Last Friday, in celebrations of the first day of Fringe 2023, the annual Artist Address took place for the first time since 2019, and we were delighted to welcome Le Gateau Chocolat to deliver it. 

Designed as a celebratory moment for Fringe artists to gather at the beginning of the festival, Gateau gave a thought-provoking, empowering and at times emotional speech to those gathered for the event. It was in 2008 that Gateau made his debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, shortly after an appearance at the Adelaide Fringe. Due to work commitments in London, he felt unable to fully ensconce himself in the "anarchy of its magic" and returned three years later in 2011 with his self-titled show, Le Gateau Chocolat. 

"When you’re not performing the show, you’re selling it. When you’re not selling it, you’re doing PR. When you’re not doing PR, you’re rehearsing, adjusting to the conversation with the audience – in a permanent state of dampness. The exhaustion at a cellular level whilst also being deeply invigorating. You’re on a constant high which amplifies the lows – however brief they are."

Highlighting the platform the Fringe can offer artists for career development, Gateau shared insights into the journey his show took following his 2011 debut as Le Gateau Chocolat. "The magic of Edinburgh Fringe was very present, and I was lucky enough to tap into the zeitgeist. Shows sold out. Reviews were great. It got a London transfer to The Menier Chocolate Factory. The Sydney Opera House. Poland. Christchurch, New Zealand. Melbourne. Auckland. It set me on a course that introduced me to Basement Jaxx and had me performing with them and Metropole Orkest at the Barbican. It’s how T-Mobile found me and reached out for me to be part of the flash mob ad at Terminal 5. It changed my life."

Returning to the Fringe in 2018 with three shows – Duckie, Icons and Jonny Woo’s All Star Brexit Cabaret – Gateau’s journey continued, and he worked hard to engage with new audiences and build on his touring opportunities. Duckie went on to tour extensively across the UK and continues to do so with a new non-binary and neurodivergent performer. Highlighting a need for greater inclusivity and access at the festival, Gateau stated, "Inclusivity is not a word, it’s an action, it is practise." Citing the current cost-of-living crisis, accommodation costs and the risks artists take to bring work to the Fringe every year, Gateau referenced the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and the resilience of artists, but that "elasticity doesn’t mean we can’t break".

With an audience listening intently to Gateau’s story, the 2023 Artist Address highlighted the continued need for artist support across a range of areas. Encouraging the room to support each other and to drive a sense of comradery and community, Gateau concluded his speech by stating, "There is magic here. I haven’t found it at every Fringe I’ve attended but I have found it several times. You can and will be in conversation with your audiences – my hope for artists present and all artists at this festival is that you indeed find audiences. You are enough and the experiences that have brought you to this moment are valid. Lean into telling your stories as authentically as you can versus seeking validation from audience numbers, audience responses and reviews. If you succeed at doing that, tell me how because at 41 it’s a code I’m yet to crack. And to the facilitators of the storytellers, my plea to you is don’t take advantage of our reality; what we do is who we are."

Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: “When Le Gateau Chocolat took to the stage you could hear a pin drop. The room was there to hear from an artist who has attended the Fringe for over 15 years and who has first-hand knowledge and experience of everything that this glorious event can challenge you with. We recognise the great financial risk that artists take in bringing work to the Fringe every year, and Gateau’s story highlights that every artist’s journey is different. Our immense thanks to Gateau for sharing his story, and to all the artists taking part in this year’s festival for making the commitment to be at this year’s Fringe."