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Tips for Surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival - Updated

By an Artist, for Artists

Edinburgh Festival is just over a month away. Over the years, it has evolved from a month of experimentation and joy into the unfortunate exam season for performers due to extreme financial pressures and industry expectations. The pressure to preview over 50+ times before August, to have PR and be in every 'Top 10' List, to create a poster that suggests you're on your own personal Taylor Swift 'Eras' tour, and to craft a show that isn't just good but the hit show of the Fringe, can be overwhelming.

This pressure can lead to sleepless nights, endless comparisons to other comedians, worries about show readiness, and fears of being exposed as a fraud.

I have seen the fringe from all angles and I have experienced almost every human emotion within that beautiful pungent city.

Thus, based on the conversations I have had with newer acts recently on the circuit, I have decided to write a list of tips that I wish someone had said to me when I first started performing my own solo work at the Fringe.

  • THE FRINGE IS ITS OWN ECOSYSTEM. What happens in fringe exists only within THAT fringe. Don’t panic if you have a meltdown, snog everyone, scrap your show, rewrite your show midway through, decide you hate your show, think you have fallen in love with a performer from the Underbelly Circus Tent. That is okay. It is only a month. Everyone goes a little insane. It will be forgotten before you know it, and by November everyone is already thinking about the next one.

  • YOU AREN'T REALLY IN LOVE WITH THAT CONTORTIONIST. You are just tired and he was nice to you.

  • CELEBRATE YOUR PARTICIPATION: You are taking part in the biggest arts festival IN THE WORLD. That is amazing. Be proud of yourself and enjoy it. Very few people get the opportunity. Enjoy meeting artists from around the world, extend your social group so you dont just hang out with acts you already know.

  • A SUCCESSFUL FRINGE IS DECIDED BY YOU AND THE TERMS YOU SET FOR YOURSELF.  If you are happy with the improvements you are making, you are proud of your material, you enjoy your show and you are enjoying your audiences - then you are having a good Edinburgh. That is a successful fringe festival.



  • DON'T WORRY IF IT'S NOT FINISHED BY THE FIRST DAY OF THE FESTIVAL.. Each show is the sibling to the show before. They aren’t clones. Sure they have the same DNA but they will all come out differently. The material will be the same, but the delivery will be different - same as the audience each night is. Learning this makes your analysis and love for each individual gig easier. If you are not enjoying the show…. Here is a secret…. You can change it throughout the month. It’s not concrete the moment the first night opens.

  • REVIEWERS ARE HUMAN AND SOMETIMES THEY MISS THE POINT. Remember they aren't in the most conducive space to watch a show calmly as they are being sent to see about 10 shows in a day, back to back, without any actual moment to sit down and process them all . If they didn’t get your show try not to let it destroy you, they probably weren't able to concentrate properly because they were fixated on the contortionst who smiled at them earlier.

  • STALIN WAS A THEATRE REVIEWER so they can't all know what they are talking about.

  • DECIDE IF YOU VALUE THE REVIEWERS OPINION before you get elated or depressed at what they have written.

  • GET ON WITH IT. You get a ONE STAR review. Okay. Cool. Get cross. That’s okay. It happens. You gonna quit comedy now? No? Okay, well then have a cup of tea and carry on. This won’t be the last bad review you get and why should it? You are experimenting with your craft. You are going to continue to get better and take risks. You are not for everybody. Who is? Who wants to please everybody? You know who? Soup. Who wants to be compared to soup? Nobody. So stop having a tantrum. It is a bad review. Flopping is part of the process. Wear the bruises of the fringe with pride. We have all been there. It will only make you stronger. Crucially, can you learn something from it?

  • STOP SHAMING THREE STARS. 3 stars does not mean it is a bad show. It means it is a good show.   Drop your pride for a second and be honest with yourself. Is your show genuinely the best show you can make and is this show what you consider to be one of the best shows at the fringe? It is totally cool if it is not - no one is asking you to 'be the best'. Do not put unobtainable pressure on yourself.  This is part of the process of fringe and understanding who we are as performers. I am not gonna say ‘don’t read reviews’ because I understand the sadistic pleasure in it, but remember that unless Chortle is funding your lifestyle, paying for your accommodation and covering your living costs it really does not matter what Stevie B thinks of you. It can be helpful but it doesn’t make or break your fringe.

  • DON'T GET ANGRY at the audience for not giving you the reaction you decided before hand you deserved to get. It is everyones right to take a risk, to see a show they wouldn’t normally see, and realise, halfway through it, that it’s not for them. Unless they are actively trying to destroy your show - don’t punish them for their body language and facial expressions.

  • SOMETIMES IT IS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. Don’t underestimate the effect that a hot room, an uncomfy seat or a recent heart break with a contortionist can have on an audiences inability to emit earth shattering laughter.

  • DON'T LET PRIDE GET IN THE WAY OF THE SHOW. Even if 90% of your audience aren’t on board, give all your love for that 10% who do - because they will come back, they will tell their friends and then next thing you know you have a supportive following of weirdos who love what you do seeing you next year.

  • YOUR AUDIENCE IS A RARE BIRD - BE KIND TO THEM. If someone comes to your show on their own and then is brave enough to sit on the front row, I think they could probably do with you not taking the piss out of them. 

  • YOUR AUDIENCE PICK YOU. NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. You don't know who is going to resonate with your work. Don’t judge them based on appearances, judge them on how they react to your work. The best audience member I have ever had was an 80something year old woman who came to see Raven twice - the first time with her daughter, the second time with fellow 80somethings from her neighbourhood. She loved the dick cutting.  She was entirely made out of floral print.

  • YOU CAN'T PERFORM IF YOU ARE DEAD. Do not ever scrimp on health and safety. Don’t be made to rush by someone if it means not double checking something is correctly duct taped down or a prop is safely secure. Trust me. I cannot remember most of Edinburgh 2022 because I had such a serious head injury I had to spend the majority of the fringe with a safety Helmut on. All because of spilt water on the stage.

  • TREAT YOURSELF LIKE AN ATHLETE. Don't say yes to every gig.  Yes, getting stage time is great but you can only get better in what you do by immersing yourself in the work of others and supporting and seeing the work everyone else has made.  You are part of a collective. Audiences don’t give you the benefit of the doubt - they don't care if you are tired,injured, or had a bad day - they’ve paid full price, gotten a babysitter and commuted and taken a risk to see you - so you have to land the plane. With the gigs you do always think Risk versus Reward. What is the benefit of doing this extra gig? Will it help me reach out to new audiences? Will I learn from the other acts? Will it pay well? Or will it leave me depleted, exhausted and not in the right headspace for my show? An Olympic 100m Sprinter doesn’t do a low key five aside game of football before their big race. They rest and warm up. Think the same way when it comes to your show.

  • IT IS YOUR SHOW. NO ONE ELSES. Anyone who is banging on to you about newcomer and making you stressed and anxious has not necessarily got your best interests at heart. Remember, this is a business and there are people trying to make money out of you - but you take yourself to bed and you wake up with yourself in the morning. A month is a long time to perform a show every day that you don’t feel comfortable doing, so do something you enjoy and don't reveal anything you don't feel comfortable telling your audience.

  • AWARDS DO NOT MATTER. The same way the awards on Speech day at school do not matter. The same way no one cares what GCSE results you got after you turn 17. They are nice and lovely if they happen to you but they are not the BE ALL AND END ALL. If someone starts talking to you about the awards, get up and walk away. Fetishizing awards is the worry fungi of a festival. It festers in your soul and gives you personality thrush.  If anyone is stressing you about the awards just introduce them to a contortionist.

  • ALWAYS CARRY A BANANA. If in doubt, eat a vegetable. Chances are you are dehydrated, tired and lacking Vitamin C.

  • YOU ARE NOT A ROBOT. You are going to be at this festival for a month - doing a minimum of one show a day. So ask yourself - Are you a robot with 100% solid charge? NO? Then WHY would you expect EVERY show to be the same? Are you human? Do you bleed? If you do - well guess what… some days you are not gonna be your absolute best on stage. Sure, you will always try, but sometimes you will be tired and other parts of your life will get in the way. AND YOU KNOW WHAT - that is OKAY. As long as you never give up on the audiences and you are always trying to land the plane, then you are becomming a master of your craft.  Take that from a woman who was performing her show in 2018 not realising she had two slipped discs and who nearly became paralysed the year after… and then the woman who nearly killed herself in 2022 and still suffers memory problems because of it.

  • THE 'COOL PLACES' ARE WHERE YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS ARE. Don’t waste time trying to get into places that you never had heard about until yesterday. If you have found a decent place to sit with your mates in a pub that is not rammed with drama students and overly expensive beer you have found the most VIP place in the festival.

  • SEE SHOWS AND COMMIT. If you promised someone you would see their show - see their show. Book a ticket in advance to incentivise you to be there.   It will mean the world to them. And if you don’t think you can see it, be honest.

  • REMEMBER - YOU DON'T DO THIS TO BE COOL. None of us do. We did this because at some point we discovered a drama class and felt safe, met fellow weirdos, played together and created something that felt fun. That’s why people come to the fringe, to find other weirdos and feel part of something. Have a brilliant fringe, and if you are doing a show, tell me what it is!

  • With love, Elf

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