Describing the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is very difficult. The word ‘festival’ can be misleading. People think they know what a festival is. Reading is a festival. V is a festival. Glastonbury is the festival. You camp for up to a week and you see musicians, comedians and artists perform on a selection of stages organised by whoever runs the festival.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe is not in some field outside Edinburgh where you have to endure festival toilets and sleeping in a tent. It is in the city, it’s all over it, for miles. Everywhere becomes a stage. Sure, there are a couple of one thousand seated venues, but why would you want to go to them? To see someone you’ve seen on TV who’s going to tell you the same jokes they did on Comedy Roadshow last week? It isn’t like other festivals, which create kingdoms of mud, booze and debauchery and then disappear within a few days of their creation. It’s a month. A month in which every pub, club, room and conceivable space is home to performances all day long.
These performers haven’t been booked by the organisers and they aren’t there for the pay cheque. In fact, most performers end up in debt because of The Fringe. They pay to be there, which, in theory, means that anyone can perform and they can perform anything they want. Whether an audience will turn up or whether it will be any good is uncertain. This might be worrying for audiences as there is no quality control and you might end up watching something awful. But that’s not a problem. Seeing a mediocre show is far worse as really good shows and really bad shows are both adventures.
You can see something thought provoking, hilarious and touching that you’ll remember for a long time. However, you may also see something so awful that you glance at your friends and wonder if you dare walk out. Mind you don’t trip if you run down the stairs, giggling in fear that the man on stage (claiming to be channelling the spirit of a dead holocaust victim) could be chasing after you.
The worst that can happen is that you’re left with a dull sense that you’ll never get that hour of your life back.
Many attempts have been made to document Gagging for Attention at the Fringe. We upload footage of our shows to youtube, but they don’t give a true impression of the ups and downs that August brings or the unique atmosphere of Edinburgh in festival season. There are videos of a comedy society member with a basket on his head claiming to be ‘The Wicker Man’ and declaring that he had seen ‘minus four’ cashmere shops. There’s a recording of someone meeting a former phone-sex worker who was typing out bespoke erotica on the street. There’s a video of someone informing us that ‘Women, have cleavage. And men, have tears.’ For obvious reasons, none of these have been made available to the public. Attempts at documenting Gagging for Attention have failed because you forget how busy you are. And when you get some spare time you need proper down time. So here, for your enjoyment, are some videos of Gagging for Attention at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014. They do a completely inadequate job of giving an impression of what the Edinburgh Fringe is like, but at least they’re funny.