Edinburgh Fringe what a ride, I think I’d like to get off now please.

Today, day 17 of the Fringe, I cancelled my show. I had my excuses all lined up, projectile vomiting, stomach cramps, fever. I thought about telling the truth; that I was exhausted, couldn’t stop crying and couldn’t face another day of pretending that I was OK and that this was OK, but I didn’t want to seem unprofessional. As it turns out, I didn’t need any reasons or excuses, my venue thanked me for letting them know and hung up the phone.

The irony of journalists and reviewers celebrating the importance of shows talking about and exploring Mental Health, whilst finding myself in the eye of a perfect storm of mental health destruction, is not lost on me.

I arrived at this festival excited to be a part of a melting pot of joyous creativity. After 3years and a heck of a lot of hard work, bold brave steps and incredible sacrifice, I have made my first show; a massive achievement that I was proud of and excited about sharing. I am not an idiot, I am at the beginning of my journey and I have a long way to go, but I thought that there was still a place for me here. 16 shows later, my joy has gone, my self-belief has gone, I am exhausted and I feel that this place is not for the likes of me, not one bit.

I have paid handsomely to be a part of this experience, financially and emotionally. On top of funding the creation of my work, I have paid for venue hire, posters, flyers, travel, accommodation and affording to eat. As well as performing my show I need to work 12hour days producing and flyering. Let’s be honest, this is way too much work for one person. Realistically, if you want to compete in an over saturated market place you need a team of people and a lot of money.

In a vain attempt to get my show noticed, I have spent countless hours researching and emailing venues, producers and reviewers. As I stand in the street flyering, dressed as the glorious idiot ‘Deirdre’ (who my show is all about), I am stared through, avoided and sneered at, peoples first response is to say ‘no’ not waiting to hear that I just wanted to tell them that they look great today. I have been screamed at, barged past and ignored.

As I look at all the faces of people going by, people do not look happy, people do not appear to be having a good time. Here at this incredible festival, teeming with creativity and expression, people look jaded, tired and run down. I find myself asking why we are here, what we are doing to ourselves and each other and the implications this environment has on the creation of work and the arts as a whole?

It feels impossibly hard not to be drawn in to the vortex of success questing; stars, reviews, audience numbers, stars, more stars. Today in favour of my own humanity and sanity, I have decided to stop.

  • I do not make work to win stars
  • I do not make work for reviewers
  • I do not make work to be successful
  • I do not make work so that I can win
  • I do not make work so that people will approve of me

I make work because I am trying to communicate something. I am drawn to making theatre, comedy, what ever it is that I do, because it nurtures my humanity, it connects me with what it means to be alive. This is my journey and I am proud of every step I take on it. I am as proud of my failure as I am of my success and I will not let this festival take that away from me.

Maybe it’s just because it’s my first fringe, maybe I am just upset because I’m not winning. It’s certainly not all bad, I have learned an immense amount, I have enjoyed some amazing experiences and made some wonderful connections during my time here. However, I cannot help looking and laughing at the hypocrisy of a festival that proudly celebrates work about Mental Health amidst a culture that is so very unhealthy. Perhaps now is a perfect time to seriously consider what we can all do to make the art of making art, a healthier one for us all.

42 thoughts on “Edinburgh Fringe what a ride, I think I’d like to get off now please.

  1. I loved your show, it was the first one I saw after getting off the train from London, I picked it out of the Programme. It was a great start to the Fringe for me. The audience loved it too. I hope you do it again, I’d go to see it later in the week if it’s on, or in London

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you. I hear you so very clearly. For three years we made work and raised money and bought our tender selves to the Fringe. With hope in our hearts we paid our dues and presented our work. Three summers we drained ourselves Left ourselves empty and cold. I took a summer off and thought we’d never return. Then this year it struck me, like a moment of transcendence, we needed to make work that was not tied to a venue, that had no posters, that didn’t require flyers. We made The Pilgrims. A pop up work of devotion and joy. The creation of a moving Queer space that has walked the streets of this beautiful city. We’ve been in total control of all aspects of our work and our journey. We’ve touched lives and the emotional and spiritual return has been immeasurable. To do this we had to become the Fringe of “the Fringe”. We had to reach the boundary and then turn and gave the centre. The commercial capitalist beast that ” the Fringe” has become. Only by doing this have we reclaimed the power of our expressionism. It has cost money, it has cost time and it has taken an investment of energy though what we have gained is the liberation of our art. We have carved our own path and our pilgrimage has rewarded us so deeply. I hope that you reach a point further down this line called time where you are able to turn back and see some gain, some benefit to this part of your own journey. Creation should know no bounds, expression should always be free and for all time we should take our creative power and use it to reflect, reinterpret and regurgitate this crazy, beautiful and wondrous world we live in. We begin, We end. There is no greater truth.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for these inspirational words. If you are still in Edinburgh I would love to meet up and chat about how you have made this journey possible.

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  2. That sucks 😦
    I hope you’re feeling better now you’re away from it, sounds like a bit of a nightmare and something I’ve worried about myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That sucks 😦
    I hope you’re feeling better now you’re away from it, sounds like a bit of a nightmare and something I’ve worried about myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Lucy, well done for seeing things as they are. I have spent many years making theatre and have avoided festivals. I find them full of people with arts educations and attitudes, all within a nonsensical atmosphere of competition, and Audiences self- aggrandising their opinions.

    I like to make theatre for similar reasons to you, and enjoy finding modest audiences outside the usual temples of art. Community halls, odd streets, unusual places. In fact places where people are in a place to be taken away, to one place and happy to invest time in it without that ever so modern pressure of thinking you’re missing something if you concentrate on one thing.

    I hope you keep working
    Anthony richards

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lucy, I’m so sorry to hear the toll Edinburgh has taken on you. Sorry, but not at all surprised. After 25 years of covering Edinburgh as a reviewer each August (and a couple of years simultaneously performing a show about, er, covering the Fringe as a reviewer), I ran out of being arsed in 2013. I had whole scads of reasons, but they tended to coalesce around something that you keenly identify, although not in as many words: the last pretence at being an actual festival has vanished. It’s a market. And we’re all – performers, journos, producers, press reps, scouts, buyers, punters – so much offal to be minced and put through its sausage machine. I’m sorry to say that, for someone actually wanting to share work and communicate with people, it’s absolutely the wrong place. I hope your strength returns soon and that your disillusionment doesn’t prove to be too bitter or lasting. There is a world elsewhere.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I personally loved your show and thought it was very entertaining. Shame on those who did barge past you, that is their stuff not yours. Do not give up on your dream even if you bow out of the fringe now. Take care and nurture your talent.

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  7. ‘Play is the highest form of research’ Albert Einstein. You inspire me because you are playful. Keep playing and stop paying! Playing is FOC. Let’s av a coffee when you’re bk in a bristol x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hoorah for playing – although a girls got to eat and repair her bike, replace her phone, fix her computer and afford her rent – so some paying does really assist the playing. But I know what you are saying. See you soon you beauty X

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  8. Great piece of writing. Sounds very hard going. But as Ian said there are other avenues. Don’t be put off. We also write because there’s something we have to say and understanding and maintaining mental health seems like a very worthwhile subject. I hope to see much more of you. Xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have loved every minute of the Fringe and have made a positive effort to take leaflets and talk to performers. In fact that’s how we ended up at a great show. It’s a rat pack out there – but there are those who really appreciate the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. Don’t give up. Sorry we missed your show.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for this wonderful message and words of support. I am super glad you enjoyed your time at The Fringe, it is an amazing place, I’m just not convinced it is a healthy one

      Like

  10. It is totally ok to cancel your show. I’ve had a similar experience and it’s too hard to do it alone. Several Aussie shows are flyering with comps every day at the half price hut. Come and join us! Usually get there at 1pm. My show is “what Would Cathy do?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Chris, thank you for this lovely offer. My show is at 12.20pm and I am normally pooped after my show, but I will definitely try to come and catch your show if I can

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  11. So great to read what you think – I agree – the fringe is really tough with a focus on all the things you have mentioned. It is not always a good experience. I am really impressed that are stepping away from something that is making you unhappy. Sorry not to get to see it but I have got your details (Lyric Theatre Dorset). Sending love and encouragement. ps I did some of the north american fringe festivals following Edinburgh one year and it was a breath of fresh air and much less dog eat dog! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Lucy,

    I’m sorry you’re going through the hell that is Edinburgh fringe. It is exactly as you have described – competitive, lonely, unrewarding, desperate – and awful if you have no financial backing and support. I myself have been completely burned by it for two years on the trot, e.g: performing to five people a day, putting on my biggest grin to flyer people who are at best disinterested and worst rude, having a collaborator tell me that a bad review about the work was ‘right’ – five minutes after I’ve come off stage, having producers who should know better say that the work wasn’t finished as I wept in a bar, seeing mates with five star reviews go on and on about what a great time they’re having, walking to the venue with tears streaming down my face and wondering why the hell I’m doing this again, returning home to being £2K overdrawn and trying to make a tin of beans last – feeling depressed, and a complete failure. It was only when I attended last time and had a horrible time that I realised the problem was the fringe, not me. The most impressive thing about your post is not just the clarity of your writing but that you have been bold enough to see the problem clearly and call it out for what it is. I just wish I had someone like you blogging about it while I was in the depths of misery during the fringe. This post needs to be shared widely because it will do a lot of good and make people feel less lonely – which is what the best art does, after all. Good work for fighting the good fight so far. The fringe is transient after all and your experience will make you a better person and artist. Love to you xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you Lucy. If it’s any consolation I had a show cast, rehearsed and ready to go. In an exciting new venue. but too many things ( including finances) went wrong at the last minute and I had to pull out. Have felt gutted and low all month as result because I felt I was missing out big time. Your post has made me feel a little bit better. But even sitting here at home my mental health has suffered as a result!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Lucy,

    Thank you for not compromising your integrity and speaking out about this. This article is so important for young companies and emerging artists to read, and it’s brought me a lot of comfort in this knackering and lonely fringe! I look forward to seeing your show in the future – best of luck xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hello lovely. Humph. Well I opted out of the Edinburgh mayhem a long time ago for similar reasons. Plus I have an increasing intolerance for stuff that we’re supposed to do because that’s what will make us ‘successful’ (whatever that means). So I have a sense of your bewilderment at it all. As Ian has described and you have felt, it’s a cut-throat marketplace and without a shed load of support or an extremely blase attitude, it’s very hard to navigate. However, as you know, you’ll look back on it with different coloured lenses, plus the material in the show will have developed without you noticing and that’s something in itself. I’m looking forward to seeing you back at home and we can have a good old laugh about it all, or if you fancy that trip to the seaside… PS just a reminder, you’re not a stupid idiot, but you are a brilliant idiot! X

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi there, I don’t know you and I don’t live in Edinburgh anymore but your post showed up in my facebook feed so I just wanted to throw some words of encouragement out there. First off, the feeling of dejection you’re having is a normal reaction to the monster festival machine – it’s telling you it’s pointless to try but that doesn’t mean to stop making art, or give up on the show, it just means you can tell the fringe to suck it (for now or maybe for ever). Which you have, and that’s wise. It’s wise to recognise when it’s time to pack it in. Secondly, 16 days is a lot. Yes there are shows that run for the whole month (probably the ones with lots of money and/or humanpower behind them) but SO SO MANY of them only have 2 weeks or so. As a casual festivalgoer I now understand why. Good luck and I hope you get the recovery that you need.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Lucy, I can sympathise with all my heart. Just today I had someone tell me “I can’t wait ’till next week, for all you to be gone”. The day before, someone smacked my flyer from my hand with a briefcase while I wanted to tell them about my show.

    I think what you are doing is very brave. Do not lose heart. Your time will come, eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I hear you, hear you, hear you, sister! My time at the Fringe has been a non-stop ass kicking bitch slap. The truly saving grace is to learn that I am not alone in my experience – so thank you for your generosity in sharing your struggles. Please don’t let the Fringe machine squash your spark, and may you continue to create and share your work.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Whoops! I guess you didn’t get the memo. Today was officially a Crying Day and one where we were called to reassess what the f@%k we’re doing with our one precious life, including a thorough audit of how we’re spending our energy and whether the return on that investment is sound.
    Glad to hear you got on the vibe regardless of aforementioned memo and spent your day doing some fantastically worthwhile processing and reflecting. Your sharing is yet more proof of the generosity of your spirit and the wisdom of your heart.
    Oh, and there was a solar eclipse; so not a great day for shining stars, unless you’re into being dominated by a whopping great big ball of lifeless, emotionally manipulative rock.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Hey, so we had a little chat the other day whilst flyering at the half-price hut and I just wanted to say… the fringe is HARD. And EXHAUSTING. And you can times that by 5 for someone doing a one-person show. I think you have been immensely brave and ballsy and you should be v proud of yourself. Don’t be put off. Next year, see if you can connect with a handful of others also going it alone and find a support network. I’ve been part of a little team, with a theatre behind us, sorting PR etc, and I’m still v v tired and ready to go home. Stay strong and believe in what you do. Don’t listen to reviewers. Listen to those members of the public who loved your show and made a point of telling you so – they’re the people who count.
    Love and best wishes for everything you do in the future. @jennydelisle #GazingStarPlay

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I’m so sorry you’ve had this experience at the fringe, it’s exhausting, draining and does take a toll on your mental health, especially if you’re doing it alone.
    There are a few things worth checking out in terms of support and well being.
    The sick of the fringe offer mindfulness sessions and online toolkits as well as meet ups. I’m going along to one so hopefully I’ll see you there.
    Fringe Central has staff to support with various needs, workshops and well being opportunities. Ask them what they can do to support you- remember you have paid for their services.
    If you’re a member of equity check what they’re offering this year. Last year they had a fair bit of support and free massages.
    National Theatre of Scotland have the Engine Room which is a space to connect with artists or speak to neutral people. They even have an area for napping and a craft corner to help you unwind. I went yesterday and it really helped- I was feeling anxious and frustrated and needed some time for reflection.
    Lastly I am here. I don’t know you but I read your blog and I understood. If you’d like to go for coffee, see a show, have a rant or help plan more appropriate mental health support for the fringe give me a shout.
    Sending love xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heather, thank you for taking the time to send through all of this wonderful info and for reaching out. I am actually doing OK, I have a good support network which is why I think I was able to write this piece (Which to be honest I never thought anyone would read) and I am pretty good at being kind to myself. I appreciate your kindness very much! I hope you are having a positive month. Thank you and lots of love to you XX

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  22. Absolutely. I directed for the Fringe last year – in the fairly privileged position of being a ‘produced’ show. Frankly, I hated the festival-experience, notwithstanding seeing some great shows. I had not been there since the late 80s and what I encountered was a deeply ugly, indeed brutal, anti-art marketing machine. I am full of admiration for those who survive, thrive even, but they do it despite what the Fringe has become.Your writing and my own experience reinforced my deep skepticism when those I train ask about the advisability of ‘taking something to Edinburgh’.

    You characterise yourself as being ‘new’ to the scene. I congratulate you and hope you thrive. I’ve been around nearly three decades and had a similar experience…. Be nice to yourself, you’ve earned it.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Hi Lucy. I’m a comedian of 18 years and now doing my 10th Fringe. For the first time my latest show is about mental health. I fully sympathise with how you ate feeling and hops you feel better soon. You took the right decision to step back. There are other ways to do the Fringe that cost very little and you can still build a following. If you ever want advice on this just give me a shout. Stay well. John. X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you John. I really appreciate you getting in touch. I am still in Edinburgh, focusing on getting through, but when this is done I would love to hear about how you make this experience work for you. I’ll be in touch. Hope you’re enjoying a positive month X

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  24. It nurtures MY humanity, it connects ME with what it means to be alive. This is MY journey and I am proud of every step I take. Theatre is cruel and selfless. The narcissism in the article is astonishing. I don’t think you went to the festival with the right intention at all.

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  25. Hi Lucy,

    I feel for you, having taken shows up for years (since 2001). I’m guessing that, a week later, you’re probably feeling way better than when you posted your original blog. I hope so.

    Might I quote your blog post in my blog about this year’s Edinburgh?

    Kev F Sutherland

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    1. Hello Kev
      Sadly I’m not feeling much better totally exhausted and disillusioned. just counting down the days!
      And yes I would be more than happy for you to quote my blog. I hope you’ve had a fun Fringe.
      Best wishes

      Like

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