‘Racial tensions heightened at Edinburgh festivals,’ claims campaigner

Jessica Brough
Jessica Brough
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A campaign to encourage more people of colour to get involved in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has warned they are put off because it is seen as an exclusive middle-class “club” – and warned of the risks of suffering racist abuse on the streets of the city.

Jessica Brough, founder of the new Fringe of Colour initiative, which aims to help black and ethnic minority people get access to for shows starring performers of colour, said “lingering” racial tensions in Edinburgh are “intensifying” in August with the huge influx of performers and audiences to the festivals.

But the Edinburgh University student said the 73-year-old event could not claim to be a truly international festival due to the current make-up of its audiences and acts on stage.

She said: “A lot of performers of colour don’t even think of the Fringe as an option. It has a reputation for being expensive, exclusive and a club where everybody already knows each other.

“I hope that if people are interested in doing stand-up or theatre they can now connect with people who are here, be inspired by what they see on stage and also see themselves in those spaces as well.

“A lot of people just take it for granted that they can go to the Fringe and see 30 shows and enjoy themselves. But there are financial barriers there – it can be very expensive to go to just a few shows for a weekend. The Fringe is not representative at all in terms of class or the people who are in the city.

“There are also things that are lingering in Edinburgh and Scotland all year round. People are talking about facing mircoaggression because of their race and that feeling intensifies in Edinburgh during the Fringe because of the influx of people in the city.

“People kind of forget how to behave in August and forget how to treat people well. People get drunk and they also get rude. It can be quite hostile for people of colour. The other day, a friend of mine was walking home from work quite late when he experienced a verbal racial attack and had to run away from him. It can also be about constant questioning about where you are from.”