It’s rare for me to weigh into the controversies of the Fringe, and rarer still for me to argue on my own account. It’s an honour and a privilege to be welcomed into this extraordinary community, and I’ve always believed the spotlight should stay on the show-makers – the inspirational people it’s become my mission to support. But today, on this last day of this amazing comeback Fringe, I worry for the future of that vocation. And so I’m here to speak up for what I believe in, and to ask you, if you agree with me, to speak up too.
Back in 2007, when I first set up Fringe Guru, the Fringe Society refused to even meet with us. At a time when print media still dominated, they treated websites like ours with a mix of suspicion and bemusement. But over time, as we got to know each other better, we found a way of working together – where we proved through our own skill and efforts that we had a place in the ecosystem, and the Fringe Society respected and supported us in return.
But in this post-pandemic, rebooted Fringe, it feels like we’ve gone into reverse. Against a difficult backdrop of soaring costs and budget cuts, the Fringe Society has understandably lost some of that hard-earned knowledge and expertise. And so it looks like we’re once again the Cinderella of festival media – caught between the printed papers they so anxiously court, and the TikTok influencers who, rightly or wrongly, they’ve decided are the future.
The Wee Review’s Managing Editor, Robert Peacock, has written a separate opinion piece explaining in more detail why we feel that way. I won’t repeat the same arguments here, but I’ll add one more thing: we’re human. More than that, we’re volunteers, often spending thousands of pounds of our own money to cover the Fringe. If we sense that we’re being taken from granted, it’s only natural that we’ll slowly turn away.
But you, the Fringe participants, have the influence to change this! So if you value what my colleagues and I do, please make sure the Fringe Society knows that too. Email them, message them on social media, mention it in any post-festival survey they send round. But let them know, loud and clear, that online publications are a part of the Fringe’s DNA – and that you expect them to acknowledge that, in deeds as well as words.
As Robert’s piece notes, the Fringe Society committed at their AGM to engage with us better in the future. Alongside my colleagues, I’ll be holding them to account on that promise – and with understanding and sympathy for the difficult decisions they have had to make, looking for ways to make the equation balance in 2023. Please support us, vocally, as we do so.