I lived in Edinburgh between 2010 and 2014 as a student at Edinburgh College of Art. Before I started eventually doing comedy in 2016, the Fringe was something I had to endure over the summer. I fancied myself as an Edinburgh local, I’d roll my eyes at the people in costumes handing out sweaty flyers as I marched up Middle Meadow Walk to work. I did various menial jobs over three Fringes, some of which sound much more glamorous than they were. Press Office Assistant, you say? Wow, you must have gone to so many parties and met so many famous c…

Let me stop you there. Granted, I did meet some amazing people, including some of my comedy heroes, but I was very much a dogsbody, and it was clear that none of them had any interest in talking to me. I wouldn’t have known what to say anyway, as I wasn’t a comedian yet, so there was no need to try and persuade these fat cats that I had talents which didn’t involve a bucket of wallpaper paste. (As Press Office Assistant I had to print out and paste up reviews on a wall outside the venue). I was doing fifteen-hour days non-stop for thirty days for next to no money. Looking back, working at the Fringe didn’t give me a great first impression of the industry in which I now find myself. It may have even pushed me so far in the other direction that I ended up pursuing a career in museums, with their hallowed, dim, quiet, temperature-controlled rooms…

You’d maybe think that as a student with embryonic comedic aspirations that I’d have been completely inspired and grateful just to be in the midst of it all, but to be honest it was just a load of hard work. And I hated hard work of all kinds, but especially bar work. People who go to bars during Fringe are somehow way worse than people who go to bars anywhere else. The problem is, everyone in the whole city is exhausted, even the punters. It’s all a bit much. I was lucky to make excellent friends during these summers, some of whom have, like me, not been altogether put off by the piles of vomit, and now perform at the Fringe every year. I did get to see some shows thanks to venue passes and/or the free fringe, including some which really stuck with me, but I didn’t exactly fall in love with the prospect of one day applying as a performer, and it never occurred to me to do so until years later. It all seemed a massive, expensive mess. Which it is, but enough love and attention from strangers can do wonders. This, plus the camaraderie, and the beauty of the city and its surrounds, are more than enough to make me completely forget about the negatives.

Nowadays when I do the Fringe, it is indeed a massive, expensive mess (and it takes up all my annual leave, as, dear reader, you’ll be glad to know I ended up working full time in a nice quiet museum library), but at least now I get exhausted doing something I love instead of something rubbish (no offence, pubs and press offices of Edinburgh). The drudgery of my first few Fringes helps put it into perspective: I’m never disappointed by it, as my expectations have been kept so nice and low. Don’t get me wrong, I still had the time of my life even back then. It’s a festival in the truest sense of the word (as long as you don’t look up synonyms of the word “festival”, which include the word “holiday”, because a holiday it sure ain’t.)

Harriet Braine: Les Admirables is @ Gilded Balloon at Old Tolbooth Market, from Wed 31 Jul – Sun 25 Aug (not 12) @ 18:00