So I received an e-mail from Mark Davison.
The full billing runs:
Mr Susie has one hour to save cabaret. Being from another planet he has no idea what cabaret is. Mark Davison (BBC Three’s Cuckoo, C4’s Toast of London and The Doctor Brown Show, he is also one third of online sketch trio The Exploding Heads) returns with last year’s show updated with new content for 2015. “Promise to go to Mr Susie’s Last Chance Cabaret. This is a brilliant show” (Guardian). Nominated for Best Newcomer 2015 at The London Cabaret Awards.
The e-mail I got read:
You mentioned a few blog entries ago that you weren’t sure if anyone would withdraw from PBH as a result of the Cowgatehead fiasco, so I wanted to give you first refusal on publishing my own statement of withdrawal.
My statement is as follows and I’m not looking for publicity, I simply want my withdrawal to have an impact, to let PBH know that this state of affairs is not acceptable, and how we as performers are not going to just uniformly look the other way whilst people we care about are impacted:
I have watched with morbid fascination and mounting horror as the crisis surrounding the booking of shows at Cowgatehead has unfolded. After much deliberation I find that I feel unable to represent PBH at the Edinburgh Free Festival this year. With great sadness and frustration I am withdrawing my show from The Voodoo Rooms. I am aware that this will permanently exclude me from ever working with the organisation again, but such is the depth of feeling I have that this is a sacrifice I am fully prepared to make.
As onlookers of this sad turn of events we have no real way of knowing the precise details of who-said-what-to-whom that led to this chaos, and it’s certainly clear that this is a complicated unfolding of events. From PBH’s side, it seems that the timing of the claim to the venue is a little odd, and from Freestival’s side it seems they were acting with some degree of naivety, but any remaining neutrality I may have had was destroyed when a full compromise deal was being offered that would have led to none of the Freestival Acts losing their slots (and thereby their money), and PBH appeared to refuse to entertain it. Refused, even, to attend the meeting that would have discussed such a move. An organisation that will not even consider a plan that will save performers’ time, money and artistic effort, not to mention spare them from a great deal of stress, cannot genuinely claim to have performers’ interests at heart. This is in such violation of what I believe to be the spirit of the Fringe that I simply cannot continue to be a part of PBH.
The insistence on exclusivity to PBH is also something that I find deeply problematic. For my part I have always simply ignored it and continued to perform my main show under PBH whilst still performing as a guest for other organisations, knowing that I was taking a risk but feeling that this was a clause in the terms and conditions that was nonsense and therefore worth breaking. But in the specific instance of Cowgatehead the clause takes on a particularly cruel connotation since it instantly prevents any Freestival Acts who are doing other shows with other organisations from even being allowed to apply to retain their existing slot at Cowgatehead.
I would love that other performers who are nominally ‘safe’ from this crisis follow suit and withdraw in protest, or at least say something in support of those performers left without a venue. However, I appreciate it is a competitive industry (and an expensive one) and poking one’s head above the parapet is not always an advisable thing to do (it certainly makes no financial sense). I also hope that my slot at The Voodoo Rooms, which in my opinion is one of the best rooms on the entire Fringe, is filled by one of the displaced Freestival Acts, though I obviously have no control over that. It could well be that my stance is nothing more than a futile gesture, but at least I will be able to sleep at night.
It is a crying shame that just as the Free Fringe is becoming a serious, viable alternative to the Big Four, it is being destroyed by the very people who claim to be its guardians.
Mark Davison sent that statement this morning to Peter Buckley Hill of the PBH Free Fringe.
When I read it, I asked Mark two questions. His answers were:
Yes, I’m losing money. Roughly £800 though thankfully I won’t have lost further cash on my accommodation.
I hope to still be in Edinburgh for a week or so this year, doing as many guest slots as I can. And next year I will bring an all-new show, most probably to the paid Fringe.