Tara Kilbourne and Darren Neale thought they would be working at someone else’s venue when they first arrived at Edinburgh’s Greenside church in 2004. But when the venue’s management ran away, by Week One they were in charge!
Eight years later they have become experienced venue operators, utilising their unique space to offer something different as part of the vast Fringe programme. And, despite being just minutes from the East End of Princes Street, they have managed to create a little space of creative tranquillity in this manic festival. ThreeWeeks spoke to Tara and Darren about their venue.
CC: Tell us the Greenside story, how did you come to set the venue up?
D&T: Well, there’s a story to be told here! It all happened in true Fringe style, though for the benefit of everyone reading this interview, we will tell you the heavily abridged version. In 2004 we both came and worked at Greenside. It was its first year as a Fringe venue; long story short, the venue managers running the space didn’t stick around past Week Zero.
But we adored the building and decided to step up and run it for that year’s Festival, if only to ensure its shows could keep going. The following year we took on the full running of Greenside and the rest is history! We started with five staff and four shows a week in 2005. We now have over thirty staff and over four hundred individual performances across the Fringe. (And if you ever want the full story of the eventful 2004 Festival, pop down and see us!).
CC: How do you decide what shows to programme?
D&T: We are an inclusive venue that believes in open programming: at the heart of our organisation is a passion and love of the arts and the Fringe. We also believe that Fringe performers should be able to perform in a top quality space, with fantastic facilities and, most importantly, with a warm, welcoming and passionate team who genuinely care. And this should all be available to everyone, irrespective of size, reputation or experience.
Because of this philosophy, we don’t decide was gets programmed: our shows decide that they want to perform with us! The Fringe was built on the principles of openness, inclusion and an opportunity for everyone and anyone to perform, and we believe that our programme reflects that! We have a fantastically eclectic programme created by the companies who perform with us.
CC: Do you see Greenside playing a special role within the Fringe?
D&T: With so much talk about the growing commercial nature of the Festival, the emergence of the ‘Comedy Festival’, the ever rising power of the ‘Big Four’, and the frequent lack of ‘Fringe spirit’, we think we offer a real essence of the Fringe.
We believe that there should be a platform where all new and emerging artists can showcase their work and perfect their trade, and our niche falls in this very area; we aim to create a home away from home for our companies, and top quality performance spaces available to all.
Geographically speaking, we also bring the Fringe to this side of Edinburgh. And, although located just sixty seconds from the Edinburgh Playhouse, we offer a Fringe haven, with our beautiful cafe courtyard and, unique for a Fringe Venue we think, tranquil gardens where you can sit back and relax.
You will also notice lots of charming and beautiful bits and pieces around Greenside created by our Artist In Residence @atomicuke – three years ago we asked him to come and do ‘something’, and he’s still here and happily doing just that.
CC: Is there anything in particular we should be looking out for in your 2012 programme?
D&T: This is always a really hard question and one that we always wriggle out of! Picking a favourite show is like picking one of your children as your favourite: you may have one, but can never say so!
We have a fantastic line up of dance, theatre, new writing, old classics, musicals – we have a little bit of everything for everyone. So make a day of it, and pop down and see a few things in one day. All our shows use Twitter, so have a look at #greensidevenue and see what takes your fancy.
And while we are talking about Twitter, you can win tickets to see any show at Greenside simply by following @greensidevenue. Every day from the first of August we will randomly select a new follower and they will win a pair of tickets of their choice! What better way to start exploring our programme?
CC: What are the biggest challenges of running a Fringe venue?
D&T: The biggest challenge is also the biggest thrill and driver for us – it literally never, ever ends. It’s a twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year job. People only see the Fringe in August, but the eleven months before that are just as much part of the Fringe for us. The planning and facilitation needed to manage our venue is relentless, it’s quick paced and ever changing but, despite all the hours and hard work, it really is the best job in the world!
CC: What are the best bits?
D&T: The best feeling has to be opening day. By the time you open you feel as though you have been in Edinburgh for months not weeks, have endured many ‘Fr-injuries’, got through a million cable ties and rolls of gaffer tape, and for a moment, when exhaustion sets in, the rain is lashing down, and all your friends are on a sunny beach somewhere, you can wonder ‘is it worth it?’
But that feeling evaporates instantly when an excited, enthusiastic company that you have been dealing with all year walks into the venue and loves it! We work to create a little Fringe haven and once that’s in full swing there really isn’t a better feeling.