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The Free Fringe 2021





The largest international arts festival in the world, The Edinburgh Fringe has been running for nearly 75 years with over 4 million tickets sold to audiences from every corner of the globe as they enjoy its unique atmosphere. But that’s only part of the story. In 1996 Peter Buckley Hill decided to make his show free entry, just asking for donations at the end, and he was packed every night. Now he wasn’t the first to do this but he was the first to build a movement on it, and today PBH’s Free Fringe provides up to 60 free venues to acts and 10,000 free performances to audiences, making the fringe vastly more accessible to people on lower incomes.


This year and last Covid-19 has devastated the performing arts. Last year we weren’t prepared for it, but this year we’re seizing the opportunity to make ourselves even more accessible. Now anyone can watch a show with PBH’s Virtual Free Fringe anywhere in the world, whatever your circumstances. All you need is access to the Internet and a screen, and a world of Comedy, Magic, Cabaret, Theatre, Spoken Word, podcasts and more is on your doorstep. We’re curating the programme to help you navigate your way around our entirely FREE selection of acts.


Many top name performers started out with PBH’s Free Fringe and some continue to work with us.


  • Spot the stars of tomorrow this August and tune into our amazing line-up

  • Wander around our website and discover more about our fabulous venues

  • Join in our virtual networking spaces to chat about your favourite shows and performers – or just to get to know each other


Finally, everyone can come to the fringe – seated in comfort with unlimited plus ones and bring your own bottle!


Go to freefringe.org.uk to find out more or follow us on Twitter and Instagram @TheFreeFringe


Read on for more information if you are a performer and want to get involved.....



PBH’s Free Fringe opens up to virtual shows, and this year anything goes

While applications are still open for in-person shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and The Free Fringe will certainly be there if those shows are allowed to go ahead, many performers won’t make it to Edinburgh this year.

For those people, and for in-person shows that want to stream their content, PBH’s Free Fringe are offering a virtual space where performers can showcase way more than just a traditional 45-60 minute show. For three weeks in the middle of August, we’re asking performers to be adventurous with what can be achieved in the digital world. One positive from lockdown has been an explosion of online shows, a lot of it experimenting with different formats and platforms. The hard thing is getting it seen, and that’s where we can help.

The fringe has always been a great marketplace to show off your work and this V (for Virtual) Free Fringe is no different, only without the constraints of space and time. Now we can accept applications for any length of show from a 5 minute sketch to a three week long experimental podcast, a gaming experience, a 30 minute panel game, workshops, animations...more or less anything so long as it’s online and, for the those three weeks at least, free to access.

We’re all struggling to make a living right now, but this is about reaching new audiences and helping them find new performers to follow. There’s so much free content out there on TikTok, Youtube and a gaggle of other streaming services, and doom scrolling through it can eat up your life. We aim to provide a curated three week experience where you can search for particular genres or formats, explore new ones, and join in Free Fringe chat rooms with mates (and strangers - remember them?).

Not sure where to start? Not been able to make online shows work before? All our shows will have access to advice on filming, streaming, online marketing and more from other members in our organisation who make a living doing those things. This is an opportunity to help each other out in a year when we need that more than ever, to use the expertise in our community, and The Free Fringe was always about community.

All this for precisely £0. PBH’s Free Fringe is a non-profit cooperative of performers. It exists to remove some of the financial barriers to putting on shows and provide a support network for those performers. To apply for either an in person or virtual show, go to freefringe.org.uk

If you have already applied for an in person show with PBH’s Free Fringe for 2021, you should already have a link to edit your application should you wish either to apply to stream it as well or change the format to virtual. If you don’t, let us know. If you are hoping to bring a show up as well as creating a different virtual show, you’ll need to make two separate applications.


WHAT WILL PBH’S VIRTUAL FREE FRINGE EVER DO FOR US?

WHO’S GOING TO WATCH?

The virtual world is accessible to loads more people than could ever visit Edinburgh. Those in other countries, those housebound, those who neither have the time nor money to visit Edinburgh but want to spend an hour watching something new and unique – plus all your usual audience.

BUT WHY MAKE AN ONLINE FRINGE? WHY NOT JUST PROMOTE IT MYSELF?

Why not make an online fringe? Especially when it’s free, and will be curated so that your audience can more easily find you. As well as being coded by genre, we’ll be associating shows with venues familiar to regular fringe-goers for a start. For example, if you usually hang around Voodoo Rooms to see your favourite act, you’ll find them listed under Voodoo Rooms in our online programme. This is still the Edinburgh Fringe after all and we want to make sure you know where to come back to in 2022!

SO IT’S BASICALLY JUST A GLORIFIED LISTINGS?

It’s a lot more than that. We’re working with a few indie developers on our very own online spaces recreating as far as possible the concentration of industry in a social networking environment. All will be revealed...

BUT MY STUFF DOESN’T WORK ONLINE AND I’M A COMPLETE TECHNOPHOBE

So try doing something different. Isn’t that what the fringe space is all about? And we’ll be offering learning resources and opportunities to improve your technical skills — our community is full of knowledge and experience and we’re going to share all of it to help you make the most of the Virtual Free Fringe.

AN HOUR OF SOMETHING DIFFERENT? SOUNDS AN UPHILL TASK WHEN I’M STRUGGLING TO FIND WORK

Who says it has to be an hour? Who says it has to be a “show” in the traditional sense? Podcasts, gaming, pre-recorded, live-streamed, inter-active adventures, short sketches, animations...

WHAT IF LIVE IN-PERSON SHOWS ARE ALLOWED IN EDINBURGH AFTER ALL?

At the moment the regulations of 2 metre distancing rule out pretty much all of our venues especially if they insist on theatre seating and disallow social bubbles. If that changes before August, we’ll be on it like a Scotch Bonnet. But that won’t stop you putting together a virtual show in the meantime and there are plenty of people out there who will want to watch it. Let us help you find them.

AND ALL THIS COSTS...?

NOTHING. Not from us anyway. As always it’s your choice whether you want to spend more money on your show, extra publicity, registering your show with the Fringe Society or any number of things. But all we want from you is to contribute to our community. Publicise each other’s shows. Share your skills. Be supportive of each other. PBH’s Free Fringe has always been about the power performers have when they work together, and this year we have the potential to reach more performers than ever. Go to freefringe.org.uk to apply for a slot now.



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