Alternative Edinburgh Festival Fringe plans revealed

An alternative version of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will see acts showcased online round-the-clock, a weekly virtual cabaret night and a massive virtual crowdfunding campaign staged to help performers, venues and companies return next year.

The planned cover of this year's programme has been repackaged into a range of merchandise for the alternative version of the festival this year.

A radical reboot of the event, which was officially called off in April due to the growing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, is aimed at “keeping the spirit of the Fringe alive” next month.

This year’s Fringe will feature a "continuous loop" of minute-long clips which will be able to be viewed anywhere in the world, while Fringe fans will be able to “spin a wheel” to select a clip to see at random.

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The 2020 programme will include a virtual shop window offering audiences "rewards" such as access to streamed shows, exclusive content and merchandise in return for financial backing. A similar concept was launched by London Mayor Sadiq Khan in April to help independent shops, restaurants, cafes bars and other small businesses withstand the impact of the pandemic.

Shona McCarthy has been chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since 2016. Picture: Greg Macvean

The Fringe Society, which promotes the event around the world and runs its box office every year, has salvaged artwork designed for this year's official programme by the Brazilian pop culture illustrator and artist Butcher Billy. His work for "the programme that never was" has been turned into a range t-shirts, hoodies, magnets, notebooks, posters, prints and jigsaws.

The society will also be creating an online “marketplace” to help promote shows which would have been staged in Edinburgh next month, while more than 30 online events will be held to help participants emerge from the current crisis.

A specially-curated Fringe night live show up to 90 minutes long will be broadcast every week in August to help raise further funds for performers, while the Fringe Society is publishing an art book recalling its past programme covers to help bolster its own finances.

Other elements of next month’s programme will include the launch of a comedy audiobook and a series of 10-minute showcases for rising comics, which will be launched on Comedy Central’s social media channels.

The overall audience for the Fringe soared above three million for the first time last year. Picture: Scott Louden

The Fringe Society - which called pulled the plug on its 2020 programme along with the city's other August festivals after a ban on large gatherings was imposed in Scotland - has joined forces with Crowdfunder, the UK's biggest crowdfunding platform, to create a dedicated new portal.

Festival participants will be able to register for free to join the "Fringe Pick n Mix" platform and can run their own fundraising campaigns from the site throughout what would have been this year's festival.

Crowdfounder is waiving all fees for the project and is also offering tailored support, webinars and one-to-one training for artists, venues and companies to help provide a launchpad for their campaigns. Unlimited numbers of Fringe participants will be able to sign up for it to run their own fundraising drives until the end of August.

It is expected to be used to help promote online programmes, events and shows expected to be staged by artists and companies during what would have been this year's festival.

Proceeds from the "Fringe in Miniature" venture, which will allow anyone in the world to upload a 60 second film of themselves performing, will be ploughed into a central "survival fund" for artists and venues.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Fringe Society, said: "These activities are all about keeping the Fringe alive in the hearts and minds of our audiences, but also trying to find a way to give the artists and companies who would normally be at the Fringe an avenue to still showcase their work.

"Even with the announcements on new funding, which were so welcome, we have no idea who is going to fall through the cracks.

"I don't think anybody is naive enough to believe it's going to solve all the problems and the huge financial impact this has had.

"We really wanted to try to use the Fringe brand to augment the various fundraising activities of individual companies, venues and artists.

"The FringeMakers platform will be similar to what we normally do in that we will be bring together the sum of all our parts and then signpost people to them. It's not really different to what our normal would be."

Oliver Davies, head of marketing at the Fringe Society, said: "In much the same way as the Fringe is being miniaturised from the whole of Edinburgh into your living room this year, we have have miniaturised the running time of a show from 60 minutes to 60 seconds to give artists a platform to showcase something they are doing elsewhere, such as a live show or a fundraising campaign.

"People will be able to explore it on a complete random basis or they can watch an endless stream of one-minute Fringe activities, some of which we'll also feature in the Friday night shows.

"The idea, which takes its inspiration from Netflix and YouTube viewing parties, is that people will be able to log in with their friends and watch the same content at the same time, and like and comment on it."

Simon Walker, head of projects at Crowdfunder said: "Crowdfunder are delighted to partner with the Fringe Society in powering the FringeMakers crowdfunding platform.

"Covid-19 has dealt a particular challenge to the arts industry and we’re proud to be able to offer support to all the venues and performers with completely fee free fundraising on the platform."

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