Flyering the Free Fringe

PBH-photo-Free-Fringe-700x455.jpgOn first moving to Edinburgh in 2004 & experiencing its International Festival, two things struck me. One, there was loads of amazing entertainment on offer, & two: I couldn’t afford to see any of it. Then Peter Buckley came along & set up a system where performers could bypass the epic funds needed to put on a Fringe show, meaning we punters could chuck money in a bucket at the end of the show instead. Which basically meant more money for beer! Some stuff was excellent, some stuff was… well, not. Either way, the Free Fringe is now a staple during August, & its performers are all now getting themselves ready for the greatest show on earth. But what does it really mean to put on a Free Fringe Show.

The deal is this : the venue gets beer money, the performer gets the bucket money & we get a cheaper night out. The organiser, Peter Buckley, also gets an free army of free fringe flyerers, as he’s stipulated that any of the performers, when handing out their own leaflets, ‘must also offer the Wee Blue Book to the public. This doesn’t mean having one tatty copy available on request; the offer must be of the Wee Blue Book and your show flier, in that order.... by these means everybody is publicizing everybody else’s show. You will find that the Wee Blue Book brings in more audience than your show’s leaflet. It works to everybody’s advantage.’

After several decades of experience doing the Edinburgh comedy festivals Buckley has developed a mantra for how to flyer to the optimum effect. He says; ‘Because the WBB is so powerful and because the Free Fringe has built up a reputation over its 21 years, there is no need for excess publicity. Yes, you will need to have a presence on the street with leaflets, combined with the Wee Blue Book. But flooding the streets with too many leaflet distributors is counter-productive and anti-social. And having people leaflet for your show who have not themselves seen the show and are not committed to it is a waste of money, and reduces the value of your show. A further waste of money is having more posters than a small number (10 to 30) for around your venue and anywhere else you can put them up. Another waste of money is buying enormous posters (“big head posters”) on public sites, like many shows at the larger money venues do.

You may say: it’s my money, I’ll waste it if I want. No. We don’t like that. By founding the Free Fringe, we’ve saved you thousands of pounds you would otherwise have paid to the money venues. This stops you making a massive loss at the Fringe. If you spend the money you’ve saved on publicity, this forces all similar Free Fringe shows to spend just as much. The result is that everybody spends more and nobody benefits. That’s not why we started the Free Fringe; we started it to make the Fringe better value and a happier experience for the majority of performers. We don’t want our low-cost system to be exploited by people who want to gain fame at the expense of others. Keep your display and publicity to a reasonable level.

So that’s a little inside info on just one of the multiple aspects of the Edinburgh festival. The Mumble likes to be active right at the heart of it all, & in about three months from now the first of those ‘10 to 30 posters’ cited by Buckley will be finding their way on to the walls of this years Free Fringe venues.  And the Mumble, for one, cannot wait.

Damian Beeson Bullen

Rob Deering @ The Gilded Balloon

Rob Deering, ‘The Finest Comedy Double Act’, to headline at Drygate Brewery


Rob Deering, the UK’s foremost guitar-wielding, loop-layering stand-up comedian, will headline Gilded Balloon Comedy at Drygate, when it returns on Friday 7 April 2017 after a very busy Glasgow International Comedy Festival.

Joining him on the brewery stage will be Micky Bartlett, one of the funniest and fastest rising stars on the live stand-up circuit, and fellow Irish comedian, Catherine Bohart, a finalist in both the BBC New Comedy Awards and Funny Women in 2016. Ray Bradshaw, one of the funniest and most dependable acts on the UK comedy scene, will compere the evening of mirth and music driven entertainment, keeping both comedians and audience in check.

With his easy charm, cheesy singing voice, razor-sharp wit and clownish physicality Rob Deering has established himself as a firm favourite on the nationwide comedy scene.   Some even say that Rob Deering and his guitar are ‘the finest double act working in Britain today’.

Widely hailed as one of the funniest and fastest rising stars on the live stand-up circuit, Northern Irish comedian Micky Bartlett (from BBC NI’s Monumental) will also be taking to the Drygate stage to entertain Glasgow with his unabashed and hilarious observations of life, the world, and the people in it. Catherine Bohart is a Dublin-born comedian, writer and actor who started performing stand-up in 2015; quietly subversive manner and dry acerbic observations. Since then ’the OCD, bisexual offspring of a Catholic deacon’ has enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of UK and Irish comedy, with a finalist spot in both the BBC New Comedy Awards and Funny Women competitions in 2016.

Hailing from Glasgow, Ray Bradshaw, compere for this Gilded Balloon Comedy at Drygate gig, is one of the funniest and most dependable acts on the Scottish comedy scene.  A double Scottish Comedian of The Year Finalist, Ray has travelled the length and breadth of the country telling jokes to anyone that will listen. He’s a thoroughly engaging comedian.  His utter joviality and friendliness, coupled with witty and unexpected asides and great audience interaction, make him a real ‘people pleaser’; and raucously funny with it.

Rob Deering, Micky Bartlett, Catherine Bohart with compere, Ray Bradshaw – Gilded Balloon Comedy at Drygate – Friday 7 April 2017


An Interview with Karen Koren

That’s Fife Festival has just returned to the Kingdom in April 2017 with an eclectic programme of comedy, theatre, spoken word, magic and family entertainment. The shows will be staged at venues across the Kingdom from Saturday 1 to Friday 28 April 2016, with Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, the central Hub of the festival.   From the masters of stand up and comedy entertainment on stage, TV and radio to the UK’s most spectacular touring magic show – The Champions of Magic – to shows from Fun Box for younger kids, theatre and the spoken word, there is something to entertain every member of the family at That’s Fife. Over the weekend, The Mumble managed to catch its artistic director, Karen Koren, for a wee chat



THE MUMBLE : Hello, Karen, so what got you into comedy in the first place?
KAREN: Its a long story – I had friends from London who were into the “alternative” comedy scene (early 80’s) – we are talking 35 years ago now! They were looking for a venue in Edinburgh as there were not enough venues doing comedy, so I found one and put them on – they attracted other comics and it grew from there.

THE MUMBLE : The Gilded Balloon has grown so big over these past three decades, are you surprised by this?
KAREN: I am very surprised by it. It has grown bigger than I could have imagined. I also instigated a lot of shows like Late’n’Live which attracted comics – as there was no late night hang out in the early days.  Now late shows are the norm during the Fringe.  The Fringe has changed and become the biggest arts festival in the world. I am only glad that I can still be a part of it and contribute with good shows.

THE MUMBLE : How has the comedy world changed since you first started out?
KAREN: There was a greater camaraderie when I first started. There weren’t too many comics and they all liked hanging out and learning from each other. The material was a little angrier in the Maggie Thatcher years, more political, its not so much now and I am pleased to say that there are much more women doing it now; there was only Jo Brand and a handful of others back then. I would say though, that comedy has changed for the better, there is more competition, which means the comics have to work harder at being good.


THE MUMBLE : A couple of years ago, you handed over SOME of the reins to your daughter. Did you feel she as keen on comedy as you were?
KAREN: Katy and I are working along side each other at the moment and she is still learning the ropes. Katy is very keen on comedy and making the Gilded Balloon the best venue on the Fringe. She is interested and looks towards the future. She has a good eye for comic talent and is enjoying the challenge of the Festival and the tours, That’s Fife and promoting our work and performances throughout the year.

THE MUMBLE : That’s Fife has just started, can you tell us about the Festival?
KAREN: That’s Fife has lots to offer, its great to get an opportunity to have Elaine C Smith on at the opening Gala. It has been a while since she has performed at Glenrothes. Alan Davies is back with stories from bringing up his young family.  Grant Stott brings his “Tales from Behind the Mic” and the very successful Doll’s Abroad are back after a sellout at the Alhambra earlier in the year.  The Burnistoun boys are also in the programme with their new show Uncles. There is lots more with Funbox for kids, Horse McDonald in Careful and Scotland’s National Poet Liz Lochead all performing.

THE MUMBLE : What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Karen Koren?
KAREN: There is lots happening this year – but right now concentrating on getting a good programme together for this year’s Fringe. We have some exciting shows coming and there will be an announcement in a few weeks about an exciting new venue that we will be working with. We will also have a small venue all year round from September time. Watch this space!