IT IS a gruelling three-week marathon with more than 1.9 million tickets sold for 40,000 performances in 250 venues. So no wonder first-time Fringe performers arrive in Edinburgh with a sense of trepidation.
But now help is at hand with the publication of an independent “survival guide” for rookie artists bringing a show to the world’s biggest arts festival. Based on insights from Fringe veterans, including comics Ed Byrne and Mel Giedroyc, magician Paul Daniels, and actresses Siobhan Redmond and Cora Bissett, the book covers every aspect of Fringe life, providing tips on budgets, promotion, finding a venue and avoiding pitfalls.
Author, and Scotland on Sunday festival reviewer, Mark Fisher, who wrote the book while working at the 2010 event, interviewed all the main venue operators as well as Fringe executives, producers, promoters, agents and even a public safety officer at Edinburgh City Council.
But it is the advice it contains from those who have experienced the August onslaught first hand that will prove invaluable to newcomers.
The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide will be published next month in the run-up to what is expected to be a testing year for the festival as it competes with the London Olympics. Experts fear years of increasing ticket sales and shows may stall this summer.
The book lifts the lid on costs Fringe companies face in staging a show, the level of competition among almost 500 companies and performers for audiences and how even the most experienced Fringe figures have their work cut out to pull in crowds.
Fisher, who first performed at the Fringe in 1983, spent a year compiling the book and plans to turn it into his own show. He said: “There have been quite a few books written about the history of the Fringe and the festival before now, but nothing like this, in terms of speaking to all kinds of different people about what is involved in putting on a show. They were happy to help.
“The Fringe produces its own guides, which are on its website, offering very good factual advice, but I wanted to add a human dimension, and get advice from people based on their own experiences.
“There were a lot of different views on the importance of reviews, how to generate publicity and the importance of flyering.
“A lot of interesting things came through, like the importance for performers of looking after their voices and not staying out too late.
“The Fringe is an incredible artistic crucible which is also tremendously addictive for many of those involved every year. It can also be very bamboozling, particularly for performers from overseas, and the book is mainly for people who have yet to bring a show to Edinburgh, although it’ll hopefully be interesting to many others.”
Fisher’s show is still in the planning stages, without a venue. He said: “A few people suggested I do a show based on the book so I’ve decided to do a live version in chat-show format, with perhaps three comedians on speaking about their experiences one day, and then three completely different people the next day.”
Veteran New York-based producer John Clancy, featured in the book, said: “The Edinburgh Fringe can be an overwhelming, exhausting and incredibly expensive experience if you don’t know what you’re doing.
“Mark’s book is an invaluable tool for participants of all levels of experience.”
Playwright Mark Ravenhill, who penned the introduction, said: “Away from the Fringe, audiences are often looking for the reassuring and the familiar. But in the midst of the noise and clamour of the festival, the audience embraces the new, the innovative and the downright weird.
“There’s nothing quite like the thrill of finding that word of mouth has spread through the bars and backstages of Edin- burgh and that the audience wants to see you perform.”
The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide is published next month by Methuen Drama.