New funding offered to help 'artists of colour' perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The Pleasance has ringfenced 10,000 for its new initiative to support 'artists of colour' at the Fringe.
The Pleasance has ringfenced 10,000 for its new initiative to support 'artists of colour' at the Fringe.
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One of the biggest promoters of shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is to offer new financial support to help 'artists of colour' from across Britain perform at the event.

The Pleasance has announced that a £10,000 funding pot has been created to try to help acts and performers overcome "specific barriers" to their participation at the event.

The new fund will be targeted at "exciting projects that would otherwise not be able to come to the Fringe."

The long-standing venue operator says it hopes its initiative will act as a "catalyst and jumping off point for wider activity to discuss how to make the Fringe a safe space for artists of colour."

The Pleasance's funding has been announced two years after the launch of the Fringe of Colour initiative, which was set up to help match up audiences and performers of colour at the Fringe.

It was created by Edinburgh University student Jessica Brough as "a response to the scarcity of shows by people of colour at the fringe, across categories, and the disproportionate promotion and support they receive in contrast to productions by either entirely or majority-white performers."

The Pleasance was one of seven venues to provide free tickets to young people of colour at last year's Fringe.

The Pleasance said its scheme, which offer up to £5000 for productions, was created following talks with "a wide cross-section of independent artists, companies and organisations with experience of presenting work at the Fringe."

For productions to be considered for funding from the new Pleasance scheme, at least 50 per cent of a show's creators and at least 50 per cent of the cast must identify as artists of colour.

The Pleasance, which has been staging shows at the Fringe for more than 30 years, has also pledged to "do more to make our venues feel safe and inclusive for artists of colour."

The promoter has revealed that three "supporting partners" are already backing the initiative - the Vault Festival in London, and two theatre companies, HighTide, from East Anglia, and London-based Stories in Theatre Productions.

Pleasance director Anthony Alderson said: "I’m so pleased that we are launching this exciting initiative which enables us to champion new works from artists of colour.

"We are partnering with a range of esteemed organisations so that this new fund has the widest reach possible and that we offer the very best support.

"I really hope this paves the way for ensuring the Fringe is an even more open community and making sure important voices are heard."

Suba Das, artistic director of HighTide, said: "Ensuring that what is widely regarded as the UK theatre community's largest marketplace is accessible to artists of all backgrounds, and fully reflects the stories, innovation and talent within our sector, is of huge importance to all of us - it simply makes for a better Fringe.

"We're looking forward to getting to know the selected artists over the months ahead."

Appllications should be made to pleasance.co.uk/developmentfund by 9am on Thursday 27th February.

A spokeswoman for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said: "Last year, as part of our events programme for participants, we focused on diversity and inclusion. We worked with a variety of partners to make sure voices from different backgrounds and experiences were represented.

We have also partnered with Fringe of Colour. In 2019, seven venues (Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Summerhall, Traverse, Underbelly and Pleasance) and 19 shows provided free tickets for young people of colour throughout the festival.

"In 2020, we will be working with Jessica and Fringe of Colour again - donating ticket vouchers and supporting the booking process.

"We’re currently working to develop software which will further support the scheme in the future as it grows, improving reach.

Promoting greater diversity off-stage as well as on-stage is key, and with this in mind we have ringfenced places for producers who identify as BAME and/or disabled on our Emerging Producers’ Development Programme. This scheme is designed for emerging UK-based producers interested in using the Fringe as a platform for their ongoing career development.

Through our community programme Fringe Days Out, we offer thousands of people from across the city the chance to experience the Fringe for the very first time, on their own terms. We engage with organisations such as The Welcoming (who work with newcomers from many different nationalities, cultures, backgrounds, faiths and religions); Multi Cultural Family Base (families from BAME and migrant communities); Sikh Sanjog (women in the Sikh community) and SCOREscotland (minority ethnic communities in the West of Edinburgh).

"For 2020, we’ve also added a new sub-genre for shows to self-select ‘performers of colour' in their show registration."