In the first of a series of interviews with the people running venues at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, ThreeWeeks catches up Charles Pamment, the boss of the Spaces venue empire, which has been quietly (though less quietly of late) been growing across the festival city for a number of years.
CC: What spaces will be Spaces this year?! Are you running any new venues this time? And which old favourites will once again see the Space name go above the door in August?
CP: We’ll be offering a full complement of theatres again for 2012 – seven venues, 12 theatre spaces and our Cabaret Bar. That includes old favourites like theSpace@Venue 45, and of course our multi-space venue hub at theSpaces@Surgeons Hall. We’ve also added to our portfolio with the wonderful Symposium Hall on Hill Square. Right next door to the Surgeons Hall, this a fantastic amphitheatre with the added bonus of 160 leather lounge seats – making it probably the most comfortable venue in town!
CC: Programming wise, how many shows have you got, what sort of genres are covered, and are there any things we should be particularly looking out for?
CP: Numbers are scary things in Edinburgh: we will be working with some 230 companies in August, and host around 245 shows involving near on 2500 performers, all squeezed into 23 days! We’ll have about 117 shows going on every day during the Fringe, and that’s pretty much one every hour or so in those 13 theatres.
Genre wise, our programme will be as diverse as ever, with all genres included! And from some 19 different countries too. Theatre is probably our largest genre, cabaret continues to thrive after the launch of our specific cabaret venue last year, and we have a large programme of comedy, sketch and improv. Our dance programme continues to flourish and grow too. And we have a fantastic children’s programme from 10am to 2pm daily at our Surgeons Hall theatres. Oh, and there’s an array of musicals and music across our venues as well!
What to look out for!? Where to start? Fourth Monkey are bringing six shows in rep to theSpace on Niddry St, following on from their 2010 success with ‘Clockwork Orange’. These are very exciting, highly rated shows, including ‘The Elephant Man’. Fiddy West Theatre Company return to our Surgeons Hall venues. Their show ‘Territory’ was a multiple award winner at the Fringe in 2009, and also cleaned up at the NSDF awards. Since then they have become the company in residence at The Lowry in Manchester. And our children’s festival looks like a must for all, with all our four theatres at theSpace@Surgeons Hall hosting back to back little people shows from morning til early afternoon daily.
Our new venue theSpaces@Symposium Hall offers an international flavour of theatre, music and dance including a capella from Australia, flamenco from Spain, theatre from China and a soprano from Singapore singing in eight different languages, including three different varieties of Chinese! We also have ground-breaking comedy animators Hardbody Productions bringing their animated sketch show ‘It’s Grimm Up North’.
On a more down to earth level, we are very proud to present, for their Fringe debut, ‘The Showhawk Duo’. This is a real Fringe story. These two guys – one a classical performer and the other a rock guitarist – offer an amazing fusion of fast-paced acoustic guitar. They were noticed busking on the streets in Edinburgh last year and invited to perform at a late night show in our Cabaret Bar. They were literally an overnight success, being invited to perform for the great and the good across Edinburgh’s assorted venues, before embarking on a ‘Britains Got Talent’ journey to the quarter finals. Thankfully we’ve managed to programme them formally into our programme in August (SpaceCabaret@54).
CC: Are there any big changes or big new projects for the Space venues this year?
CP: No huge changes, though the new venue has enabled us to programme some formal choral and musical shows, which is very exciting. And one other new venture we are excited about is Stagetime, a one-day music-focused conference on the art and business of live performance, being staged by BandWagon at theSpace on North Bridge. The conference will include lots of great workshops and panels on how DIY musicians can find live opportunities, develop their live shows on a budget, and use their gigs to build fanbase, revenue and other opportunities. And as well as the conference itself, from 12-15 Aug there will be three accompanying late-night shows in SpaceCabaret@54 showcasing local music talent.
CC: Given some have worried about the impact the Olympics could have, as well as the continued wobbly economy, are you still optimistic about this year’s Fringe?
CP: Yes, totally optimistic. For starters we’ve filled every slot, so that’s a good sign! And actually we have more companies from the US than ever before. I remember way back in September venues being warned that the American companies would be staying at home this year! I think much of the hype about the Olympics is media driven, with newspapers and news channels story hunting and even scaremongering. In reality there are only so many tickets for the swimming! I think there are plenty of people to go around and, while the economy is, of course, still testing for everyone, I’m confident from the feedback we are receiving that audiences are already gearing themselves up to break more sales records in Edinburgh.
Photo: Kat Gollock