07 August 2015

On the opening day of the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe award-winning comedian and theatre-maker Bryony Kimmings addressed hundreds of Fringe participants in the official Fringe Central Opening Address hosted by Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society Kath M Mainland.

This is the third year of the Fringe Central Opening Address which is designed to welcome participants to the Fringe and introduce them to Fringe Central and the extensive range of events on offer to them throughout August. The event was created to inspire participants to make the best use of the Fringe by getting them to think about the wider perspective and how their experience at the Fringe will impact on them and their work in the future.

Bryony Kimmings, an Associate Artist at Soho Theatre and a Fringe participant herself, has toured her award-winning work across the world – from Finland, Portugal, and Texas to Australia and Croatia. As well as performing, Bryony mentors artists, teaches workshops and writes a popular art blog. She is taking part in this year’s Fringe in a show she’s also directed, Fake It ‘til You Make It which plays at the Traverse Theatre from 07 – 30 August.

At the Fringe Central Opening Address Bryony Kimmings said:

“My name is Bryony Kimmings. I am a slightly pregnant, loud mouth feminist performance artist slash comedian slash theatre maker from London. I think that just about covers it. Even I’m not sure what box to put myself in nowadays. And I am very excited to be here to welcome both you here and those who will bear witness to this momentous occasion through the eyes of the press.

“Having previewed yesterday and spent the rest of the evening eating ice cream and crying about the dodgy mics I bought off ebay and the distinct lack of funniness to my jokes about depression I can tell you that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has officially begun.

“If I was allowed to I would down a bottle of champagne in the festivals honour right now and get progressively drunker throughout the speech as some kind of excellent live art performance piece as a homage to the festivals experimental and revolutionary beginnings back in the late forties.

“Now when I was asked to give this address I was so honoured I had a little cry. Because for me the Edinburgh fringe has been so instrumental to the career that I love today that I feel this fair city and this excellent festival run through my very veins. I feel alive when I get off the train, I feel a fizz in my stomach when I run my hand along the posters in the grassmarket, I feel a lump in my throat when old friends stop me in the street and I realize I have shared so many amazing times with them here!

“I agreed to do it because I felt that it was a great chance to sum up what I have learnt over the past few years; some of what others have learnt around me and to take the chance to celebrate the phenomena unfurling around us all, in posters and pop ups and papers. Before we blink and it disappears again. Some stories, some thoughts and some advice.

(sighs) Ahhhh Edinburgh Fringe…

The bain of my life
The focus point of any given making year
The hatching ground of new projects
The breaking of a show
The opportunity to make a mint
The chance to lose it all

“It is a beast and it is rare to tame it and in some ways you have to ride it for 3.5 weeks, being careful not to fall off or crack your head open or drown in its drool and then jump off it and THEN ask the question (dazed and confused) “what just happened”… so I have had fun trying to remember my favourite festival moment and my worst. So let’s start there. Two silly snapshots.

“My first ever proper Edinburgh with my first full length solo show Sex idiot was 2010. I was in the wonderful Zoo venues. I can’t ever thank them enough for taking me on, I must have sounded like a nutter on the phone to James with my risk assessment of scissors and bourbon and other flammable goods. My venue was 30 seats in what used to be Zoo Roxy. In the basement. We had 6 lights and some playback. I think now it is a store room, I tried to get in there last year to peak and the whole stairwell was covered in boxes and cobwebs which made my heartache a bit. It was tiny. Two rows, three sides, 50 minutes of me screaming at you about ex boyfriends and demanding your pubes from you at the end… everything about that should have spelt out disaster. But for whatever reason: stars aligning, trends being set by other like-minded artists, a new found penchant for brash female comics … that show was a hit. Out of nowhere. Good reviews from big papers, lots of invites to do slots, a gig at Soho Theatre before I left the festival and a total theatre award right at the end. I remember that summer as bouquets from a fan, skipping from party to party, laughing hard producer and best friends, being out our minds with excitement. I picture sunshine and taxi’s and prosecco.

“Flash forward a year. And I find myself standing in the rain outside a flat just that little bit too far from the centre of town. I have an unfinished script in my bag, a very worried tech beside and a completely different feeling in my gut. The show was 7 Day Drunk. My difficult second album. I had spent July slogging my guts out at Jacksons Lane studio space trying to wrestle any kind of show out of a bunch of terrible material made during a madcap scheme to spend a week with some scientists getting progressively more drunk to prove to a friend that alcohol had no effect on creativity. That year no awards, 2-3 star reviews, audible whispers of “yeah she made sex idiot but…” I picture hangovers, leaky shoes, bad ecstasy tablets, a throat infection and the worst feeling of NOT understanding how to make art, or what an audience wanted as I buried my head in the sand and spent hours on the phone to my mum.

“Such different experiences in the space of one year. But those two polar extremes sum up how this festival can go for all of us. And allow them to help us keep our feet on the ground as we begin our journeys this year. It could be great, it could be a disaster… and the truth is you have no idea at this stage which it will end up being. I think that might be part of this festival’s constant seduction for artists… the whiff of a hit. And I think that we have the best jobs in the world and are so lucky to be here. But believe me we’ve all played to 2 people, we’ve all hit bums notes when the man from Public Reviews has his notebook out in the front row and we’ve all cried as soon as we’ve stepped off stage.

“I hope that for you, this year is more like my Sex Idiot experience than my 7 Day Drunk, but if it’s not… know that next year is another year and tomorrow we are all fish and chip shop paper.

“Next I want to talk about the tremendous community.

“With 3,193 shows here last year the Edinburgh Fringe can feel like a lonely, isolating and damn right alien place. Especially if you are new. It’s like doing the first day of school times one million, naked. EVERYTHING seems out to trip you up: you don’t what the word PR means, your venue doesn’t look like it did on the floor plan, you had no idea that Scotmid stopped selling booze at like 7:30pm and your flyers haven’t arrived yet. But what do have at your disposal that you are about to learn is about 10,000 people who are willing to help you out! I’ve been to festivals all over the world and never at any of them have I ever seen so many people so happy to help one another. Be it advice, flyering, hugs, tea, to sit and watch your show cos you have the financial times in. My one gleaming recommendation to everyone, old or new is to TALK TO PEOPLE. EVERYONE. Nothing bad ever came of being friendly and helpful and supportive of strangers and this fringe is built on the good will of artists and comedians. That extends to the services here at Fringe Central, the seminars and the advisory sessions, your venue team… god even the angry theatre bloggers will answer your questions if you buy them a bev. Asking for help is allowed, encouraged and how I learnt everything I know today.

“Now Let’s talk about press.

“Ok so I could be considered as a person who likes to court the press here in Edinburgh and beyond. I very much consider infiltrating the international press platforms that surround us in our daily lives as an integral part of my artistic practice, anyone who followed my Catherine Bennett project with know that, as it reached 36 million people worldwide, art can be crammed into eyes via the Sun as much as the stage of the National! And over the past half a decade I have learnt some stuff…

“My press tips are pretty straightforward:

  • Make a show about a newsworthy topic (if you feel so inclined) – now I don’t mean chose a subject matter depending on what the press is currently talking but rather what you want them to talk about tomorrow. I chose what I think of as public secrets (the things everyone knows but no-one says out loud yet), this usually means I am seen as being a provocateur of stigmas or taboos and people want to talk about that because it’s exciting
  • Write the blurb for your show (which also then makes up a large part of your press release!) like a human being talking to another human being. Who are you, what is this show about, what might people feel if they come and see it, what does it look like. It’s not hard… don’t swirl it all up with buzz words and lies and not actually simply communicate the show
  • Have a cracking show image something that catches the eye because its smart
  • Have cracking press and production shots (I LOVE DRESSING UP and having my photo taken don’t you!) and pick a photographer you love… mine are Christa Holka and Richard Davenport.
  • Make sure your show IS what it says it is and that it is bloody good. Test it a fair bit as you are making it, to friendly people who will be honest with you! Then let the press see it, not before then.

“BOOM. Easy.

“But don’t just listen to me… ask an expert! Kelly Fogarty (or KFOG as she is known!) Currently Soho Theatre’s Head of Press (but previously Assembly’s AND Melbourne International Comedy Festival!) says:

“One way to piss the press off is to not have done your homework. Get online and find out what they've covered in the past, what subjects they're interested in, what themes they've picked up on recently. Don't be pitching them something they covered on last week's programme, yesterday's blog or today's paper.

“Send one page press releases and don't stalk people, it’s weird.

“Also. Be nice. Think of it from the press’s perspective. The festival can be just as tough on them...and lonely actually. I've seen critics standing in queues with tears running down their faces. Running between shows, writing up the reviews, living on just as little sleep and being harangued by 3000 performers, their publicists and their agents.

“Now Let’s talk about Art…

“Be you a comedian or involved in the making of (funny voice) theatre you have what is commonly known as a craft. And during these three weeks you have a very luxurious opportunity… one that presents itself very rarely. You have 20 odd chances to get that elusive little bugger of a show right. I know some people make work differently, even me this year… (I arrive here off the back of Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne Festivals so slightly more prepared) but the majority of you are probably looking down the barrel of a brand new show. I like to see Edinburgh Fringe as not only the chance to showcase your wares for booking, for profile raising and for potential press BUT also as an excellent chance to hone said craft; to learn something new every day… about audience reactions, about the way you write, about the effect you are having on the minds sitting before you. If you do not use this festival as a chance to get better at your job you are missing a trick. I very much feel like I am here to WORK. Of course there is the incredible chance to play too but it’s a great chance to get super geeky about your practice. Use the chance. Make notes, change things, play, keep tweaking… everyone knows a show hasn’t found its sea legs until the 3rd week and where else do you get the chance to do the job you LOVE every day and possibly even get paid for it. If you hate your show, turn it into something you love.

“If I were you I would ask these questions:

  • What question am I asking of the world with this work? And am I answering it clearly and thoroughly?
  • What 3 things do I want my audience to leave with? (For my show Credible, Likeable Superstar Role Model I wanted people to cry for the loss of their childhood, think about the pop culture they consume more carefully and for people to leave wanting to do their own bit to change the world (ambitious but why not!)
  • Am I/is my character changed by the end of the work (all stories revolve around the protagonist changing in some way!) – or perhaps in comedy is everything working towards the most stupendous of all call back pay offs!

“If the answers are foggy keep going. Let’s all try and be excellent this year. Why would we not?

“To balance the art chat, let’s talk about business.

So we all know that Edinburgh Fringe IS a marketplace. But this doesn’t mean that it is a one way street… you also control the market. The way I see it working is this. You plough your heart and your hard earned cash into getting here… you pay for your venue fee, brochure fee and marketing fees… as well as all that money that goes into the making of your show (be it through gigs like the stand ups do, or arts council like my type of scrounger) and it costs MONEY. So if that is the case then you should be paying a little bit of attention to the fact that you might get some of that back as a return… if you are smart. It irks me when performers and companies say “oh well Edinburgh is a loss for everyone” because that actually isn’t true. If you are a savvy business woman like I am you can make sure that you don’t just breakeven but you pay yourself too. Obviously not if you are in a 25 seater venue with a cast of 50 professional actors (but I would say you should have been living within your means when you made that silly decision back in February!) And yes the first few years may need to be an investment but after that you can begin to expect a return. That might be in the future gigs you get by inviting the right people. If this is to be a proper job: You need to make every seat count, paper the first shows to get a buzz going, flyer hard, hire a good PR and I promise it is worth it, keep asking the question how do I get people in here. Don’t give up. It’s very likely you find yourself with a hit in the final week when the first two have sucked (its happened to me!)

“My top 5 pieces of advice for festival sanity:

  • Eat healthily - smash into your mouth your 5 a day and try to cook at home 2-3 times a week. Else you will get ill.
  • Get out of the city – on your day off (if you haven’t taken one you are an idiot) go to the countryside or beach and breathe the great Scottish air, it will clear your mind.
  • Use the facilities and services of the Fringe Society – come here, do everything, knowledge is power!
  • Don’t sweat the bad stuff – try not to fixate on bad reviews or tiny audiences you will drive yourself insane and it’s bad for your emotional wellbeing. Set those thoughts adrift, compartmentalize them or do something about it, don’t dwell.
  • Make lots of friends – literally be kind to everyone!

“Now I would like to offer you some advice from some of the people I know.

“I have canvased opinion and asked a few people and here are my favourite tips from Edinburgh regulars, know it all’s and industry peeps…

“Steve Lock – Comedy Producer Soho Theatre says:

“As a top notch comedy producer (ha!) I look through the brochure for stuff I don’t know about that I think sounds interesting. I talk to people about what they've seen - performers, punters, anyone who'll listen! I want to be open to new experiences and try new things - that's what I think this festival is all about.

“Excellent Technician from my first ever visit and long-time friend… Nathan

“Techs get thrown in at the deep end. If they swim they are legends. Treat em like they're part of your company. Be specific about exactly what u want but let them be creative. Remember they'll be there hours before u get there and hours after u leave. Most of them are there coz they want to be and they give a f*ck. Listen to em. Be patient also, and everyone get results.

“Poet and Dandy Luke Wright

“I always climb Arthur's seat. I always have a duvet day on my day off. I always drink too much and make as many friends as possible.

“John Peel Enthusiast and wonderful writer John Osbourne

“If you want to stay up all night you're allowed. If you want to go to bed early you're allowed. Work really hard so that in September you don't look back and wish you had made more of your time at the festival.

“Now for a couple of LOCALS:

“Fringe First Winning artist Jenna Watt (who lives here)

“Thank your audiences for choosing to spend their time with you, pick up your litter and don't be a dick to strangers or friends.

“Activist one of my favourite writers Keiran Hurley

“Remember that Edinburgh is an actual real year-round place, and not just an overblown industry playground. Try not to be too disgruntled with any locals who appear to be shitty reluctant hosts unless you can match that expectation with the humility of a good guest. Remember this not just because it's respectful, but also because if you can remember that Edinburgh is a place (not just a state of mind) you will also remember that the world does not begin and end within the goldfish bowl of the Fringe. Whether you're smashing it with Fringe Firsts and five star reviews or reluctantly dragging yourself to the end in front of two people a day, holding on to this truth can be an important act of self-care. Get on a 26 bus and walk along Porty Beach. Get on a 44 bus and take a walk in the Pentlands. Make friends, see shows, book in a short holiday for the start of September.

“Bootworks Director Rob Daniels:

“Remind yourself why you decided to do the fringe in the first place: the jolly, the craic, 'cut your teeth', to promo a new show, to bed a show in...or whatever... and focus on doing that one (or two) things 'well'. It won't guarantee success, but you'll have clear aims to reach, clear objectives to follow, and you won't be able to blame 'other reasons' for it not going to plan.

“Don't be a c*nt. Don't be all high-and-mighty, or self-involved, or arrogant, like you know it all, or know better (or 'are'...because you're not): show some humility and respect. For others, and yourself. Don't prance about like an obnoxious art-prick espousing your attitude and opinions on anyone who'll listen. Don't judge other people, even if they're c*nts.

“Forest Fringe’s Andy Field said

“Be nice to the other people (staff, other artists, volunteers, etc.) in your venue. Get to know them. Go and see their shows. Take the time to hang out in the venue bar and chat to people. Do this firstly because it is good to be nice, but also because they will be the most likely people to come and support your show and the best means of building up some word of mouth about it. Wear trainers. Shower regularly. Don't listen to advice from loud pregnant women and their irresponsible, unemployable friends.

“Kelly Fogarty chimes back in from an interesting Australian perspective about the quality level of the festival in the eyes of the international promoters and venues.

“This festival is a rite of passage for aussies… onstage and off. You’re worth more and you’re better regarded if you can do this festival. It’s like if you can succeed at this endurance race you can do them all.

“Comedian Shappi Korsandi says

“Don't buy a load of spices the moment you arrive. Yes, you'll have all these grand plans of cooking proper meals...and you will, for the first three days, then it'll be 4am chips and shawmas for the rest of the festival and at the end you'll be left wondering JUST how tight you are being by taking your turmeric, salt, pepper, garam masala and cling film home with you because, after all you've barely used them.

“Finally My Fringe recommendations:

  • My Beautiful Black Dog by the wonderful Brigitte Aphrodite about depression
  • An Oak Tree at the Traverse for only a week is sublime.
  • Dave by aussie stand up Zoe Coombs Marr, Spaghetti for Breakfast by Sam Simmons and CUT staring Hannah Norris – all smashes hits on the Australian festival circuit this year
  • Brute by Newbie Izzy Tennyson looks like she will be great
  • Head to see some dance… it is something I LOVE and I worked in the Industry for years and I would love to see it grow bigger here. Dance Base or The Zoo for that!
  • Go to Forest Fringe for the day down in Leith and take a chance on the wonderful artists they have programmed, including the figs in wigs, made in china, Action Hero, Brian Lobel and Scottee!!

“Have the best of times, have the worst of times… but just f*cking have it!”

The 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe will run from 07 – 31 August.

Fringe Central is operated by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society and is exclusively for participants, media and arts industry professionals taking part in the Fringe. Centrally located over two spaces at Appleton Tower, Crichton Street and David Hume Tower, George Square, the centres provides internet access, a cafe and bar, meeting rooms, rehearsal space and staff to give support and advice on all issues about taking part in the Fringe including marketing and media campaigns and how to make the best use of the development opportunities on offer. Fringe Central also houses a programme of over 85 professional and career development events designed to help Fringe participants get the most out of the Fringe. All events are free for registered Fringe participants.

Fringe Central 1 – Appleton Tower, 11 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9LE
Here you will find our main reception where participants, media and arts industry professionals can collect their passes and access our photocopying, printing and computer facilities, the café and bar and lots of space to relax and take meetings. It is also the home of the Fringe Society’s Media team who can provide advice to participants on their media and marketing campaigns, as well as advice to the media on ticketing, how to navigate the Fringe programme, and arrange interviews and help with feature ideas.

Fringe Central 2 - David Hume Tower, George Square EH8 9JX
Our new space for 2015 will house the Arts Industry office and Participant Development team. Fringe Central 2 will also be where the majority of our events will be hosted. Check the Fringe Central programme for details.

Fringe Central opening hours
03 – 31 August from 10.00 – 20.00 BST daily
Twitter: @fringecentral

Media Office opening hours
07 – 31 August from 10.00 – 20.00 BST daily
[email protected] / +44 (0)131 240 1919