Edinburgh Fringe venue calls me a liar

FringeLogo_Red[1]Beyond people being two-faced, there is one thing guaranteed to get up my nose. Someone calling me a liar.

That last one happened yesterday.

In my blog yesterday morning, I wrote:

“I was told The Stand venue at the Edinburgh Fringe will not issue any tickets to any Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award judges this year – although it has done that without any problem for the past six years – both via the main Fringe Office and via The Stand’s own Press Office.”

In response, I got a message from Tommy Sheppard, owner of The Stand, saying:

“No-one in our press office has ever said that there’s a blanket ban on Malcolm Hardee award judges coming to our shows… try not to tell lies about us – it doesn’t help anyone.”

Well, I never said anyone in The Stand’s Press office had told me anything.

What I had done was the same as I had done since 2007 without any problem. I applied for tickets to the shows I wanted to see by sending the standard form to the Fringe’s Arts Industry office, where I am accredited as “John Fleming, Malcolm Hardee Awards”.

The Fringe Office either issue tickets reserved for Arts Industry accreditees or they ask the venue who normally ask the relevant act if it is OK.

For most of the shows I asked about, I was given tickets yesterday. Four requests were “pending” – which I presume means that the acts or their PR people are being asked if it is OK to give tickets.

The single ticket I asked for at The Stand was ‘Declined’ with the written explanation:

“On request of the venue, there is no complimentary ticket allocation for Fringe Award Judges. Tickets can be purchased for this show subject to availability.”

Call me unable to understand the English language, but this seems to me to say there is a blanket ban on Malcolm Hardee award judges coming to shows at The Stand in the standard way that has happened without problem over the last six years. Perhaps there was ongoing incompetence at The Stand over the last six years? Who knows?

In the last six years, I saw several shows at The Stand using an Arts Industry pass issued to the Malcolm Hardee Awards. Mostly I applied for tickets through the Fringe Office (which is standard procedure) though occasionally I got tickets direct from The Stand’s press office showing the Arts Industry Pass bearing the words “Malcolm Hardee Awards” as identification.

EdFringe2011PassB

The Malcolm Hardee Awards Show pass

EdFringe2011PassA

…acceptable to the venue in years past

For example, in one week in 2011, I saw four shows at The Stand, using printed tickets issued to me as a representative of the Malcolm Hardee Awards. Admittedly, on one of those four occasions, I was refused admittance to the venue.

When I arrived at The Stand (after rushing across town) with the printed ticket issued to the Malcolm Hardee Awards and collected by me from the Press Office, I was told at the door: “Oh, we’ve sold all the seats,” and I was turned away.

I was told by a journalist that this had also happened to him at another Stand show. Having been given a press ticket, he was turned away at the door because all the seats had been, in the meantime, sold to paying punters. As a result, he did not review the show.

The Stand has, for several years, claimed it ‘does not believe’ in competitions – that you cannot judge between comedians. Who can say one act is better than or even comparable with another? So they have refused to give tickets to judges for what used to be called the Perrier Award.

Yesterday, Tommy Sheppard of The Stand told me: “If a act wants to get you in on a comp they can. All you have to do is have the courtesy to ask – which of course you can do through us – just contact Dave or Sarah. It would be nice if you would pay for your ticket – since at The Stand that money goes to the acts.”

This seems a little simplified.

At any of the normal pay-to-enter venues, if you buy a ticket, the money goes to the acts… and to the venue. I am unaware of any change at The Stand which means that 100% of all box office receipts goes to the act. If that has suddenly become the case, then presumably The Stand must be making 100% of its money by venue hire to the acts and by bar sales.

I presume that, in fact, The Stand takes a cut of the door take.

So, if a journalist enters the venue on a press pass, The Stand loses that profit on the ticket (but there is a high chance of a resultant review publicising the show). If an awards judge enters the venue on a pass, only one act/show out of all those seen can win an award, so there is much less likelihood of The Stand getting publicity for itself and the show.

Someone defending The Stand on my Facebook page yesterday wrote:

“As I understand it, they don’t approve of competitions so it would make sense that they wouldn’t give away free tickets to someone running a competition, as it makes more sense for them to have those tickets paid for and the money in the pockets of the venue and the acts… It is a point of principle. But why give away a ticket to something that you don’t agree with when you can sell it instead.”

I replied:

“From what you say, then, it’s a money thing, not a point of principle. They don’t mind the act ‘losing’ money but not them…”

Venues allow acts a certain number of complementary tickets which they can give away to friends/contacts.

There are also normally a certain number of press and industry tickets held back until the last moment. If they are not taken up, they are sold to paying customers. In the case of The Stand, they allow press tickets but have an alleged (except for the last six years, it seems) ban on giving tickets to Awards judges. However, they do not tell the acts that judges want tickets (I have been told this by an act) and simply tell the judges they cannot have any: that they have to pay.

As my Facebook friend said: “it would make sense that they wouldn’t give away free tickets to someone running a competition, as it makes more sense for them to have those tickets paid for and the money in the pockets of the venue… It seems that if someone wants to buy a ticket then they are welcomed as a paying customer. If that person then wants to include the acts they’ve seen in a competition, it’s up to them. If an act wins a competition it’s up to the act if they choose to accept it. I don’t see where there is a loss of principle, they just don’t want to give away tickets for free for something they don’t agree with. In terms of losing career advancement… acts don’t have to play The Stand if they don’t want to.”

That seems to put it more clearly.

It is good to see capitalism at work.

3 Comments

Filed under Comedy, Edinburgh

3 responses to “Edinburgh Fringe venue calls me a liar

  1. The Stand don’t charge for venue hire and everything is done as a door split with the act. Their programme is invitation-only and all of the acts are people that they have a good working relationship with, so everybody involved has a good idea of what to expect when they start their Fringe run there.

    Tommy has publicly stated his hatred of all competitions, from new act competitions to the Foster’s prize, and it’s mainly because competitions are all about making money for the organisers. Personally, I don’t agree with him, but I do see his point in that there are promoters making out like bandits at some new act competitions while all of the acts but the winner walk away with nothing.

    That said, it’s a myth that they don’t allow Foster’s judges in. I had a very nice chat with one at The Stand last year. Tony Law was nominated for the main prize, which I imagine involved someone actually seeing his show.

    Also, the Malcolm Hardee awards seem to pretty much share The Stand’s ethos. They may be increasingly prestigious, but they’re not pompous, they’re not shoring up your flagging promotion company, and they’re not a thinly-veiled attempt to flog a terrible, terrible brand of lager. They’re also entertaining in and of themselves, which is one of the problems with the “industry”: there are way too many people making money out of comedy without ever actually making anyone laugh.

    Besides all of this, there’s a possibility you’ve overlooked, which is simply that the Fringe office screwed up. It happens.

  2. From what Tommy tells me, the Fringe Office did not screw up.

  3. I’m not surpised. The whole of the Edinbugger Fiasco is pukeworthy. It should be moved to Aberystwyth.

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