Our Production Director Jamie Firth discusses his Edinburgh experiences, and why he has set up “Fringe Festival Support” in an effort to make the Festival an even better place. Some details may be misremembered, but you’ll get the gist.
In 2007 I did my first Edinburgh show. I hadn’t ever been to the fringe before, so it seemed the safest ploy to take an only vaguely known half-monologue/half-singing one-man show, performed with a rock band.
To fit with the norm it ran 1 hour 40 minutes, starting at near midnight at a venue no-one could find. To avoid any press coverage we did only half the festival run and, obviously, refused to publicise it in any shape or form, save for reluctantly doing 20min a day on the Royal Mile looking unenthusiastic.
Now, the Edinburgh VETERANS among you may have spotted that *some* of these decisions were… SUB OPTIMAL. And you wily buggers would be bang on the money – I was an absolute tool. Put simply, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.
Incredibly, with all the mighty sum total of my ignorance working against us, all of these things failed to scupper us. We got crowds from somewhere, people liked it, we just about broke even and everybody had a great time.
But, TWIST, everybody but me.
Yes, surrounded by friends offering love and support, and with all my stupid decisions inexplicably coming up Milhouse, I was an absolute wreck of a human being. I'm normally a confident, outgoing, FUN GUY, but, wracked with nerves, convinced that everyone could see that I was an imposter, undeserving of being there, I just felt sick. I just felt with nerves all of the time. I could barely sleep, barely eat, barely smile. For 2 hours a night, I loved every second of doing the show: I was so proud of it and I thought it was really good. But in between shows I was a wreck for the rest of the time: utterly horrible to be with and no Festival fun whatsoever. I saw only two other shows the entire time we were there.
Now we didn’t have your snazzy smartphones back then, but someone did snap ONE picture that truly captures My First Festival. (This is about 20mins post show when, as every night, I have just realised I have to go through this whole fucking thing again tomorrow, the pub shuts soon and everything else is already closed.)
Now to FUNNER THINGS. I’ve been back to the Fringe many times since, producing and directing or just seeing shows and I absolutely love it. It's my absolute favourite place. It’s what I spend the rest of the year looking forwards to: I’ve made loads of friends, I’ve seen some absolutely stonking comedy, art, dance, opera and had basically the best times of my entire year compacted into one month. Someone I saw the other day describing it as "summer camp for some of the best people" and I can get down with that.
Which brings me back to last year, the POINT, and several very swift anecdotes which led to the idea.
Several times I’d been looking around for forums and stuff for performers: people able to share hints and tips for things (I think I was looking for someone to film our show as prep for our captioner) and found very little. I hired a flyerer by paying a 3rd party, later to find that the flyerer themselves never actually got paid – I really couldn’t find anywhere to discuss it to try and find them some justice.
When asked how our show was going, I got harsh looks from our own team when I mentioned poor reviews or audiences. And it occurred to me that we don’t tend to do that: even when friends ask how things are we remain in PR mode, talking only about the good things, the positives. And I realised how damaging that was to each other: like on social media we only tend to recount the good and not the bad, which makes people with more bad than good think that they are far worse off then everyone else. That can’t be healthy.
Right near the end of the festival I bumped into a friend and they broke down when I asked how things were going. They weren’t able to say why: nothing had gone particularly badly, but it was just all a bit much. I guess once you can see the end in sight you start to relax a bit and then it all catches up with you.
And that basically catches you up as to where I am with my thinking for “FFS Livestream” this year.
Supported by the Mental Health Foundation, we’re going to try and make something that inspires us all to do better in supporting each other. We’re going to help people solve the easy problems and, for the bigger ones, to remind people they are not alone, that others have been through it, and that we have your backs.
Our daily chat show, with a cross section of guests from across different disciplines, levels of experience and with a variety of haircuts, will discuss all the potential pitfalls of Edinburgh and help people to avoid them. Telling their war stories - letting everyone see the highs AND lows to try and help people realise that they are not alone. Helping everyone to see we’re all in it together and helping make sure that no-one gets left behind.
Bruce Springsteen used to have a saying: “Nobody wins unless everybody wins”. I don’t think that’s an unachievable goal in Edinburgh, so long as are constantly mindful that we are all comrades, and not competitors.
To end, here’s a second photo, which I came across only recently. This was also the Fringe in 2007. There clearly were moments of joy there, but I was so under a cloud I don’t really remember them.
The goal of FFS is to clear away as much of the cloud as possible and let people have a better, brighter Fringe experience.
We’re currently crowdfunding at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/fringe-festival-support - In the spirit of FFS, I'll tell you that so far it's been disappointingly slow progress and is going rather badly. We're well behind the curve in reaching anything like our actual cost.
FFS will be great - Please come and help turn things round: join in, spread the word, and get in touch!
Twitter - www.twitter.com/FFSLiveStream
Facebook - www.facebook.com/FFSLiveStream
Email – FFSLiveStream@gmail.com