About Laughing Horse
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!
Initially Alex and Kevin worked in a partnership with Peter, expanding the original concept into a festival with multiple shows and venues, which 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 about.
Now the 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 producers.