In my last column, I wrote about discovery on the Edinburgh Fringe, but crucially Edinburgh also serves as a place of growth and career development, where both the newcomer and established can learn from each other.
Taking part in the Edinburgh Fringe affords participants the services of the excellent and experienced Fringe Society’s Arts Industry Office and access to a range of talks and events that the society runs for free each year. The office deals with the accreditation of presenters scouting for work in Edinburgh and, like the rest of the society, is a year-round operation providing an invaluable wealth of advice and knowledge. Alongside this, the its excellent range of “How to” talks deal with bringing a show to the fringe, marketing, and also post-Edinburgh touring in the UK and internationally. These events happen during the festival and are also taken around the UK and internationally each spring ahead of the annual Edinburgh Fringe entry deadline.
The fringe is not alone in the series of talks and masterclasses available to participants during each festival covering all aspects of the industry from performance through to producing. This year alone these include: Stage One, Equity, National Theatre Studio, ITC and Ideas Tap. The latter is also supporting a second year of work from new companies on the fringe who, through a rigorous judging process, are selected to bring their work to play at the Underbelly.
The Edinburgh Fringe offers the UK’s most significant professional training ground
This year’s companies include: Antler, Show and Tell, Suba Das and Every Day. Last year, through the same programme, I discovered two exciting young companies Scrawl and Snuff Box Theatre who, post-Edinburgh, I began collaborating with and have seen their respective Edinburgh presentations of Chapel Street by Luke Barnes and Bitch Boxer by Charlotte Josephine subsequently play London and on tour. This year, Bitch Boxer also returns to the Fringe as part of the British Council Showcase.
Occupying a second residency at St. Stephens, Newcastle’s Northern Stage returns with a host of new exciting young companies from the North of England including NORTH, Third Angel, Fallen from Grace, and withwings, who all present new work supported under their banner. Meanwhile, Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre bring their young associates to Edinburgh through the successful long-running Arts Council Escalator East programme with a terrific devised ensemble work called Party Pieces at Bedlam Theatre.
While performing at the world’s largest arts festival is one component of the experience for these young companies, it is also the opportunity to become part of a vibrant creative community where ideas are shared and collaborations can flourish alongside the chance for participants to see the widest global cross-section of work which all provides the necessary energy and contagious spirit to ensure the Edinburgh Fringe’s own future is secure. It’s particularly important in these times of economic challenge when the cost of drama school training is prohibitive to many that the Edinburgh Fringe offers the UK’s most significant professional training ground, and as Party Pieces’ young cast members aptly serve to remind us in their closing lines: “it means you can go off into this f***king scary world and be amazing”.