A Fringe reimagined: how we're supporting venues and artists during crisis
13 July 2020
Following the announcement that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will not be going ahead as planned in 2020, the Fringe Society has unveiled alternative digital plans taking place this summer, complementing a variety of activities planned by Fringe artists and venues.
Under hugely difficult circumstances, creatives from across the Fringe landscape willbe bringing versions of their work to life digitally, many for the very first time. From livestreamed performances to nostalgic throwbacks and community-focused events and support sessions, the spirit of the Fringe will live on in the work of thousands of Fringe artists and venues, and the Fringe Society will help audiences navigate them through a central listings service on edfringe.com.
Alongside this, we will be running a series of digital activities, including virtual shows, a festival-wide crowdfunding campaign, artist-facing workshops, a new online arts industry platform and a virtual Fringe Central, so thereare still plenty of ways to #MakeYourFringe in 2020.
We have also unveiled the artwork for the Fringe programme cover that never was. Designed by celebrated contemporary artist Butcher Billy, the campaign is based on the theme of ‘the heroes of the Fringe’. Full details on the artwork and the Society’s diverse programme of activity can be found below.
Commenting on the launch of this year’s digital Fringe activity, Shona McCarthy, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society Chief Executive, said:
“It’s hard to imagine a summer without the Fringe. The explosion of creativity and community that the festival brings every year is unparalleled, and whilst we may not be able to provide a stage in Edinburgh in quite the same way this year, it feels hugely important that the spirit of this brilliant festival is kept alive.
“Little did we know way back in autumn, when we first started talking about this year’s programme artwork, how prescient the superhero theme would be today. We’re happy to be able to shine a spotlight on some of our Fringe heroes now, as we rally round to support the people that make your Fringe. On the other side of this, we’ll need them more than ever.
“The impact of Covid-19 has been devastating for the countless artists, audiences, venues, workers and small businesses that make this festival happen every year. The FringeMakers crowdfunding campaign is designed to support them, while the Fringe on Friday live show and the Fringe Pick n Mix website aim to bring some much-needed joy to our devoted audiences both here in Scotland and all over the world.”
Professor Sir Tim O’Shea, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society Chair, added:
“It’s been an extraordinarily difficult year and we still have real work to do to secure the future of the wider Fringe ecosystem. The partnership with Crowdfunder is an important step towards helping venues and artists raise vital funds that we know are needed to keep the Fringe alive.
“At its core the Fringe Society exists to support artists and we’re pleased to be able to offer so many different opportunities for arts professionals during this difficult time, from our online artist development programme, Fringe Central, to our dedicated Fringe Marketplace arts industry platform.
“We’re incredibly grateful to all the partners, funders and supporters who have helped us to deliver this. Their support is invaluable during what has been a difficult time for the Fringe and the wider arts sector.”
Helen Page, Group Brand and Marketing Director at Virgin Money, said:
“We’re proud to support the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society at what is an incredibly difficult time for the creative industries. Creating this brand-new digital Fringe is innovative and enables the community to come together at a time when social connections are needed more than ever. We look forward to joining the virtual shows and recreating the Fringe spirit at home this year.”
A spokesperson for Johnnie Walker said:
“The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is such a vital part of the life and culture of the city for residents and visitors alike, and we are pleased to make our contribution along with other partners to keeping the spirit of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe alive during these challenging times.
“We will miss the incredible excitement, colour and vibrancy the Fringe brings to Edinburgh this summer, but it is wonderful to see the creativity and innovation of the virtual programme. We wish our friends at the Fringe the very best.”
- Crowdfunder and the Fringe Society: FringeMakers fundraising campaign
- Fringe on Friday livestreamed shows
- The Fringe Pick n Mix short video platform
- 2020 Fringe artwork and merchandise
- Events for artists via our virtual Fringe Central
- Fringe Marketplace, a platform for arts producers, commissioners and buyers
- Penguin Random House audiobook, Edinburgh Unlocked
- Emerging stand-up showcase from Comedy Central
- Working with communities across Edinburgh
The Fringe Society and Crowdfunder have teamed up to launch a new crowdfunding platform, FringeMakers, which will support Fringe artists and venues to raise vital funds in the absence of a Fringe this year.
The artistic and creative industries have been among the hardest hit by the economic downturn following the coronavirus outbreak, with the Fringe landscape alone facing estimated losses of over £21 million. One of the Fringe Society’s core objectives is to support Fringe participants, including artists and venues, and we’ve been exploring different ways to ensure they can return to the Fringe in 2021 on stable footing.
Through the FringeMakers platform, venues and artists will be able to register as part of a central Fringe campaign, paying no fees and keeping 100% of funds donated for their own cause. Participants can offer rewards for donation, such as access to their own livestreamed shows, custom merchandise, exclusive content and much more.
Crowdfunder have generously waived all fees for this project, and are providing participants with tailored support, including dedicated webinars, one-to-one training for Fringe artists and venues, and how-to guides, to enable them to raise as much money as possible during the month of August.
The FringeMakers platform will be launched on Monday 13 July.
Simon Walker, Head of Projects at Crowdfunder said:
"Crowdfunder are delighted to partner with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society in powering the FringeMakers crowdfunding platform. COVID-19 has dealt a particular challenge to the arts industry and we’re proud to be able to offer support to all the venues and performers with completely fee-free fundraising on the platform."
As part of the FringeMakers campaign, every registered venue and artist will have the opportunity to raise money for their project by selling tickets to a weekly livestreamed variety show – Fringe on Friday.
Fringe on Friday is a 60-minute Fringe variety show, produced and curated by an independent production company, which will be streamed every Friday evening during the Fringe (07, 14, 21 and 28 August). This will showcase the best of the festival across a range of genres, including comedy, music, dance and cabaret. Venues and acts will all be given the opportunity to sell tickets to the broadcast and will keep 100% of the money they raise from these sales.
More information about Fringe on Friday, including host and line up details, will be announced in the coming weeks.
The Fringe – usually staged across a whole city – will instead be staged in living rooms across the world this August as we invite artists and audiences to capture the spirit of the Fringe in miniature. Repurposing technology from last year’s Inspiration Machine, artists can upload 60-second films of themselves in action – from snippets of what would have been 2020 shows to snappy set pieces staged in the shed – just like the Fringe, anything goes, and anyone can take part.
Guaranteed front row seats (on their own sofas), viewers can pick a particular clip to watch or settle in to watch a mixed stream of continuous Fringe entertainment, with the ability to interact and comment on the videos as they play out. Audiences can show their appreciation by donating to a central artist and venue survival fund and explore additional content via their social media channels.
From miniature versions of actual Fringe shows to family members flyering each other in the hallway and a pop-up Spiegel tent (the cheap canvas variety!) in the back garden, this will be playful, irreverent and very Fringey.
This year, for the first time in the Fringe’s seven-decade history, the Fringe Society made the difficult but unavoidable decision to not publish a Fringe programme. By the time we made our announcement in April we had already developed our theme for the programme’s cover image – working with pop culture illustrator and visual artist Butcher Billy, our plan was to shine a spotlight on the heroes of the Fringe, from the amazing variety of artists on stage to the backstage crew who hold it all together.
Despite not having a conventional programme to publish, the Society felt – and still feels – that this remains a message worth shouting about, arguably even more so now than before. We’ve created a range of limited-edition Fringe merchandise to celebrate the programme that never was, including t-shirts, hoodies, magnets, notebooks, posters, prints and even our very own Fringe jigsaw. We’re also publishing Fringe Uncovered, a colourful art book of Fringe programme covers from throughout the festival’s history.
Funds generated through the sale of merchandise will provide vital support for the Fringe Society’s charitable activities in helping artists and audiences at the Fringe.
Fringe Central is a home from home for the Fringe community during August and hosts an unparalleled programme of creative and professional development events for artists. Although a physical space is impossible this year, we are recreating this important gathering point in a virtual space. Our online hub will allow artists to come together to connect and collaborate with each other, or simply drop by and talk to a member of the Fringe Society team in real time, replicating the welcoming, open-door environment that is Fringe Central in August.
In partnership with industry experts, we’ll deliver a series of over 30 digital events including panel discussions, workshops and networking sessions, exploring pertinent topics such as digital skills development and touring post-pandemic, and wider industry themes such as the under-representation of creators of colour and how to make performances more accessible. The events and resources are open and completely free to all artists.
The Fringe is the world’s largest arts marketplace and offers an unparalleled opportunity to network with international arts industry figures, including producers, directors and buyers for TV and radio, with over 1,600 delegates registering with the Fringe Society in 2019.
In the absence of a physical festival, we're launching the digital Fringe Marketplace, a dedicated showcase platform to connect arts industry delegates all over the world with tour-ready artists who were programmed as part of this year’s Fringe.
This platform, which will launch later this summer, is aimed at creating vital opportunities for an industry crippled by Covid-19, and aims to connect industry and artists while creating opportunities for peer review and future commissioning.
Sitting alongside the Marketplace will be a series of events for industry to engage with, including morning sessions with international showcases from around the world.
On 06 August, Penguin Random House Audio will release Edinburgh Unlocked, an exclusive comedy festival in audiobook format showcasing a range of well-known Fringe comedians, including Ivo Graham, Lou Sanders, Sheeps and Dane Baptiste through to emerging talent such as Glamrou, Mo Omar, Chloe Petts and SHELF.
Featuring stand-up, sketch, character, musical comedy, cabaret, storytelling and more, Edinburgh Unlocked is a celebration of the variety and creativity that is showcased across the Festival.
Penguin Random House will donate a percentage royalty to help support the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.
Comedy Central International, in association with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, is spotlighting ten rising comedians in a series of seven-minute stand-up episodes across Comedy Central International’s Facebook, YouTube and Instagram platforms, starting on 17 August.
Highlights from the digital episodes will air in a 22-minute TV special on Comedy Central UK on 28 August and also be made available internationally. The comedy special will feature live virtual audience reactions, with an inside look into audience households across the UK.
The Fringe Society works hard to involve all of Edinburgh’s communities in the Fringe, especially those who experience barriers to participating in the festival (be they financial, geographical, physical or something else).
Our Fringe Days Out programme connects the Fringe Society to over 30 community organisations, to build year-round relationships and help community members take advantage of opportunities presented by the festival on their doorstep. Since 2017, the programme has enabled nearly 10,000 free visits to the Fringe for local Edinburgh residents at risk of social isolation.
Given that the coronavirus outbreak and associated economic difficulties have disproportionately affected many of these groups, the Fringe Society is keen to maintain our relationships with Edinburgh’s communities as much as possible during the usual Fringe period.
We plan to work with our Fringe Day Out partners and connect Fringe artists with local communities through digital interactive workshops and performances, as well as offering creative resources through targeted partnership projects. More information on our community work will be released soon.
A thank you to our supporters and partners
As a registered charity, the work of the Fringe Society would not be possible without the valuable support of our partners, sponsors and funders. Their support has never been more important. Our heartfelt thanks to Virgin Money and Johnnie Walker, whose generous donations have allowed us to continue our vital work in supporting Fringe artists and communities. We are also grateful to our new partner Niantic for supporting our 2020 digital initiatives, the Fringe Pick n Mix and Virtual Fringe Central.
Thanks to the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, City of Edinburgh Council and Creative Scotland for providing a life raft so we can continue to champion the arts and to support the thousands of artists, venues and businesses who rely on the Fringe each year.
Thanks also to the James T. Howat Charitable Trust, Pump House Trust, the D'Oyly Carte Charitable Trust and the Maple Trust. Finally, thanks to the myriad individuals – Fringe Angels, Patrons, Friends and supporters – who have continued to support the work of the Fringe Society in 2020.
And finally, thanks to our sister Edinburgh festivals and to Festivals Edinburgh, who have been such strong allies in a period of great uncertainty for the whole arts and culture sector.