Organisation of the Free Fringe

How shall the Free Fringe be organised and run in the future?

Organisation of the Free Fringe

Postby gareth morinan » 04 Sep 2010, 20:18

I have started a new thread to focus purely on the structure of the free fringe. I think the society has grown to the point where it needs a formalised executive and constitution. Below are some initial thoughts, though I’m sure others will have a better idea of what is needed.

I would suggest an executive consisting of voting and non-voting members. There would be a core group of seven permanent positions, each member would be allowed one vote and a simple majority would be needed to pass any changes. In addition to this there would be a number of non-voting members, who would be invited to attend meetings and be kept informed of any matters relating to the executive. The reason for these positions not having a vote is because there should be flexibility to add or remove these positions as necessary. These positions could be relatively less work compared to the core group, and could be created and filled to gain some specific expertise that the executive is lacking.

(Note: While writing this I have changed my mind several times about how the core executive should be made up. I will probably change my mind again sometime after posting this. But I think there should be seven positions, whatever they are. I’m sure people will have opinions of how the tasks are split)


Core Executive
============

Tasked with overseeing the Free Fringe. Members will be required to attend (in some way or other) meetings every 1-3 months. Most of the executive would probably be based in London, therefore they should meet and then minutes of the discussion should be written up and mailed to all members, and those who could not attend should have their say via email/forums. Any voting should be done via email/forums. I propose the following positions:


Venue Liaison
----------------
Tasked with negotiating with existing venues and maintaining good relationships, as well as seeking new venues. This person would be the point of contact for venues, and during the festival the point of contact for anyone with problems relating to venues.

Equipment Co-ordinator
----------------------------
Tasked with sourcing and transporting all equipment that is necessary for the venues during the festival. During the festival they would be in charge of ensuring all venues are kitted out, and would act as the point of contact for anyone with equipment problems during the festival (note this is equipment only, where as the venue liasion will deal with all other problems that could occur at a venue).

Chief Fundraiser
-------------------
Tasked with co-ordinating all fundraising activities. There are of course several sources of fund raising, this person would be tasked with keeping track of all of these and dealing with all the people involved with these activities. Also this person would also be responsible for keeping track of the finances of the free fringe and reporting this to the executive.

Press Officer
---------------
Tasked with maintaining the Free Fringe’s public image throughout the year, and trying to generate press interest. This person would also be the point of contact for the Edinburgh Fringe, negotiating with them whenever necessary.

Performer Liaison
--------------------
Tasked with being the point of contact for all performers, dealing with any questions or requests they might have, and when necessary directing them to another member of the executive. This would involve writing emails to all performers, and thus being the conduit through which the executive communicates with performers.

Comedy Programmer
------------------------
Tasked with viewing comedy shows, determining whether they are suitable, and making a judgement as to which slot they should receive. This person would work in conjunction with the non-comedy programmer to decide the scheduling of programme. This person may choose to, instead of seeing all shows themselves, defer to a network of people whose opinions they trust when judging shows.

Non-Comedy Programmer
------------------------------
Tasked with the same job as the comedy programmer, except for all non-comedy shows.


Additional Executive
=================

The additional executive is appointed by the core executive (by majority vote). The core executive can also create and remove positions in the additional executive.

Webmaster – tasked with maintaining and updating the website and forums.

Programme Designer – tasked with designing the programme and accompanying images.

Programme Distributor – tasked with organising the widespread distribution of programmes during the Festival.

Fundraiser – tasked with some asked of fund raising (potentially multiple positions)

I’m sure there are some other positions I’ve not thought of.



Membership
==========

Members
----------
A person is a member of the free fringe if they performed if they performed in a show at the last Edinburgh festival, or if they are performing in a show at the next Edinburgh festival.

Any member can hold a core executive position.

Anyone (member or not) can hold an additional executive position.

A person can at any one time hold one core executive position and as many additional executive positions that they like.

Voting Members
-------------------
A person is a voting member of the free fringe if they have performed in a show at the last Edinburgh festival, plus at least one other Edinburgh festival within the last 5 years.

Voting members elect the core executive and vote on constitutional changes.

The core executive appoints the additional executive, and creates new additional executive positions.

(NOTE: There are hundreds of people who would qualify for ‘membership’, but a significant proportion will not be sufficiently informed to vote on matters. Therefore I think this distinction between members and voting members is necessary to filter the membership down to those who are qualified to vote.)

(Also just to clarify: yes someone can be a member and hold a core executive position without actually being a voting member.)



I think that's probably enough to generate discussion for now. I am sure people will have their own views, so please contribute them.

Gareth
Last edited by gareth morinan on 25 Sep 2010, 20:42, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Organisation of the Free Frgine

Postby Richard Tyrone Jones » 04 Sep 2010, 21:15

1) I don't think one person should be responsible for programming all non-comedy shows: I think there should be one for spoken word, one for theatre, one for cabaret, assuming volunteers can be found...

2) Some thought needs to be given to how people will be able to vote. I think via the forum rather than via email would be easiest. In which case whoever maintains the website in future needs to have a position/job role of 'vote counter'.

3) I don't think you should have had to have done more than one Free Fringe to be able to vote, I think one would be enough, assuming you stuck to the terms & conditions.

4) I wholly support the proposed renaming of the Free Fringe to 'the Free Frgine'. Seriously, I think whatever happens PBH should remain as overall and titular head / 'Director' unless he wants otherwise. Call me a fascist but someone needs to be in charge.
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Re: Organisation of the Free Frgine

Postby KateSmurthwaite » 23 Sep 2010, 00:01

In general agree. I think comedy programmer will need to work with a team and to work from some youtube, etc clips as well. Think we also need an officer responsible for new free fringers. So when we have messages that need to be chased up - i.e. building contact list, fundraising, calls for help, etc - previous free fringers can be chased through venue captains from last year but need an officer who can make sure new free fringers are guided through that stuff if they need help.
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Re: Organisation of the Free Frgine

Postby alcowie » 23 Sep 2010, 11:53

Agree with the above. My main thoughts are that the rank and file of the Free Fringe could - and most would be happy to - do a great deal more if directed rather than being expected to just "organise amongst ourselves". People generally prefer to be allocated responsibilities and tasks rather than seizing the initiative themselves - out of a multitude of reasons, from not wanting to appear that they think they are better than others to not knowing what is to be done, to knowing that there are several people on the list and expecting others to do what needs doing. As such, in reality only a small group of people currently volunteer for tasks and do most of the work.

My belief is that venue captains should report to one person, perhaps the Performer Liaison, and performers within venues would be contacted by the venue captains for tasks that need doing or roles that need filling. That way the venue captains can spread the taskload amongst their teams, and many hands will make light work.

If this is to happen, there needs to be a written list of responsibilities for venue captains and a written list of tasks that need doing. I hold my own hand up to the fact that if I'd not had such an easy venue to put up / take down, I'd not have done nearly as good a job because I wouldn't have known what to do. The venue captains would need to be managed to ensure that tasks were being done and preparations were in place for tasks that would have to be done in due course - nothing onerous, but people have many pulls and priorities and sometimes just need reminding of what they have agreed to do. The venue captains can then allocate the tasks to the shows in their venues.

I believe that this sort of delegation will make it easier to do everything, from getting the contacts list up to date to ensuring that bigger jobs get spread across several venues rather than leaving one or two individuals being left "holding the baby".

Finally, the Free Fringe is huge now, and it is very easy to be the "grey man" and not step up - although thankfully many people do step up. I wonder if some form of reward system can be put in place to encourage more to do more? Maybe a prize for best venue team or an award to recognise specific people for work they have done. Just a thought.
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Re: Organisation of the Free Frgine

Postby danny.worthington » 23 Sep 2010, 14:57

I think the main problem with the Free Fringe is that PBH puts too much trust in people understanding what it is and what it's about. Over the last four years I have become more and more cynical about people's willingness to engage with or even read the ethos and guidelines. People have sent me emails telling me that they are unavailable for set-up day as they hadn't realised it was expected of them when they initially booked the show. People go home on the final Saturday with no intention of helping with venue takedown. I'm amazed by the number of reports this year that say how much better things would have been if there had been an extra light or an extra fan or extra signage, they do not seem to realise that as members of the Free Fringe they are empowered to make these things happen, OK it would normally be at their own cost (though of course if all shows at that venue chipped in this would be minor). Like PBH I regularly saw shows failing to flyer with the Free Fringe programme - this year because I've become disillusioned by behaviour of some other Free Fringers I didn't bother to speak to people about it. Even those that are active enough to turn up at Free Fringe meetings often make promises that they fail to come good on.

I have previously proposed that PBH stops accepting peoples intentions on trust and that an online test/questionaire be set up so that people with an interest in bringing shows have to correctly identify key points of the Free Fringe ethos/terms and conditions document so that at least there is some assurance that they have an understanding of their commitment.

I still feel that the Free Fringe as a volunteer run organisation is viable despite having received emails from members suggesting that it needs a paid staff.
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Re: Organisation of the Free Frgine

Postby alcowie » 24 Sep 2010, 18:06

danny.worthington wrote:I think the main problem with the Free Fringe is that PBH puts too much trust in people understanding what it is and what it's about. Over the last four years I have become more and more cynical about people's willingness to engage with or even read the ethos and guidelines. People have sent me emails telling me that they are unavailable for set-up day as they hadn't realised it was expected of them when they initially booked the show. People go home on the final Saturday with no intention of helping with venue takedown. I'm amazed by the number of reports this year that say how much better things would have been if there had been an extra light or an extra fan or extra signage, they do not seem to realise that as members of the Free Fringe they are empowered to make these things happen, OK it would normally be at their own cost (though of course if all shows at that venue chipped in this would be minor). Like PBH I regularly saw shows failing to flyer with the Free Fringe programme - this year because I've become disillusioned by behaviour of some other Free Fringers I didn't bother to speak to people about it. Even those that are active enough to turn up at Free Fringe meetings often make promises that they fail to come good on.

I have previously proposed that PBH stops accepting peoples intentions on trust and that an online test/questionaire be set up so that people with an interest in bringing shows have to correctly identify key points of the Free Fringe ethos/terms and conditions document so that at least there is some assurance that they have an understanding of their commitment.

I still feel that the Free Fringe as a volunteer run organisation is viable despite having received emails from members suggesting that it needs a paid staff.


Hi Danny, I understand and sympathise with your cynicism, but I also think that putting it down to reasons of lack of willingness (and some might think it is more laziness or even less noble notions) fails to address the fact that with the increased size of the organisation there is necessarily more being said and therefore less being heard. PBH bullets his emails and they are very easy to read and much easier to read than anything I ever received in an office, and yet even then I'm sure many people put them to one side to "read later".

I agree, a questionaire would be a very good way of addressing this lack of knowledge of the ethos as it would force people to read the guidelines.

As for people being empowered, truly I don't believe that people knew they had that power - to someone coming to this new who didn't have a mentor as I was lucky enough to have in several of you, the organisation looks top led. That is also the way most people would expect it to be as that is the way with most organisations they are or have ever been in. For people to understand that they do have the power, it does truly need more than a simple "this is the way it is" or people tend not to listen. Again, a questionaire could address that.

The failure of people to fulfil promises they have made can only be addressed through transparency. In a small organisation everyone knows who does what and has what responsibility. In a larger organisation, there needs to be a means of recognition - maybe a notice board which says who is responsible for which job, who has done the work, and if necessary, the naming of those who have failed to deliver. When people do deliver on promises, it should be recognised and aplauded - we all benefit, these people deserve our thanks - and when everyone is putting in, certainly that is a great thing to celebrate!
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Re: Organisation of the Free Fringe

Postby gareth morinan » 25 Sep 2010, 21:49

First, and most importantly, I have edited the name of this thread (it took me an embarrassingly long time to notice my mistake).

Voting/Members etc – Richard, you make some valid points. I think on further consideration I may have made a mistake in even raising these issues in my original post. I think right now it’s more important to set up a structure of responsibility, and we can sort out the voting/member details later.

Reward System – Al, your idea for some kind of reward system is good. I suggest that the name of anyone who contributed in some significant way is printed in the programme on a 'this is the free fringe team' page. This credit I think would be very desirable, as people reading the programme would then recognise the name and think "oh wow, the guying running this Llaugh show, is he the same Al Cowie who was on the free fringe team? Well I'm definitely going to see his show!". Not to mention that, if you had a recognised position this would be desirable for any CV for the comedy industry.

Involvement – Danny, I agree this is the most important issue. But, I don’t think an online questionnaire will help. I don’t think that will in any way filter people, it wouldn’t be that hard to ‘revise’ for the test, and if anything it will just make people slightly resentful of having to do it. I think people are willing to help out more but, as Al says, they just need to be organised better. Personally (and I’m being honest here, even though it won’t make me sound great) I can see why people don’t turn up to help out with the venue – there are lots of shows on at each venue, you don’t require everyone performing at a venue to turn up to help out, only a few people really need to. And so for one act it is quite easy to think that there’s no need for them to do it. Venue captains could organise their performers better so that half agree to turn up on the put up, and half on the take down. And if anyone can’t make either they can make it up another way, perhaps distributing free fringe programmes.

Programmes – (again, being honest here) I think it’s unreasonable to expect every performer to hand out the free fringe programme. If everyone handed it out every time they flyered, we’d run out of programmes within a week. And many of those programmes would handed to people who didn’t want them and just threw them away. Personally I made sure that anyone who turned up to any of my shows didn’t leave without a programme. I think that if everyone did that AND a few people (as organised by venue captains) distributed programmes when flyering, then we would more effectively distribute the limited number of programmes we have.

I probably over thought certain things in my original post, and so now a different proposed structure (focusing on the main areas as I see it):


1. Captain of the venue Captains – organises all the venue captains, makes sure that they all know what they need to do, and advises on how to do it. This person would also be in charge of ensuring all venues are teched out, and deals with any venue related crisis that may happen during the fringe.
2. Performer Liaison – point of contact for all performers, especially new performers, talks to them about any concerns/worries they may have, sends round emails to everyone, and is generally the point of contact for all the ‘rank and file’ members

3. Programmer – in charge of determining the programme, they would have to have a team of people to help them. This would mean they vetted everyone (either by viewing live, youtube or just on reputation). This person would who performers emailed their expression of interests to. They would also be in charge of filling holes in the schedule when inevitably shows drop out.

4. Press officer and fundraiser – this person would be the point of contact for any press, and in charge of maintaining the free fringe’s public image. In addition this person would co-ordinate a team of people who were in charge of fundraising.

5. Director - takes an overview of the whole organisation. In charge of co-ordinating the other four members of the board, ensuring that everything they need to have done, gets done. Helps out in any areas when necessary. Also as the public face of the organisation, the director would negotiate with venues, give interviews, or deal with any other issues that are appropriate. The director has the power to veto a decision the board makes, if they feel it compromises the core ethos of the free fringe.


Now then, obviously when I write the director position I have Peter in mind as the only person who could do it. I agree with Richard on his point that someone needs to be in charge; you can’t have a bunch of executive positions without any one person ensuring they’re all doing what they’re meant to. Also, as Peter effectively does all 5 of these positions at the moment, he would need to hand over responsibility and advise the people taking over the roles of exactly what they needed to do.

What do people think of that? I think it’s realistic that we get 5 people willing to commit a decent amount of time to the running of the free fringe.
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Re: Organisation of the Free Fringe

Postby John McGuinness » 28 Sep 2010, 07:31

Like the idea in Peters recent email about withdrawing from the main Fringe Brochure. After all do we really need them, can any act honestly say that being in the main Fringe brochure gave them more exposure than being in the Free Fringe one or even just doing some plain old fliering?

Would being a stand alone event and making it clear in our literature why we became so give us some added kudos in the eyes of the Festival going public and media alike thereby increasing interest in the Free Fringe as a whole?

Also if the Free Fringe Brochure was viewed as a rival to the main one would this not attract more advertisers?

Then comes the question about financing the future of the Free Fringe, could some of the money saved by not going in the main brochure be put towards the Free Fringe brochure. If the shows remain free entry would charging the acts a fee to go in the Free Fringe Brochure contravene our ethos and conditions?

Or more imporatantly, should i get back to work before i get caught writing this on my colleagues computer?
Keep Smiling!

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Re: Organisation of the Free Fringe

Postby Richard Tyrone Jones » 28 Sep 2010, 14:15

I largely agree with Gareth's second post, and also agree that not all the acts in every venue necessarily need to be there at the get-in and get-out, though I think I think they should all offer to do so and the Venue Caps decide who they need (probably the most strapping or technically-minded!

Judging by PBH's last email with the accounts for 2010 though, I think Gareth's proposed 5 person board structure downplays the importance of advertising - a 6th member of the board, preferably someone with professional experience, should have reponsibility for selling advertising in the brochure and coordinating the advertising other members should still be trying hard to sell. As importantly, they should be ensuring advertisers pay for our services. It's a scandal that over the last few years some advertisers haven't and the Free Fringe really should be pursuing them through the civil courts. This will become much more important if the Free Fringe does break away and print more brochures. Like Peter I'm opposed to charging people to go in the brochure if the brochure can pay for itself, so I think an Advertising Director should definitely have a 'Board member' status.

Lastly, I agree all Board Members (and Directors of Spoken Word, Theatre, Music etc) should have their picture and a short bio in the brochure; maybe a list of Venue Captains too if there's room. Credit should be given where it's due. After all, we're all in this for the love, but also for our careers - and recognition would encourage new members in taking on more responsibility.

Richard Tyrone Jones
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Re: Organisation of the Free Fringe

Postby C-Schulte-Loh » 07 Oct 2010, 20:38

Hi all,
I generally agree that the Free Fringe has grown to a size and importance within the Edinburgh Festival that gives it the need of a kind of organization that is based on more than one person's shoulders.
But it is very important to keep the idea behind it alive - so I am against any form of copy of the Fringe Organization.
Everybody who has experienced one of their membership meetings, will agree...

What is the most important thing about the new form of organization?
Labour/Tasks have to be organized and distributed, so the volunteer system will still be the engine and main idea behind it all.
But somebody will actually be in charge of certain fields and he or she will directly arrange things with the members.
PBH will have a few (4-8) people that are in charge of different fields.
Those people should have their own section in this forum, where tasks and information can be exchanged and channeled.

Now, one very important thing is:
who would want to be a volunteer for a position like that?
Who has the time, skills and dedication to do that?
Because that should be the first step, in my opinion. We need people to say "Yes, here I am, willing to be involved into the organization much more!".
Don't forget: a lot of Free Fringe performers are performers, they are no organizers (they might even have an agent for any kind of administration), cause they are simply not good at it, don't have the time to do it or any other reason whatsoever.
It doesn't help us to have people in charge that are not 100% willed and able to do it, or don't have the time.

Best regards,
Christian

Christian Schulte-Loh
www.GermanComedian.com
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Re: Organisation of the Free Fringe

Postby Bonnie Tessa Davies » 05 Sep 2011, 15:49

I think clear jobs/responsibilities and communication links (who reports to who etc so that it's not just one person getting thousands of emails) would help people volunteer more effectively.
I'm based in Australia, so can't be part of an ongoing committee but would be happy to help wherever I could remotely.

Cheers Bonnie

www.bonnieisbonnie.com
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Re: Organisation of the Free Fringe

Postby Asli Akbay » 06 Sep 2011, 22:55

So.

What next ?

How are we going to get the ball rolling?

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Re: Organisation of the Free Fringe

Postby Charmian Hughes » 08 Sep 2011, 12:33

re Danny's complaint re fringe reports. In mine I suggested that next year we coordinate posters to create visible billboard This was something we would have had to coordinate right at the beginning of the run, with a united artistic endeavor and the cooperation of the venue, both of which I am sure we could have secured. But it was also something that we learned would have been useful after the fact when it all over and in retrospect.

I think a proper meeting of all venue participants where we 'walk' the venue and together see the possibilities would be a very good thing at the start of the run.

I did point out to both brilliant pub and venue managers (when I remembered) that our venue number banner was not very visible but again we needed a coordinated effort to make a decision, come to a solution, and actually get up that ladder. This wasnt people expecting other people to do their work, this was just a case of never being all of us together to work something out!

The idea of a stand is brilliant.
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Re: Organisation of the Free Fringe

Postby Anthony Miller » 17 Jun 2015, 10:04

C-Schulte-Loh wrote:Don't forget: a lot of Free Fringe performers are performers, they are no organizers (they might even have an agent for any kind of administration), cause they are simply not good at it, don't have the time to do it or any other reason whatsoever.
It doesn't help us to have people in charge that are not 100% willed and able to do it, or don't have the time.


Well, those who cannot organise themselves will get ripped off... that's just the eternal lesson of history.
As someone who does organise things ...looking in from the outside with no real interest in performing at the Fringe...
I see many problems.

Duplication of labour. Overlapping responsibilites. Predecessor tasks that no one seems to have noticed.
Some of which probably could be solved if only anybody had basic business skills.

Some people are born businessmen and some people have to learn business.
For those who are not naturally good at running businesses there is an entire mini-industry in people
who have made a business out of advising people how to run businesses.
A lot of this is bollocks! After all a business that makes money out of telling people how to make money
is something of an orobous ... like the Financial advice page in the Newspaper it raises the question
"if you know so much about investing money why are you still a hack".
However, it's not all rubbish ... there are plenty of good books on business management and project planning.
Working out how long a task will take, how much it will cost to complete (in man hours or £) and the overall time it will take to complete
is standard business practice when working on large multi-person projects which the fringe is
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_m ... t_triangle
When you have calculated how long each task is likely to take you work out which tasks have to be completed in which order using one of these
https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Gantt_chart
http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_03.htm
One good way of doing this is to write down each task on a post it and who is needed to perform it and move them about to figure out your project flow chart.
This is what people in industry do at the start of major construction projects all the time.
And really that's about all you need to know about all project management in my view.
From those building blocks you can in theory organise everything from Pear Shaped to the Free Fringe to errecting the Shard.
Of course other things may happen to your plan but when things go wrong it gives you an idea of what is going on where and how to focus resources on the problem and which potential small problems are likely to turn into big knock on problems

I would suggest you buy a copy of Project Management for dummies
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Project-Managem ... 0470711191

Maybe you do some of this already but it's always worth going back to basics...
...because the biggest problem you have in my view is individuals willing to take on too much work and too many responsibilities
and then resenting the work overload later down the line ...this then turns into a false sense of ownership of the whole enterprise.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm needed in the boardroom...
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