Working class Scots to get more help to put on Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows

Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Year-round support will be offered to five producers under a new pilot program aimed at making it easier for working class Scots to premiere work at the 2023 Fringe.

The scheme, which is being targeted at first-time Fringe producers, will be launched during the final week of this year’s festival.

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Successful applications will get £500 in funding to help new and emerging producers attend shows, and cover the costs of travel, accommodation and other expenses.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society is creating a new program offering working class Scots financial and mentoring help to put work on at next year’s event.

A three-day introductory program at the festival’s Fringe Central hub will include workshops, talks and networking events with artists, producers, venues and industry representatives.

A year-long mentoring program involving Fringe Society staff, venues and producers will offer advice on everything from budgets, fundraising, marketing and professional development to finding venues and accommodation.

However the program is not intended to cover the costs of producing Fringe shows in 2023.

The scheme is open to applications from producers over the age of 18 who have never presented any work at the Fringe before, are based in Scotland year-round and identify as working class.

The Fringe will celebrate its 75th anniversary in August. Picture: David Monteith-Hodge

Applicants are being asked to state the occupation of the main earner in their household when they were 14 and whether they were eligible for free school meals.

The Fringe Society has also revived a program for emerging producers from across the UK, launched in 2012, which will also prioritize working class creatives.

Both schemes have been launched months after the Fringe Society pledged to “dismantle” obstacles preventing people from taking part in the event.

Writing in the Fringe Society’s annual review, new chair Benny Higgins said the “hard reset” forced upon the event by the pandemic had created a unique opportunity for the festival to become “more sustainable, more diverse, more inclusive and more affordable.”

A full-scale Edinburgh Festival Fringe is expected to be staged in August. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Last month Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy announced that a new blueprint for the future of the event would be published in the summer following months of talks with artists, producers and venue managers, which she said would set out clear goals and pledges to improve the event’s “accessibility, diversity and sustainability.”

Ms McCarthy said today: “The Fringe prides itself on being open to artists of all backgrounds, whether you are just starting out, or at the top of your career.

“There are many ways for artists on low income to access the festival, including taking part in the free models, as part of the street-performing community, exploring ‘Pay What You Can’ models and looking at performers’ collectives or venue splits.

“Our team are here to help in researching the option that is the best fit.

“An important part of our work is to identify any areas where further support is needed for creatives, and to help tackle any additional barriers.

“We’ve worked closely with our strategic partner, Common Theatre, to produce the Working Class Producers Mentorship, to offer a program of year-round support to creatives who identify as working class, and whose primary role is that of producer of self- producing artist.

“I truly look forward to seeing the great work this will create at the Fringe in 2023.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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