Why it is impossible to libel the Edinburgh Fringe

Last March, I wrote a So It Goes blog here headed:

ANSWERS TO NINE COMMON QUESTIONS ASKED BY INNOCENT FIRST-TIME PERFORMERS AT THE EDINBURGH FRINGE

As it is again that time of year when performers – especially comics – start thinking about arranging shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, last week I sent the same piece (with figures updated) to the UK edition of the Huffington Post, which occasionally prints pieces by me and which did not exist until summer last year.

Lazy of me, I know, but the advice is still relevant and, I think, helpful and true.

Imagine my bemusement when my piece appeared under the headline:

ANSWERS TO SEVEN COMMON QUESTIONS ASKED BY INNOCENT FIRST-TIME PERFORMERS AT THE EDINBURGH FRINGE

“Mmmm… That’s interesting,” I thought. “I wonder why they have cut two out?”

It did not matter particularly, but it bemused me.

The missing questions and answers were:

____________________

4. DOES MY VENUE’S STAFF KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING?

No. Trust me. No.

Most only arrived a week ago, some are Australian and the ones who are not have little experience of anything outside their friends’ kitchens. They probably had no sleep last night and are certainly only at the Fringe to drink, take drugs and, with luck, get laid by well-proportioned members of the opposite sex. Or, in some cases, the same sex.

Trust me. With help and advice, they could organise a piss-up at the Fringe but not in a brewery.

7. IT’S MY FIRST EDINBURGH. WILL I GET FINANCIALLY SCREWED BY UNSCRUPULOUS PEOPLE?

Yes.

____________________

I have not asked the Huffington Post why they chopped these two questions and answers out. It would seem churlish. And I suspect it may prove counter-productive to even mention it here. But I reckon it’s worth a blog.

I suspect it might have been an attempt to avoid a potential libel problem misunderstood by a Huffington Post sub-editor who thought that there is a single venue-organising company which, I claimed, is incompetent.

I did not because there is not.

There is a common misunderstanding by people who have never performed there that the Edinburgh Fringe is actually organised. It is not.

It is an open festival. You, I or Fred Bloggs and his performing caterpillars can perform there under the banner of the “Edinburgh Fringe” if we feel like it. There is no quality or quantity control.

“The Edinburgh Fringe” is what people call it and there an Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society which plays a central role. But, basically, they print the Programme for the event and publicise the event in general. They do not organise the shows or the venues in any way.

If you pay to have your show listed with 40 words in the Fringe’s printed Programme and 100 words online, then (provided there is nothing illegal in the wording) details of the show and its performances will appear and you are performing “in the Fringe”. And there is a central box office system, although many venues also run their own box offices.

The Fringe Office will advise and help to an extent, but you are on your own as a performer. You have to find a venue, probably pay for the venue, arrange posters, flyers, publicity and all the rest yourself.

That is one of the joys of the Edinburgh Fringe.

No central body actually ‘organises’ it in any way.

Last year, the Fringe had 21,192 performers appearing in 2,542 shows (41,689 performances) at 258 venues with 855 registered journalists reviewing/reporting on them, 974 ‘arts industry professionals’ (TV scouts, agents, producers, bookers etc) and an estimated 1,877,119 people attended Fringe shows during the three-and-a-bit weeks of the festival. The non-profit-taking Fringe Society itself had an income of £3,161,601 last year to organise the generalities. Someone somehow calculated that, in 2010, the Fringe event pumped £142 million into Edinburgh’s economy.

But it is anarchy.

In the best sense of the word.

The Edinburgh Fringe is full of opportunities, dreams, nightmares, testosterone, adrenaline, drink, drugs, out-of-control egos, showbiz shysters and con men (and women). It is full of people out to make their reputations, to make a buck out of performers and to shaft each other in all meanings of the phrase. To repeat one of my answers which the Huffington Post cut out… and it ain’t libel, it’s life… it’s a fact, indeed a racing certainty…

____________________

7. IT’S MY FIRST EDINBURGH. WILL I GET FINANCIALLY SCREWED BY UNSCRUPULOUS PEOPLE?

Yes.

____________________

And to repeat one of my answers which they did run:

7. SHOULD I GO BACK FOR A SECOND AND THIRD YEAR?

Yes.

2 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Edinburgh, Newspapers, PR, Theatre

2 responses to “Why it is impossible to libel the Edinburgh Fringe

  1. I did have 9 questions I wanted to ask about this blog but I decided 8 of them were unsuitable for public consumption so that leaves me with just the one. This Fred Bloggs and His Performing Caterpillars…. Where can I get tickets?

  2. Phone me and I will book them for you. My normal 15% commission.

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