suggestions to make FF even better. debate

Performer reviews of their venues/shows/experience in 2007

suggestions to make FF even better. debate

Postby Jools Constant » 10 Sep 2007, 21:49

I loved the Free Fringe - It was my first year and I am already a big supporter. Below is meant in a totally constructive way.

Why not charge the shows/ comics £20 for each hour of each day booked. Use the money to pay people to flyer and to promote the shows. This way the shows get more audience and the £20 easily recouped. Good comics are not necessarily good promoters. Also if there is money involved, there is less likelihood of a show / comic failing to turn up as happened on far too many occasions this year. I turned up for a number of shows to do a spot, only to find the MC hadn’t turned up, no replacement had been sent and no promo had been done so audiences were really small.

If it costs them nothing to have a venue for an hour and the sanctions are weak when they do not appear, quality will always suffer.

Or maybe charge the people who want to put on a show, a deposit, which is refundable if they turn up for all their gigs and maintain a reasonable level of quality / audience attendance.

Many comics genuinely did not have the energy, despite the best genuine intentions, to do the multiple shows they were doing and also go out and flyer / promote.

1 venue per comic/ show per day. This way the comic concentrates on the quality rather than carpet bombing and missing the mark. 2 or 4 shows over a number of venues is ok until you get into the latter end of the festival when real fatigue sets in.

Name and shame comics who do not turn up for a gig they are pre -booked to 'guest' or 'open spot' on, unless they have called in time for the MC to make alternative arrangements.

Make comics accountable for not showing up to deliver gigs or sending an alternative / replacement. If we want to keep the good will of the venue operators we need to be as slick as hell and very professional otherwise we will lose ground quickly to the LH FF.

maybe I am completely wrong - what do you think??
Jools Constant
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Joined: September 2007

Postby Jez_S » 11 Sep 2007, 12:01


whilst I see the validity of what you're proposing, I don't think a lot of it can work.

I think the idea of charging people £20 a day for each hour booked is totally unworkable. Over the course of a Fringe that would cost each show about £420! It goes against what the Free Fringe is about. A deposit is a better idea, but I'm not sure it would work either. Handling all that money would be a headache for PBH, that i'm sure he doesn't need. and it could cause big problems if it was decided that an act was not going to get their money back.

If the FF started charging money for various things where would the line stop, how much would be too much? I think that charging money like this would be a break from the Free Fringe ethos.
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Postby 99club » 11 Sep 2007, 17:50

Because the Fringe is a chaotic system it’s very hard to tell what the long-term effects of the Free Fringe will be. My guess is that the three most likely end-states are as follows:

(1) In 10 years the whole Fringe has changed and on the money side costs to both performers and audiences are a fraction of what they are now at most venues.

(2) In 10 years there’s a two tier-system, with various free/low cost venues on the one hand and the “established” Fringe on the other much as it is now.

(3) In 10 years the whole Fringe has changed, on the money side ticket costs to audiences are slashed But costs of mounting a show remain the same, with performers meeting the difference.

My view is that (1) is the most desirable (and most likely) and (3) MUST be avoided.

Therefore the suggestions that performers should pay money to a centralised fund, much like a “normal” venue, should be treated cautiously, in case they inadvertently turn out to be the first steps towards option three.

The truth is that elaborate schemes like this to prevent cancellations, or (as other posters suggested) to provide a centralised fund for gaffa tape, snazzy brochures etc.. won't work. What works is having shows performed by talented, committed and hard working people.

There's a natural instinct to try and be like the "established" venues. However let's not forget that those venues have a proven record of failure. Top-level circuit comics with good shows and expert teams promoting them and five figure budgets, playing to half-empty houses all festival.

PBH's Free Fringe has a proven record of success. Those shows which were good, where the people running them knew what they were doing and worked hard doing it - they got great audiences throughout and they got reviews as well (see other threads for hard factual evidence of this).

We absolutely need the kind of acts that perform at those venues, we absolutely do not need to go down the road of charging like them.
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paid for commitment

Postby Jools Constant » 11 Sep 2007, 20:10

I agree that charging is not a desirable route, however, can anyone suggest am alternative way of preventing the unacceptable absenteeism and half hearted approach shown by some on so many occasions this year?

None of the Paid for Venues/ shows, had audiences turn up to an empty stage.

When some venues are charging over £4k for 1 hour a day over the festival month, £20 seems like a drop in the ocean, but enough to re-enforce commitment.

Jools Constant
Posts: 23
Joined: September 2007

Re: paid for commitment

Postby danny.worthington » 12 Sep 2007, 08:13

[quote="Jools Constant"]I agree that charging is not a desirable route, however, can anyone suggest am alternative way of preventing the unacceptable absenteeism and half hearted approach shown by some on so many occasions this year?

None of the Paid for Venues/ shows, had audiences turn up to an empty stage.


I think combatting empty stage scenario is again a matter of pulling together on the venue management/stage management side. I'm sure there were a number of pulled/cancelled shows at the paid venues, but of course the paid venues have staff to turn people away at the door and to tell people that the show has been cancelled, they can tell a box office to stop selling tickets; do we maybe want to go the free - ticketed route to help determine whether we are expecting audience? Of course there is a disadvantage to this in that you miss out on the opportunists dropping into the free fringe venues to see what's on while they've got a spare couple of hours between paid for shows. I think the way forward is better day to day management of the venues - whether this is done by by a more committed team of performers willing to take their stint 'on the door' for shows either side of them or whether it's possible to recruit volunteers something has to happen to improve this scenario. There must be improvement in communication.

Shows if they can't make it must let the previous show know so

at worst a 'show cancelled' sign can be displayed at the venue and any incoming audience informed that the show will not be happenning without having to wait until showtime,

middleground would be to have someone from the previous show there to direct people to other shows which may be due to start at nearby free fringe venues (perhaps a programming issue here),

at best a fill in show could be brought in - with enough notice of a shows cancellation it would be possible for some of the shows to volunteer to be 'flying squads' and to bring their show to a venue in an emergency. This could be done on a rota/availability basis to avoid tieing people up when they have other commitments - I know Kate Smurthwaite's offer to fill-in at the breakfast show was certainly a godsend on a couple of occasions.

On the original point of paid venues not having empty stages I can remember a sketch show at the paid venue my show was at in 2005 cancelled one night and received a zero star review from chortle for their troubles.
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Postby Jools Constant » 13 Sep 2007, 09:11

Danny's suggestions are really constructive and have certainly got legs. Whether there is a charge, a bond, or a system of back-up performers the administration will increase considerably.

I noticed on a few occasions this year Peter was understandably exhausted. He would need to recruit a bigger team just to maintain this years standard in future, so he thought of even more work will probably turn his hair white!

With a bigger team means bigger costs etc... (even if staffed by volunteers) is this what the Free Fringe needs, an increased burden of responsibility in return for a more professional and seamless festival output?

Or is the charm of the FF in the fact that it is a little haphazard at times and is more organic than structured?

What I am saying is, can it stay the way it is and survive?
If YES - ignore my inane ramblings.
If NO then more money is needed to bring things up to a level that modern audiences demand, especially considering the fierce competition.

You can absolutely guarantee that the competition from the Free Festival will become even hotter as commercial considerations come even more to the forefront for them. Before long they will have a major sponsor / brand and will have enough resource to walk all over the Free Fringe way of doing things.

I think we have to be ready for it, and step it up a gear now in anticipation.
Having an 'ideal' is fine in an 'ideal world.' Peters' vision and tirelessness has brought it this far very successfully - now perhaps, in order to help it survive, we need to push it beyond the comfort zone.?
Jools Constant
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Joined: September 2007

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