The Free Fringe is destroying the Edinburgh Festival, reducing the quality of fringe shows and taking audiences away from professional shows.
The Free Fringe is saving the Edinburgh Festival, bringing audiences to up-and- coming performers who cannot afford the sky high venue costs, ensuring the fringe remains the alternative and experimental platform it should be.
Whatever camp you're in, it is hard to deny the facts: Hiring a venue alone can cost anything from £0 - £10,000 a week, there are over 2,000 shows every year and the average audience size is 4. No surprise then that most performers consider themselves lucky to break even.
As a group of up-an-coming comedy filmmakers with little experience in theatre, but a quarter of a million YouTube hits under our belt, taking our ambitious debut comedy play - Death Ship 666 (the parody disaster play) - to The Free Fringe was the only financial option available to us.
Yet a debate was recently sparked by Nica Burns, the head of the Fosters Comedy Award, who claims that having less at stake with Free Fringe shows, means new acts are coming to the festival when they are 'simply not ready', reducing the quality of the fringe overall.
From seeing terrible shows in both "paid" and "free" fringe venues, we find this view hard to accept, especially as some of our favorite shows on the fringe have been on the Free Fringe, like Austentatious: The Improvised Jane Austen Novel, Delete The Banjax and Hill and Wheedon. Surely, if all the shows on the Free Fringe were terrible, no would would go to them, especially as audiences can donate what they think the show was worth, rather than the £10 a pop ticket price which, we suspect, is more likely responsible for turning audiences off paid venues. No surprise then that with zero venue hire costs that the Free Fringe is gaining popularity with performers, including well-established acts such as Pippa Evans and Robin Ince.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of brilliant "paid" shows trying to compete with the marketing monopolies that have been very unlucky with audience attendance. This is not only incredibly demoralising for up-and-coming performers, but incredibly frightening, especially when faced with the prospect of going home in September with thousands and thousands of pounds of debt.
The Free Fringe, like the rest of the paid for venues - has a collection of brilliant and not so brilliant shows. If you've not seen a Free Fringe show - go now, and please donate generously if you believe the show was worth it, so we can all come back next year with a bigger and better show (maybe even on a paying venue!)
To find out more about our fun parody show - Death Ship 666! Follow #deathship666 or read our five star review.
Join us for Death Ship every morning!
Where: Gothic Room, Free Sisters, Cowgate (Venue 272)
Watch Death Ship 666's trailer now