Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Edinburgh Comedy Festival is evil, discuss

News story on Chortle today: Comedy Festival unity slips: Venue chief admits doubts

This is an interesting one to discuss. So interesting, indeed, that I bet I'm the only person who bothers discussing it.

The Edinburgh Comedy Festival, which has existed for 4 years, previously existed as the GASP brochure, a programme separate from the Fringe prog which contained only the shows from the then Big Three venues (Gilded Balloon, Assembly, Pleasance). This riled venues that weren't included in it, and boosted the visibility of those acts and shows who were. It also, significantly, attracted sponsorship from, among others, a cigarette company. Ah, innocent times.

The newer EdComFest programme still includes the theatre offering from the, now, Big Five venues (printing them upside down at the back of the programme) but concentrates on the overwhelming number of comedy shows. This is its first big difference from before. Its second big difference is that, coinciding as it did with the recession, the ECF has not attracted a sponsor.

So we have a spin-off Comedy Festival, which now attracts attention away from Theatre as well as away from smaller venues - and which doesn't include the highly significant Free Fringe and Free Festivals, who have expanded exponentially in the 4 years the ECF has existed. The list of people the ECF now pisses off is therefore greater than ever, and growing.

So it must benefit somebody? Well, speaking as a show that is included in the ECF programme, it benefits me by having me included in another programme as well as the Fringe programme. However this year the Fringe programme has started including a photo of every act with every listing, which was a unique selling point of the ECF programme up till now, and until the start of the festival 90% of my sales were coming through the Edfringe box office (ie via official programme) and only 10% through the EdComFest box office, so that's hardly a ringing endorsement for it.

Added to this, I have to pay an extra £500 to be in the ECF programme, as does every other show in it, which is more than I've spent on my posters and flyers, which I know are the most valuable tool in my marketing arsenal.

So, if it were put to the vote this morning, I would vote for abandoning the Edinburgh Comedy Festival, and simply acknowledging that the Edinburgh Fringe Festival includes a lot of comedy, and that a lot of it is in the big five venues, but a lot of it isn't, so let the best shows promote themselves (as they already do) and win.

(Now don't get me started on Avalon's "Comedy" mini brochure which, every year, passes itself off as a mini copy of the Fringe programme, or a bit I just spotted in Fest magazine which tells you to turn to an "official" Fringe map, and then turns out to be a map only showing Pleasance venues. It's as if some people aren't in this business to make friends.)

Kev F
Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

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