How I got into performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
It was in 2009 when I first performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It was August, I was living in Edinburgh, short of money and someone suggested I tried busking at the Edinburgh Fringe. Unsure if I was good enough the response was “If you can’t perform in the largest Arts Festival in the world, where can you perform!“. That wee nudge gave me the confidence to go for it.
I studied busking. I wanted to capture the same model of busking – that is – the audience can watch a show and pay nothing at the end, if they want to. I looked into performing on the Royal Mile, but found out you needed a permit, I didn’t have time to apply for one. So after a week of thinking about it and watching other performers busk on the Royal Mile, I came up with a perfect idea. I would perform magic to people queuing for shows. As long as I was polite, didn’t force my magic on anyone and would be happy to perform a couple of tricks at no charge – I would capture the essence of busking.
With all that in mind, I went to the streets of Edinburgh. I must admit, back then, it was not easy going up to random folk. I never sought permission, just went for it. And it worked! At some venues, I was told I could not do this, as audiences queuing for a show were “sitting ducks” – but as long as I was polite, it was fine. So in 2009 I did it just for 1 week.
In 2010, I decided to commit myself to performing to queues for the whole 3 weeks of the Edinburgh Fringe. I discovered cycling was a lot quicker getting about. And soon discovered which shows were more interested in seeing my magic and which were not. Cycling between each queue each day. The Jason Bryne queue on The Mound was the best queue – with folk queuing for up to 45 minutes!
It was 2010 that Princes Street Gardens was a venue for ‘Dinner in the Skye‘. After people had enjoyed their ‘Dinner in the Skye’ they could enjoy a drink in a pop up drinking area. At the end of my 3 hours of magic in the queues I would end up performing in the pop-up drinking area and found I could do a 20 minute show to a table of folk, rather than a quick trick before folk went into a show. That year I also discovered my magic could get me into lots of late night clubs and pubs like Guilty Pleasures – which became my regular club to dance and unwind at the end of the night.
in 2011, I decided to explore other popup drinking areas, Gilded Balloon, Assembly, The Pleasance, etc…where ever I could go. I continued with the queues but discovered I preferred bringing my pop-up show to folk at their table. For them it was an impromptu show – where the show came to them!
2012 and stopped the queues and just went round the drinking areas. But I was starting to be told by venue staff that I couldn’t do this, well not for money! But The Pleasance Courtyard never did..!
My theory was, as long as I kept to my ‘Busking Ethics’ no one would complain. Those ‘Busking Ethics’ were:
- I always ask if people want to see magic, presuming that some may not and that is ok.
- I always let people know at the start that I’m busking and looking for a donation. If fir whatever reason I don’t say this at the start, then I don’t ask for money later.
- if people don’t want to pay, I am happy to do a trick for nothing. They can always just Like my Facebook page or Tweet.
- And most importantly be polite. Never get angry and annoyed at folk, however annoying and drunk they are..just politely move on.
By 2013 The Pleasance Courtyard was now my regular stomping ground. All other venues had told me I couldn’t perform. I always kept the money part – i.e. that I was busking really hidden, I didn’t want to be told I couldn’t perform. And I also kept in with the staff and security, performing to them.
To Be Continued…