My experiences

Performer reviews of their venues/shows/experience in 2007

My experiences

Postby Owen Niblock » 29 Aug 2007, 08:16

I think everyone knows about the problems at Madogs, it was no-one's fault and I'm pretty sure I made the right decision pulling the show.

Here's my thoughts on how things went (both positive and negative):
The ethos of PBH's Free Fringe works. We can work together and make our shows a success. I saw several examples of this during my time up in Edinburgh, and everyone was really supportive when I decided to pull the show.

Most of the show I saw were good, audiences seemed no better or worse than at other places.

It was fun.

We weren't organised enough a lot of the time. I've been talking to PBH about matters related to this and think having a pre-organised venue manager for each venue will help a lot. I've offered to do this at one of the venues.

All the shows needed better stage management (mine included) to appear more professional. It gets the audience in a better mood if it's all run like a well oiled machine. Walk-on music, end of show music, lighting etc can all make a big difference.

I think there may now be too many free shows (if that's possible), I noticed when flyering that nearly every other show seemed to be saying "Free Comedy" or something similar. This is now not a unique selling point, so we need to keep on top of the game and make sure the quality remains high.

Maybe we could try and get some volunteers to help out at the venues (front of house, flyering, teching etc) this may be difficult to do without some kind of incentive but perhaps we can use our contacts to offer comps for other shows? I'm sure some of my friends who do pay-for shows would be ok with giving out a couple of comps a day for the volunteers if we talk to them nicely.

I noticed that the LH people were often flyering with a board (cheaply made from a stick of wood and a few posters stuck to board) we should do more of this.

We should worry less about what LH are doing and concentrate on making our shows and experience as professional and good as possible.

How about some music and kids shows on the programme? As well as creating a more diverse programme, this will hopefully bring some people into the FF fold who might not normally come to the venues.

Oh! And when I was flyering the Meadow on Fringe Sunday, I didn't see any other Free Fringers (you may have been there - but I didn't see you) I did however see lots of LH people out flyering. This was disheartening.

I can't think of anything else right now, it's too early :)


(EDIT) If we can find one, we could do with a venue which has a nice place to sit and socialise (outdoors would be good but not essential). Somewhere people can chill out after shows and that could become a central-point for the Free Fringers.

(EDIT EDIT) The Josie Long thing was a great idea (although I missed them - which is rather annoying!) We should try and fill more of the days off with funny friends of the free fringe.
Niblock vs. Gig-A-Tron

The Project Begins.
Owen Niblock
Posts: 15
Joined: April 2007
Location: Bourton-on-the-Water

Postby comedyandthat » 30 Aug 2007, 00:05

I like this positive/negative/suggestions thing. Let's keep this going.


We were at the Canonsgait for the entire run and I have to say that it was a particularly tightly run affair from what I saw.

All the acts ran smoothly, there was a tonne of cooperation between acts in terms of front of house advertising and helping out (i'm nominating Noel James as man of the match as he tirelessly stood out there being ignored by Spanish tourists every day without fail. Sometimes in the rain!) Of the acts I saw there was always encouragement at the end of the show to stick around for the next one or two and that was excellent to see.

The audiences were always appreciative resulting in very healthy donations at the end. I'd take this as a great sign that we're regarded as highly as any charging acts.

The FF/LH awkwardness was non-existant between respective acts. I know for a fact that swathes of them came to see our shows and we went to see theirs, we talked to each other in the middle of the royal mile about our experiences thus far and this lead to an overall sense of unity which, as much of a hippy as it makes me sound, is what this whole thing is about.


I'd agree with Owen on this that there are too many shows banded about as being free comedy and are, understandably, of varying quality (by that I mean those who's show is free out of necessity rather than purely in keeping with the ethos of the free fringe). So as Owen rightly says we will all need to make sure our shows next year are polished to perfection.

I can't comment about stage management stuff as the Canonsgait tended to run smoothly with lighting and music.


Designated venue captains is definately a good idea. If only for relaying back to PBH (so he doesn't seem so stressed and have to walk about in a rush all the time) they'd serve as a good way of maintaining professionalism throughout gigs, perhaps pulling people up (in a gentle and supportive manner, of course) if they aren't doing their bit for advertising the venue and subsequent shows which is a problem that seems to have plagued some venues this fringe.

I like the idea of a chill out/focal point venue for next year. We are in Edinburgh all year round so i'll be sure to keep my eye out for anything suitable and report back.

All in all it was a great few weeks for us, we really enjoyed it and will definately be back next year with the FF.
Comedy and That presents Headlights

Free Fringe 2007 - Canonsgait Cellar
Posts: 5
Joined: April 2007
Location: Edinburgh

Postby TheHeff » 30 Aug 2007, 14:49

Well, I also agree with the points made above. I think I really lucked out this year with the Outhouse and Phoenix. Both venues were excellent and was lucky to get timeslots that really worked for me. So thanks, Peter for those.

Here's my tuppence worth


- When flyering on the Mile I found people really open the Free Fringe concept. Many hadn't heard of us before and after I'd explained the ethos to those who would listen they were much more interested in coming to see the show.

- I'm knackered but happy. And got a *****'s in 3 Weeks. Hell, yeah. ... sp?id=5535


- There's a few who thought since they weren't paying with money, then that was the end of the equation as far as they were concerned. There's not enough emphasis on paying with blood, tears and sweat.

- As an example, only three of the acts at the Phoenix turned up for the rigging on the Friday. Then somone complained about the room not being set up the way they liked.

- When applying for spaces next year there needs to be a contract of some description. It specifies what you'll be expected to fufill as part of getting a space. Some of these will be suggestions, some manditory. I know there's no way of enforcing these rules but it would stop some people bitching about being asked to do something perfectly reasonable.

- These would include things like spending 4 hours over the whole Fringe on the Mile promoting the Free Fringe at an offical "FF spot/stall" explaining the FF to interested people, pointing out things in the brochure that are starting and how to find venues (as well as their own show, naturally).

- Meeting for a weekly FF gathering (but, please, for the love of god, NOT on a Sunday morning)

- Having an individual venue meeting with the acts and the manager so we know faces and get on better.

- Contact lists need tightening up. How about an offical application form, with mobile, landline and e-mail addresses as de facto standard? From that it's easy to set up distribution lists for everyone and individual venues?

- Some more record keeping might give us a better idea about venues and turnover and provide us with ammo when discussing with venues in the future. We neeed to keep records of audience numbers, pulled gigs, etc and compare them against other venues. I had to pull my 1st Monday gig because it was empty. Was it just me, did everyone get hit? Who knows?

- Each venue needs an assigned FF area (even if it's just a cupboard). As well as keeping any props in there it will allow us to leave notes for the next shows (a bit like those check lists you get in publice toilets). Is the mike acting up, did someone not turn up, was the place left in a state from the night before). Our banner came loose one night and set off the burglar alarm. That kind of thing needs to be addressed.

- Venue budgets. This goes slightly against the ethos of the FF but I think it might become neccessary. I'd suggest a £50 deposit paid before Fringe with half of it returnable and the other half pooled for general venue expences - gaffer tape, making a big board, emergency cables or mike replacements. The venue manager would need to maintain an account of the spending and the left over would go to a big piss up on the last Sunday.

- ID cards. The LH guys had to rock up to Lindsay's to collect theirs. It meant they had to check in at least once and it outlined all the discounts they could claim at any bar. Although I went to many FF shows, could I have scored 25% off a pint while I was there? I lie awake at nights wondering.

Over all these are just admin things. I know there was a load of reinvention this year. It's all easily done in advance and I'm happy to commit to my share and more to make next year a sucess.
Posts: 1
Joined: March 2007
Location: Edinburgh

Postby Nick » 30 Aug 2007, 17:45

It was fantastic!

The Mercat was a great location - the perfect space for us, with friendly and helpful staff and really good food...

I felt the Free Fringe spirit was working well with borrowing of keyboards, props, even gaffa tape and manpower. The 'you saw mine, so i'll see yours' ethos was well enforced, and most of the other stuff I saw was great! Danny and Jeff were both advertising our show DURING theirs, as well as after, and happy to give advice, etc too... I saw David Heffron three times across the week I was there; twice by accident (but the third time on purpose, honest)..

I can't really think of much else to say - PBH provided enough advice for newcomers via email before the fringe, and any other gaps were filled in as and when needed! We had to pull our last show as a quarter of the cast couldn't make it, and one was cancelled as an unfortunate power cut happened about two minutes before the start (which the audience took as a dimming of the lights before the action....)

A dedicated venue manager would be useful, as would stage management (ultimately) but definitely not essential... We were only there for week three, so missed any meetings or introductions - probably our fault rather than the Free Fringe's.

But anyway, a great experience, definitely to be repeated (if you'll have us again)

Posts: 8
Joined: April 2007

Postby kreisler » 02 Sep 2007, 22:21

I thought it was great. Kudos to PBH for all the hard work. I hope you each have thanked him profusely and promised to buy him beer and a haircut.

Seriously, it was very good. we had full houses every night but one. had a lot of repeat audience that brought friends. and fun shows.

financially, no one makes $$ at the Fringe, but we averaged about 35 pounds in the bucket after each show. had highs of 85 and 100, lows of 12 and 15, i believe. could be wrong...

got 5 reviews, which is super duper. most were good.

our venue, The Outhouse, was extremely supportive, too. the mic went out a couple times, but they helped us deal with it. same with lighting issues. they helped.

One suggestion for all is, of course, to be nice to the people working at the venue. This should be picked up in Comedy 101, and I don't know that anyone wasn't, I just know that our experience was heightened because the bartenders and manager were our friends. We treated them with respect, tipped them, bussed our dirty dishes, stayed out of their way when they were slammed... and in return they helped us when they could. Just food for thought. You should be nice and respectful to everyone, anyway, of course, but if it takes self interest for you to do so (scum), here it is.

all the other free fringe performers and shows i went to/performed on, were very supportive, too. special kudos to Ro Campbell who had Todd and I on several times at the Phoenix. also the breakfast show and PBH & some comedians were great places to perform and get audience to our show.

We flyered for 1 to 2.5 hours before each show. That's how we got our audience. We did less as the fest wore on, but when we cut way back (i.e. after our good reviews), we just didn't get the people. It definitely was a tough pill to swallow at first - I (fortunately) make my living performing and writing comedy in the states - but it proved necessary and, in the end, close to enjoyable. I'd rather flyer for a couple hours and perform for a good crowd than not flyer and not perform.

So yeah, FF was a great way to do the Fringe. Every chance we could we promoted the Free Fringe to people we met. The regular fringe has just gotten too expensive - for performers and punters. You can't take a chance on something for 14 pounds. You can for free. And, as the thread on reviews shows, most of the time the chance worked out.

So there's that. There are too many people to specifically single out as being helpful and kind and funny, but PBH, the people at the Outhouse, and my comedy partners Todd & Roger were especially grand. It was good times.

If any of you head over to New York City, please let me know. I don't run comedy here, so I can't promise any of that, but I can offer some good beer/tea/'chips'. Likewise, I'm hoping to expand overseas, so perhaps I'll see some of you 'round the scene.

Until next year (at the latest),
Jeff (our show)
Posts: 5
Joined: April 2007


Postby Stephanie Ashford » 05 Sep 2007, 12:51


Not a negative/positive thing, but more of a suggestion for next year.

When I was on the Royal Mile flyering, I was always able to spot the LH gang (despite not even knowing a lot of them), but really struggled to find any FF (despite knowing a few more of them), unless someone had Peter's brush sign, or I was accosted by Americans in bright pink leotards!!

Could I suggest for next year, that you take it in turns to go out in flyering groups (poss one person from each venue?). You are able to flyer in the Pleasance Courtyard and the Udderbelly Pasture at anytime of the day or night without being stopped by security. You can also flyer in the Pleasance Done and Teviot without any hassle if you get in early enough, otherwise you will be asked to make sure you physically hand the flyers to people. This is something LH haven't twigged onto yet!!

Regarding Fringe Sunday, there is no reason for as many of you as possible not to be there throughout the day. The easiest way to flyer this event is with the main programmes, but individual flyers work just as well. Be standing outside the tents getting people on the way in or out, have yourselves lined up along Middle Meadow Walk so you catch people entering and leaving the area. 3-4 hours concentrated flyering here could very easily work wonders for all the shows.

There's probably more suggestions, but they start to get a bit corporate and possibly violent (those flyers can give a nasty paper cut you know..... :wink: ), so I'll leave you all now.
Stephanie Ashford
Posts: 28
Joined: July 2007
Location: Edinburgh


Postby Ben Heal » 09 Sep 2007, 19:37

Definite sense of communality and reciprocity in the PBH FreeFringe - for
MUCK this was well evidenced by Danny W, Dan Mitchell (and his COC, indeed
fleetingly we were his COC), PBH, Viv Gee, Roo, Not to forget he
Faustian theatre group performing before us who kept coming back to be our

There was also a sense that the PBH venues and artists were aware of one
another- cells of a larger organism as it were. MUCK felt obliged to do a
stand up show when the following on theatre group cancelled but had still
pulled an audience, well we represented PBH .

Inescapably there may be a need to compare with Laughing Horses festival.
Never once in a week of trawling through a large variety of venues did I see
a LH leaflet and only a few posters. If LH were getting good audiences it
would be interesting as to why.

The importance in such a comparison is not merely competitive it is because
they are in the same core business and if their marketing was more or less
effective than ours it should inform our tactics.

Audience size was a major concern for us given our location. My sense of
marketing is built merely on a week as a performer but also long term
Festival attendance as a punter.

The following has no scientific basis at all but I think to fill a venue -
outside of friends and families - the following are the most important
variables, in descending order: Good printed review 2) Venue location in
terms of casual popping in 3) In main Festival programme 4) PBH leaflet -
likely to be gained at first PBH venue visited as couldn't track them piled
elsewhere. 5) Event-specific posters 6) and a very distant sixth - flyering.

I saw a Glaswegian male stand up at the Phoenix (sorry not good at names)
who sensibly kicked off by asking attendees why there were there as his
audience (festival prog and drop ins). I would suggest making this survey de
rigor for each show, as it would soon reveal mass motivation. It doesn't
mean new marketing means would not be effective but surely it would be
better initially to build on what is proven?

I have a real concern over flyering. Ecological reasons aside (which they
shouldn't be) it seems a strange historical artefact, something that worked
once but now through overproduction is not just pointless but a waste of
time and money which could be refocused elsewhere. With so many flyers each
year they become self-defeating.

The PBH leaflet is where the time and effort should go. I admire this years
leaflet especially its realisation that geography is important hence the
foregrounding of the map and respective locations. It was crammed because it
had to be.

I do wonder if the monies I assume are 'wasted' on flyers were pooled and
refocused onto an expanded PBH leaflet, perhaps with some added value (blank
diary, map as in main festival prog) it would help marketing. The theme
could be that a great festival could be had for free and punters could
pinball around the PBH campuses tasting or stopping - no obligation, no
wasted monies.

I understand the Free Fringe needs not to be building cost barriers to financially poor
performers - but do wonder if the PBH leaflet were expanded via PBH
registration fee and each show made to create text/image within it (more
motivated to do so because they have paid a fee) than the payoff for the
individual artists/s is that via pushing the collectivity of the PBH FF they
gain individually, as this is the most effective preparatory tool they have
for getting punters in.
It is more a
feeling that a free fringe is an admirable moral position not an economic
reality and maybe all the goodwill in the world will not translate into the tension of running your own show and pulling together for the common good.
What PBH has done and still doing is providing a springboard for many
comics and acts but I cannot see why acts should not be prepared to
subsidise admin/personal asst support for him to help them Failing that why
not advertise in the Stage or Time Out for someone to support him as
amin/personal asst in his leadership task for three weeks for
accommodation/food whatever but giving them an astonishing experience of
working with comics and acts that will improve their CV.

(Probably best not mention Jonny Vegas)
Ben Heal
Posts: 7
Joined: March 2007
Location: Merseyside

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