise that you cannot drop out. If circumstances change, talk to your AD and if necessary negotiate a change. If you absolutely have to be replaced, you must propose a solution to the problem you have caused and speak to your AD.
• Realise that you may not subcontract your slot.
• Accept that we too are committed to your show and will not withdraw your space unless you break these conditions or a force majeure situation occurs (in practice, this means the venue itself closing or becoming unavailable). In the latter case we’ll find you somewhere else to play if at all possible.
• Don’t be a dick.

Within a week of acceptance:

• Compose a blurb of about 50 words for your show. (Remember: the Wee Blue Book doesn’t list performer names, so ensure your name is in your show title or blurb if you want the public to know). This blurb goes on an on-line form; you will be informed of the address. If you are an early applicant, wait until this blurb is called for; if it’s late in the cycle we’ll need it immediately.
• Ask us for any days off you need. These have to be co-ordinated with other shows, so don’t assume you can just take them.
• Join the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society Ltd on and send Kate Smurthwaite your receipt.
If you are listing your show in the Big Fat Fringe Programme:

• Add “/PBH’s Free Fringe” to your performer name, for example “Vijay Patel/PBH’s Free Fringe” or “Terrible Theatre Company/PBH’s Free Fringe”
• Designate your show as Free – NON-ticketed. All our shows are first come first served. Nobody gets priority treatment.
• When answering the question about what ages your show is suitable for, first check the licensing rules of your venue. If your venue is strictly over 18, as many are, put that your show is suitable for over 18s only. If you don’t, under-18s will come and have to be turned away, to everybody’s disappointment.

In the lead-up to the Fringe:

• lend the Free Fringe such PA as you may own.
• Put at the disposal of the Free Fringe any specialist skills you may have
• If possible run benefit events to raise funds (it is not enough to say “I’ll perform at benefit gigs other people organise” unless you’re so famous that your name will sell tickets)
• Try to sell advertising space in the Wee Blue Book.
• Volunteer as Venue Captain if you can
• Print an appropriate number of leaflets (fliers) with the Free Fringe logo on both sides in its original colours. For a full run, 5000 leaflets are recommended. One-off shows may not need leaflets, but will need some sort of publicity. You may use whatever printer you wish, but the majority of our performers use Cann Print of Kilmarnock, who do special Free Fringe prices and delivery.
• If printing posters, ensure that the Free Fringe logo in its original colours is on each poster.
• Take part in the setup on Friday 5th Aug if your show starts on Saturday 6th. Arrange your transport and accommodation so you can do this.
• Don’t be a dick.
During the fringe:

• Offer the Wee Blue Book with every flier you offer the public
• Ensure any leafleters working for you also offer the Wee Blue Book with every flier they offer to the public
• Vote for the Directors of your choice before or at the Annual General Meeting of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society Ltd.
• Perform the Door Duty exactly as specified above (adjusting suitably if there is no show before or after you)
• Be polite to all venue staff at all times and respect their work
• Support all other Free Fringe shows
• Finish on time, no matter when you started. If the show before you over-runs, take it up with them, but do not overrun yourself.
• Do your show no matter how many or few people turn up.
• Finish your run, no matter what. Do not drop out.
• If you are too ill to perform, use the Contact List to find a substitute show. Make sure no audience is sitting waiting for a show that doesn’t happen. If they can’t have the show they’re expecting, make sure they get a show of some sort.
• Do not write on walls or deface your venue in any way whatsoever
• Do not flypost
• 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.
• Don’t be a dick.
After the fringe:

• Take part in the knockdown on Sunday 28th August if your show runs to Saturday 27th. Do not arrange to leave Edinburgh on Sunday 28th.
• Thank your venue staff and if appropriate get them a card and/or present
• Write a report on your show and post it on
• After that, you can be a dick if you wish.



The Fringe isn’t like anywhere else you’ve performed. What applies in other circumstances does not apply to the Fringe.

The best way of doing the Fringe is as a full 22-day run. If you cannot do this, you should aim to do as long a run as you can. It is pointless doing a one-off show if nobody knows you. [This does not apply to the Music section, which uniquely is booked on a gig-by-gig basis and not in full runs].

The Fringe is probably the hardest and least rewarding work you will ever do. Despite this, many performers come back year after year.

The average audience for a Fringe show is six people, and in your first year you should not expect to do that well.

You will not get famous as a result of your Fringe show. Abandon your dreams. It’s not going to happen.

The artistic standard of the Fringe is incredibly high. If you’re not ready, don’t do it.

If you want to know how it was for other first-timers in the past, all the old show reports are on and you can read them at your leisure. And you can ask people on one of our facebook groups.

But once you have decided to do it, you must fulfil your commitment. Whatever goes wrong, tough it out. Plenty will go wrong. But you don’t quit. When you survive, you’ll feel good and you will have learned a lot.


The Free Fringe is a better way. But you will need to make some adjustments. Things are different with us.

You don’t have any door staff, techs or gophers. Everything that’s done is done by the performers themselves. So whatever you need done, you must arrange.

The venue staff are bar staff or similar and it is not their job to manage or assist the shows. Sometimes they will assist, when it suits, but you must not rely on this or assume they will. And you must treat them with utmost courtesy and consideration.

You have paid nothing, so nobody’s working for you. You have no entitlements. Everything’s a matter of negotiation and goodwill.

There are no stars at the Free Fringe. All shows are equal in our eyes, although of course those who pull larger audiences will tend to get larger venues. You must do the duty like everybody else, or get your entourage to do it; either way, it must be done.

Don’t assume that lighting or projectors are provided with our venues. Mostly there are no projectors and you have to supply your own, although there are some exceptions. Lighting is mostly a question of on/off, again with exceptions. We choose shows for venues on the basis of the shows themselves, not of their technical needs, although it’s also a matter of what spaces are available at the time of application.

But you’ll be under much less stress than at the pay-to-play venues, not having to worry about ticket sales, and free to concentrate on doing your show in the best way possible.

The public appreciate that you’re accessible to them in venues like ours. Spare some time for them, but clear the stage first, so the next show can start on time.

If there is an issue that needs to be resolved between you and the show before or after you, do it directly with that show.


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.

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. Breaking any of the Free Fringe conditions can cause immense damage.

You get one chance. If you do anything that breaks these conditions, you’re not trustworthy. And if you’re not trustworthy, you’ll never play the Free Fringe again. No excuses.

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

* * *

Keep it simple. You need to be able to rig your show in ten minutes or less (unless sometimes you’re the first show of the day) 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 in other sections unless we know by end December and they’re a full run. No part-runs of irregular length.

* * *

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. The 2016 and 2014 Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Show winners were both Free Fringers, as were the 2013 and 2015 Best Newcomer winners. So was the 2014 Best Newcomer winner, but not for his Free Fringe show. The 2012 Best Show winner will state that he could not have done it without the previous four years’ Free Fringe experience. Our members have won numerous other major awards and nominations.

* * *

Finance: it costs perhaps £28000 a year to stage the Free Fringe and this must be raised. Most of this is spent on printing the Wee Blue Book; the rest goes on trips to Edinburgh to negotiate venues and related matters; purchase of extra PA, chairs etc we can’t borrow; printing of backdrops and venue signage and similar items. Nobody is paid for the work they do for the Free Fringe.

We have three sources of income: advertising sales in the Wee Blue Book, benefit gigs and voluntary contributions. If we make enough from the first two. we don’t have to consider the third. So far we never have made enough from the first two. The more work everybody puts in on ad sales and benefits, the better. In 2014 and 2015 we had to ask for a voluntary contribution from our shows of £3 per performance, but only after the Fringe when shows’ bucket revenue was in. Most chose to pay; those who chose not to were not pressured. We’d rather not do this voluntary contribution at all. If we could sell out the Bloomsbury Theatre six times at £20 a ticket with a bill of famous names, we’d be covered. That, however, isn’t easy.

* * *

We get venues because the venues profit by the sale of refreshments. All shows need therefore to encourage audiences to consume the refreshments sold by the venues. Audiences should not bring their own refreshments in except for bottled water. And shows must not hand out refreshments to their audience except by agreement. Do not take money from the mouths of your venues. Do not arrange for drinks promotions to be part of your show, or anything else that will annoy your venue.

* * *

You would not believe the stupid things some of our shows have done in the past. The most stupid is not to turn up for the show at all, and to tell nobody, so that a gap arises in a venue’s schedule that the Free Fringe team aren’t aware of.

Other things people have done in the past are:
• headbutted a member of the audience
• spray-painted graffiti on the walls of the venue and then said “the Fringe is over; you can’t do anything about it” (we did, of course, and the University they came from took disciplinary action against them and made them pay for the damage)
• stole two bottles of wine from their venue, clearly seen by CCTV
• used their venue for sleeping in, despite it being a nightclub
• blatantly were part of a show with another free-admission provider as well as with us, and assumed that because they were an established act the rules didn’t apply to them.
Sometimes it seems that the biggest threat to the Free Fringe is its own members. But we continue to work on trust, because most people realise that a strong Free Fringe is good for performers, public and the city of Edinburgh.

You may care to read these accounts: ... 67634.html ... -me-happy/


Sometimes a show isn’t sure what genre it falls in. And of course we all have roots in several different art forms. But you must choose which genre you chiefly fall into. This will dictate who processes your application and what your show is described as in the Wee Blue Book.

Here are some FAQs to help:

If it has a script, characters and a through plot, it’s a play, hence Drama. Even if it’s a comedy play, it’s Drama.

If it has a series of unconnected or loosely connected sketches, it’s a sketch show, therefore Comedy. Unless it’s not meant to be funny, in which case it’s Spoken Word.

If it’s primarily targeted at children, it’s Children’s, no matter what other genre. If it’s all-ages-friendly, it goes under whatever main genre it is.

If it’s largely comic songs, it’s Comedy.

The Music section is booked gig by gig; everything else is booked by the run. Music shows aren’t usually suitable for runs unless they’re themed, in which case they’re Drama, Spoken Word or Comedy, depending. If you have a bass and drums backline, you’re Music section; we have no other venues that can accommodate that sort of band. For band gigs, do not use our online form; contact Cameron Phair directly.

Comedy magic is Magic. Flamboyant acts are probably Cabaret, but it depends on the show. Cabaret and Magic have the same Artistic Director.

If you are still unsure, make the best choice you can and describe your dilemma in your application. If after that your Artistic Director decides your show belongs in another section, he/she will pass it on.


Below, each Artistic Director has posted a brief note about applications to his/her section. Please read the one(s) that apply to you.


We welcome shows in the Spoken Word section from poets, storytellers, raconteurs and some singer-songwriters, depending on the show itself.

The Free Fringe Spoken Word section has a high reputation; we pioneered free Spoken Word shows on the Fringe and our lobbying for many years made Spoken Word a main heading in the Fringe Programme.

Applicants should be experienced performers and have a good artistic standard. If your therapist has told you to write "poetry", forget it.

What we need to know in your application is:

• cast size?
• is it a cabaret style show with different guests?
• high or low energy?
• in yer face or cerebral?
• any set/prop requirements? (not that we provide them)
The more we know about your show the better, but be concise. If there are YouTube clips of you performing, please include a link to them in your application.

Matt Panesh


Hello and welcome to the theatre section of the Free Fringe. We work co-operatively as an organisation and expect everyone to do their part in making sure everything runs smoothly.

Here are some general points and answers to FAQs:

Don't expect a lighting rig. Expect basic lights. When we say basic imagine a switch on the wall and a member of your company switching it on and off. Sometimes we get more than the basic lighting rig, but don't expect it.
While we will try to do our best to ensure there is no bleedthrough of sound, some bleed through is inevitable. Even in the paid venues this is the case. When almost everywhere in the city has a show nearby this is hard to avoid.

Most of our spaces are warehouses, pubs or community halls for the rest of the year. Don't expect a proscenium arch stage and/or curtains. Don't expect a platform stage of any description. Make sure your show can work in a black box type theatre. Don't expect a black box style theatre though - the spaces will be set up by the shows in the space on the day before the official first date. The configuration of the seating and staging is up to you and the other shows that share your space. Make sure the set up you use can be easily changed so the shows before and after you are not affected.

Under no circumstances should you alter the fixtures and fittings of the venue. eg No painting backdrops or graffiti onto walls of venues. If you break or destroy things expect to repair or replace things.

Insurance is a good idea and something you should consider very seriously. All paid venues insist on public liability insurance and while we do not it is a very very good idea.

Do not flypost under any circumstances.

We will not bail you out if you do anything illegal!

If your show has a large cast it may be hard, if not impossible to find you a suitable venue. If we have one when the time is right we will consider you, but don't expect it.

If anything goes wrong tell your venue captain. If you have no venue captain consider becoming the venue captain. Venue captains with problems should report to the artistic director of their section. If you are in a venue with a mixed bill of shows, contact the appropriate artistic director for that show. If you can deal with things without involving other people and they do not in some way interfere with the general Free Fringe ethos and conditions, please do so.

Licencing laws in Scotland are stricter than those in the rest of the UK. Many venues have an over 18 policy. We have some venues that have family licences, but not many - priority for those venues goes to shows that are aimed at children and young people. Even if your show is aimed at a general audience if you are not in a venue that allows under 18s you cannot allow anyone under 18 in.

While we will try to accommodate requests for technical rehearsals this isn't always possible, especially if your show starts part way through the month.

Keep props and set to the minimum. If you can't carry it to and from the space every day think about whether you need it. Storage space is limited in most venues. As most venues have a maximum of 15 minutes between shows, ensure you can take down your set quickly and allow the next show time to set up for their shows.

If you find yourself over running try to find a way to stop over running. If it keeps happening and it impacts other shows this is a problem that needs to be addressed. If your show needs to be cut or altered, try to find a way to do so. Talk to the shows before and after to work out a way to make it work and ensure the changeovers are as smooth as they can be.

Read the general ethos and conditions, and comply with them.

Elise Harris


We have several venues that are particularly suited to cabaret and the standard has been very high in past years. Shows that get placed well are usually the ones that let me know the most about themselves, so please back up your application with videos, references and reviews where possible.

These are what the Free Fringe offers you anyway: a performance space, a PA and a microphone. The PA and microphone are sourced either from the venue themselves, Free Fringe resources or its performers.

Your show might need more resources than that, or might need a particular space for it to work. There are no guarantees, but the more I know about your show, the better I can place it.

Will you need backing tracks?
If so, these might be on CD or MP3 player, so be prepared with both.
We do not provide a tech; in most cases neither will the venue. Either build cuing your own tracks into the show or arrange for your own tech.

Will you need a changing room?
These are not glamorous. Generally they are the nearest toilet/office cupboard, and do not exist in every venue.

Are sightlines important, eg burlesque, magic elements?

How large a performing area will you need?

Do you think you would attract a large audience or would you prefer a smaller more intimate space?

Your actual set-up and strike times are likely to be no more than 5 minutes. Be sure you can do this. Under no circumstances begin any sort of set-up before the previous show has finished, even if you think you're being quiet at the back of the room.

Would your show suit a bar in the room, cabaret style? The bar would only be accessible to your audience, but some people prefer it for atmosphere.

Be aware that almost all of our venues are STRICTLY OVER 18. Cabaret's a pretty adult audience generally so no worries there. However if yours is a family friendly show, we could have a space for it.

Above all - think basic! For instance, does your show actually need a projector or would music or a voice-over work just as well? Can you really clear everything away, leaving the space as you found it, in 5 minutes?

Finally, please do remember that I don't get paid for this, so try and make it easier. Keep me informed but don't make demands. I've found cabaret performers to be incredibly supportive of each other and you'll have a great time at the fringe if you jump in with both feet and paddle with everyone else.

Luke Meredith


Please read the notes for cabaret above.

With magic I try to be as considerate as possible regarding sightlines and size of venue. Magicians on the Free Fringe need very different spaces, from intimate close-up magic shows to large-scale illusions and we have venues to suit each.

Magic shows also tend to attract families. However most of our venues are strictly over 18. By all means let me know if your show is indeed family friendly, but be aware that if you are in an over 18 venue, you must state that on your flyer and promotional material.

Luke Meredith


** this is the blurb from the 2016 Artistic Director, who cannot be with us in 2017. The new Comedy team will update this section in due course.

- I personally try and give you the best room I can offer you FIRST. I don’t try and start a negotiation if it can possibly be avoided. You are likely to get a less suitable room (in my opinion) for your show if you negotiate. Thus, you must let me know if there are times you cannot do in your application.

- Later applications may get better spots than early ones as gaps begin to appear.

- PBH Free Fringe is absolutely the best thing you can perform on. Asking to change your slot because a ticketed venue has demanded you play your spot offered by them means in all likelihood you will get a less preferable slot from us. This is unavoidable.

- I am a volunteer. Making me work hard for nothing on your individual application will not go down well. You don’t like working for nothing - neither do I, so make my life easy, please!

- The Big Fat Fringe Programme early bird deadline is not one we adhere to. Please don’t ask us to.

- Mistakes occur. They’re rare, but they happen. In the event that one does, please bear in mind it has not been done on purpose. As a performer myself for over twenty years, I am well aware that it is infuriating to feel like you are being treated second best but it’s not the case. I know only too well how important your show is to you (mine is to me!) and I do my best for every application.

- I treat each year as a clean slate, wherever possible.

- If you have previously spent thousands of pounds on a show, it will hopefully have got the support that the money paid for. I will reiterate that we are all volunteers. We don’t send your press releases, we don’t sort out your technical requirements, we don’t provide technicians, we don’t design flyers for you or find you accommodation. Be nice, we’ll be nice back.


Our smallest section, but a proud one. For many years we have hosted the shows of the Edinburgh Skeptics, as well as science-based shows by such artists as Robin Ince, Helen Arney, Professor Richard Wiseman and Baba Brinkman.

We tend to programme these shows in the same venues as our Comedy-section shows, but will programme them elsewhere if the show itself seems to warrant that. Each case is different.

Shows must be entertaining. If they’re so entertaining that they become Comedy, then you have a choice of genres. Unremitting lectures are not really suitable unless the lecturer is very famous, and even then the material comes across better if entertainingly presented.

Shows must also not proselytise. You may be passionate about what you believe in, but your show’s objective should not be to convert people, or even worse pressure them to join something.

Even if your mission is to save the trees, you must conform to the Free Fringe’s requirements of having show leaflets and offering the Wee Blue Book with each of them.

Shows in this section have attracted good audiences in the past. Certain highly comedic shows have chosen to put themselves in this section, signalling to the potential audience the type of material they will hear in the show, and similarly the material they will not hear.

Peter Buckley Hill
(Ewan Leeming will take over as AD Science & Rationalism for 2017)


Hello and welcome to the Children's section of the Free Fringe.

We are happy to programme all sorts of shows suitable for children and family audiences but have only a few venues with licences suitable for shows aimed at under 18s. This means that spaces are limited.

Please read the general Ethos and Conditions for general information and also the theatre section as many of the FAQs on staging will be answered there. You are likely to be sharing the same venues as our theatre shows.

If your show is accepted your slot is likely to be earlier in the day. We have slots as early as 9.30am as some of our venues have licences that allow family audiences before a certain time. Later slots in some venues are possible, but please note these are sought after by shows from other sections.

Our Children's shows are not creches and a responsible adult should be in charge of children at all times. Exactly what 'in charge' means depends on the age of the child and the target age of the show, but the Free Fringe does not take responsibility for anything happening to unsupervised children. You will need to make this clear for your show. If a parent attempts to dump their children on you and go away, you should for your own sake stop them, and put appropriate wording on your fliers.

Although we do not require you to be DBS-cleared when doing a Children's show, it is an issue, and people doing shows for children can be vulnerable to false accusations. Please bear this in mind.

It is best to put the age-suitability of your show on your fliers.

Elise Harris


This is different. Bands and performers are booked on a slot-by-slot basis, not as full runs. If you want a run of a music show, you probably fall into a different genre, with a theme or story to tell.

Otherwise, for regular gigs, don’t use the online form, but contact the Artistic Director. We’ll know what music venues we have somewhat later in the year.

Artistic Director: Cameron Phair


Please use the online form at ** to be inserted when the form goes live **, unless you’re a Music act looking for one-off spots at our Music venues. If that’s you, don’t use the form; contact the Artistic Director directly in 2017.

When you fill in the form, please remember to adjust your spam filter. Last year at least three shows did not, and consequently did not receive their offers. This meant that both they and we lost out.

Agents and manager figures: unless you have discussed the situation with us beforehand, please ensure that the performer him/herself fills in the form and especially agrees to the Ethos and Conditions him/herself. It will be he/she who has to do the work on the ground, so he/she should be our primary contact and you should normally be in the secondary contact field.

After you apply, you’ll get an email with your show reference number. Please write it down and remember it. It is the key to our records of your application and the offer made to you.


We’re often asked: how quickly will I hear? That’s impossible to answer. Everything depends on a number of factors.

Applications open in November; no offers will be made until January.

After January, it depends on venues. Please realise that the Fringe has a fundamental problem. The deadlines for the Big Fat Fringe Programme are absurdly early, usually March for a discount and early April for full price. This is not helpful to performers.

Most venues do not decide to become venues until well after Hogmanay, and in the past we have had venues coming on board as late as July.

And, of course, in this economic climate, venues can go out of business. If that happens we’ll work hard to find something else for any shows affected, and we’ve always succeeded in the past.

As soon as we know we have a venue (from January onwards) we fill it. What sort of shows we fill it with depends on the venue. The wait in some genres may be longer than in others.

There is always a wait of some sort. Applications are early; Fringe deadlines are early; venues are late. There is always a bottleneck in January and February. It usually eases by March, but each year is different.

When you get an offer you usually have 14 days to accept or decline, or to discuss an amended offer with your Artistic Director. If you need more time than that, please discuss with your Artistic Director. Please don’t sit on an offer; somebody else could have had it. Talk to us and tell us what’s going on; we are reasonable people.


The Edinburgh Fringe is an exciting, frustrating, enthralling and above all hard experience. At the Free Fringe we have gained considerable experience helping shows to help themselves. The system works as long as you work with it, and recognise that you are performing alongside the best in the world. There's a lot to take in. If the ethos and conditions sound complicated, it's because the Edinburgh Fringe itself is complicated, and if you have not seen it you cannot imagine it. There is a good reason behind everything in these conditions, even though we may not have time or space to explain what that reason is. Every word you see above was written by a performer who has him/herself done several shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and knows it well.

Co-operate and work with each other and all will be well.

Good luck.

Peter Buckley Hill
Founder, The Free Fringe
Site Admin
Posts: 139
Joined: March 2007

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