Bob Slayer, the man behind the infamous cock sticker publicity campaign that appeared across the Fringe last year (and may well have caused the Fringe Society’s new found nervousness about that particular C word), returns to the Festival this year as the host of a whole strand of shows under the header ‘The Alternative Fringe’, a programme of comedy at The Hive that, he says, will “reclaim the Fringe” from the more commercial end of the festival that, he reckons, no longer fulfils the original Edinburgh ethos. It’s a strand he first launched last year, but this summer it’s back bigger and better.
“We love the Edinburgh Fringe, but the world’s largest arts festival has grown beyond a fringe” Slayer tells ThreeWeeks. “The trappings of mainstream increasingly tarnish the beauty. The widespread pay-to-play model [employed by bigger venues] charges acts £100+ per day to perform, and that supports the marketing arms race that has driven ticket prices up to £10, £15, £20+ to see a single show. The pay-to-play venues have their commercial festival, but we are making a stand to reclaim the fringe!”
Slayer has formed an alliance with the Free Festival, which will be promoting the Alternative Fringe programme, and some of the shows he is presenting will have free admission too, though others will have a five pound entry fee. “Both of the main free show promoters at the Fringe offer much needed alternatives to the pay-to-play venues”, Slayer notes. “and we have grown out of the Free Festival to offer this same artist friendly approach to paid shows as well as free. We don’t charge acts prohibitive up front fees to perform, taking merely £1 per ticket sold. This is more than enough to sustain a venue, and enables performers to keep ticket prices down and have a happy Fringe”.
Despite rallying against the more corporate end of the festival, that doesn’t mean Slayer is against sponsorship to help make his projects happen, providing it’s the right sponsor. And last month he announced that the Scottish Borders Brewery had come on board as a sponsor of the Alternative Fringe. He explains: “I have been doing gigs in small breweries recently, including for the Scottish Borders Brewery, and it was a very simple step from that to getting sponsorship. Farmer John, who runs the brewery, is a fan of comedy and the Fringe and jumped at the chance to help us point the finger at the ‘not the Fringe’ elements and promote the spirit of the festival”.
But Slayer’s own sponsorship won’t stop his acts from having their own supporters. He adds: “Chris Dangerfield has his show sponsored by a local brothel. John Robertson with an online S&M retailer. We have no problem with sponsorship, but it really should be appropriate!”
As for the shows appearing under the Alternative Fringe banner this year, Slayer concludes: “We have picked the funny ones! Ones that are genuinely exciting, independent and individual. Phil Kay is doing his only full shows with us. Check our website for details of when he is with us, and while you are there see all the other delights, like the return of ‘The Greatest Show On Legs’, Lewis Schaffer, Lach, ‘Heroes Of Alternative Fringe’, Trevor Lock, John Robertson, Devvo, Nick Sun etc”.
The Alternative Fringe takes place at The Hive, check the programme here: www.heroesof.com/fringe.