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Global Domination

Locations of visitors to this page

Monday, August 20

History Repeating

History is unreliable. Stories through the telling take on a truth of their own, quite different to the objective facts of the time. Often this is gradual, though sometimes it’s a very deliberate act of one’s own psychological survival to quickly recreate the narrative with yourself as the valiant hero.

Let’s just say it’s been an eventful few months.

Sitting there, as a weird lighthouse in the sea of my life, is the Edinburgh Fringe. My relationship with it is deep and complex, but always lovely. I’ve never had a single year where I regretted being there for the reasons I went there. I’ve always had sensible expectations and always met or exceeded them... or so the story goes.

This year’s trip is, if records are to be believed, my 17th. The Fringe itself has been running in some form or other since 1947, meaning this is the 72nd. I’ve been to more than a quarter of them!

My wife has just finished her 8th Fringe. I’m the sole reason she started coming to them...  I think it’s fair to say she’s as fully invested as I am!

The festival seems to be a constant across time, with the same venues reappearing out of the mist each year, only to disappear at the end of August as though they were never there... but it is changing. The biggest change is the market.

Audience expectations move year on year. This year, the expectation is that you can pay for free Fringe show buckets using cashless payment. The “kids” have different sensibilities and different ideas of what a festival entails.

Most importantly, though, the market in Edinburgh is heading towards its own ultimate destruction. If you had a decent touring show, you’d be better touring it. If you’re making one, then Edinburgh is still a good place to rough it into shape... This means there are some, but not too many real diamonds hiding in the programme. There are plenty of great shows, though... but the economics of doing a show in a saturated market, where a huge phalanx of performers is competing for the same audience and accommodation as you, means you need to run several shows. Each performer staging multiple shows saturates the market even further, growing the number of venues, the number of other show spots to fill, consequently the size of the supply, while the demand is not growing at nearly the same rate.

At some weird future extinction event, there will be one performer running around 500 venues, doing a few seconds in each, chased by an audience of 3, who have each paid 35 quid per show minute for the privilege, while a bunch of young people drink themselves to death in astroturfed concrete car parks at 20 quid a pint, served in reusable bendy plastic cups.

I’ll probably still be going to the Fringe when that happens.

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