THE FREE FESTIVAL
The Free Festival began in
2004, when Laughing Horse Comedy promoters Alex Petty
and Kevin McCarron started to run and produce shows at Linsay's
venue just outside of central Edinburgh. Prior
to this they had visited the Fringe on a number of
occasions, and realised the traditional way of producing
shows wouldn't work for them, with performers losing £1000's a year and
performing to small audiences as ticket prices were so
high. The Fringe was just not working for its performers.
During these visits to the
Fringe prior to 2004 they had seen a free show run by
eccentric comedian Peter Buckley Hill, and saw how that
operated: by getting a large audience by not charging in
advance, and with
money being made with a collection being taken at the end of
the show - an idea that had been taken from what
buskers had been doing for many years, and essentially
moving the busking indoors. Which with Scottish
weather, is a very good idea!
Alex and Kevin worked in a partnership with Peter, expanding
the original concept into a festival with multiple shows and
gradually gained popularity and expanding quickly.
Unfortunately this partnership was not to last, and in 2006
Alex and Kevin decided to end the partnership.
Since then, the Free Festival
programme of shows has expanded very rapidly, with our free
format becoming ever more popular each year. The first
nominee for the main comedy awards was a Free Festival show,
and over the years the number of awards winners and
five-star rated shows has shot up to be on a par with paid
venues. But the Fringe is not all about award winners, and
we still remain true to our roots by supporting and helping
newcomers and new ideas - that is what a Fringe is really
Free Festival has 19 venues and more than 30 performance spaces,
encompassing venues managed by both Laughing Horse, new
company 'Heroes of the Fringe' and independent shows and
AIMS OF THE FREE FESTIVAL
The concept of our venues
is to provide an alternative to increasing prices for
performers and audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe. Free
to us is not only a price point, it also means
creative freedom for performers, and the freedom for
performers and audiences to choose what shows they
perform or see.
- To provide
professionally set-up and managed Fringe venues,
where there are no charges for audiences to watch shows,
and no charges for performers to hire the performance
spaces. To allow performers to 'do the Fringe' without
the substantial losses traditionally incurred at the
- To allow performers
to enjoy the Fringe again - by trying to provide a
community atmosphere and a support network from fellow
performers, and also allow performers to get on with
what they should be doing (performing) without the
financial and business worries of the traditional
approach to the Fringe, or the more chaotic approach to
free shows where performers also have the responsibility
of building their own venues.
- To grow and develop
Free performances across the Fringe, while
supporting and working with other venues, promoters and
performers that offer good value for performances. To
work with the Fringe to make things better, not to work
- To try and make sure
that everybody performing in our venues has a successful
Fringe - for them to come back from the Fringe
having developed as a performer, achieved their
objectives for taking a show to the Fringe, and enjoyed
their time in the venues.
WHY A FREE FREE FESTIVAL
The Edinburgh Fringe was
founded in 1947 by a number of performers who simply turned
up at the Invitation-only Edinburgh International Festival,
and put on their own shows, creating a Fringe Festival
around the International Festival. Over the years since
then, the Fringe has continually expanded, but has still
kept its original premise: an arts festival open to anybody
who wished to take part.
But problems have arisen
for performers and audiences in recent times. These are
partly due to the Fringe's popularity, and partly due to
promoters and venue owners who have upped the cost of hiring
spaces, and who have secured more and more locations, making
it a closed market for performers finding spaces.
Originally, it was an open arts festival that anyone could
take part in - recently it started to become an open arts
festival that anyone can take part in ó as long as they
could afford it.
In recent years the costs
associated with bringing a show to the Fringe the
traditional way have spiralled. In some circumstances, a
performer can sell all the tickets for all the nights at his
or her venue and still make a loss, with the biggest
complaint by Fringegoers being the high price of tickets.
Fringegoers have blamed artists for the high ticket prices,
but itís usually the venue who sets the prices, often
against the wishes of performers.
What does this mean?
The more a show costs, the less people are willing to take a
chance on it. If a show featuring an unknown artist costs
less than £5, you may take a chance on it If the same show
costs over £10, you probably wonít - A Fringe needs to be
cheap so is accessible, or else people will merely see the
performers who are already famous ó and they donít need a
Fringe! The only shows that put money in the pockets of the
artists are usually the shows of the already famous.
WHO ARE WE
Free Festival is run by Laughing Horse Festivals Ltd,
and the festival Director is Alex Petty (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There is a small, dedicated
team that help bringing the Free Festival to you each year,
currently this team includes:
Application Design and Development - Craig Shaynak and
Kingswell Productions. (email@example.com).
with additional page design by Alex Petty.
Artwork and Photography - Ian Fox
Video and Animation -
Dave Chawner & Mike Belgrave
Green Officer - Rob
Transport - Lewis Bryan
Technical and Production
- Lydia Mason
Administration and Production
Andrew Roper & Gamma Coles
Equipment and venue
Management, Set-up and Venue services - Laughing Horse
Festivals Ltd and Laughing Horse Comedy Ltd
Set-up and General Help
- Lydia Mason, Robyn Perkins, Dave Chawner, Andrew
Roper, Nik Coppin
Organising Group and
volunteers - Craig Shaynak, Nik Coppin,
Ian Fox, Rob Coleman, Barry Ferns and all of the volunteers that
help in the days before, during and just after the Festival.
Supported by -
Group, TheFringeShop and Kreative Media
THE FREE FESTIVAL
General Free Festival Email:
Free Festival UK Office:
020 3287 5533 (or +44 20 3287 5533 from outside of the UK).
This number will route to the London or Edinburgh Free
Mobile Phone: 07768
584 881 (or +44 7768 584 881 from outside the UK)
During the Fringe we can
be contacted via: Espionage, 4 India Buildings, Victoria
Street, Edinburgh, EH1.
Website Technical Queries
To contact individual
performers, programmers or organisers please use the general
email address -