How to get through the festival without dying

Pop Art

Last week I offered my top 3 tips for making the most of your festival experience. Be good. Be nice. Be present.

This week I’m keen to explore this theme further and while much of this article is written with tongue firmly in cheek, there’s valid advice across the board. And in case you want a second, third or even a tenth opinion, I asked a bunch of festival alumni for their advice on the best way to survive when presenting work in any of the worlds massively competitive festivals.

This information should be particularly useful if you’re a novice company at a Fringe festival, and should help you on your way.

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Eat well – hangry people are not ‘nice’

Most of our major bitch fits happen when we’re hungry. It’s human nature. When you’re in the middle of a festival it’s easy to forget to plan a nutritious diet. Vegetables don’t count if they are on pizza. Fruit in a cocktail is cheating also. It’s really important if you’re in town for the long haul not to be bum fucked by your own immune system. Drink water. Eat a balanced diet. I know you’ll probably binge drink on occasion, just don’t do it all the time. Being sick in public is VERY embarrassing.

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Wash

Your body and your clothes. You may like the smell of 3-day old sweat, but no one else does. There’s nothing worse than going to a show and getting hepatitis because you accidentally scratched yourself on someone’s costume on the way out. It’s also more likely that you’ll get laid if your prospective beau doesn’t think they’ll have to chip their way in.

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Take the hint

Not everyone will want to see a contemporary take on Lysistrata featuring themes of football hooliganism on a canal barge near Bathgate. If someone says no to your flyer, keep it and give it to someone who wants it. Don’t feel the need to form a chain gang and lie in the middle of the street to attract attention. That won’t make you seem like any less of a dick. In fact, the opposite may be true. If you are really sexy and have a good body, by all means take your top off on the mile. If you have the body of Gollum however, it’s probably best for you and your show to keep it under wraps.

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Know your limits

Are you sure you’re being funny to that person in the bar? Are they really ‘getting’ your sense of humour? One of the most forgotten things in festivals is that word travels. Everyone knows everyone. If you’re being weird to your venue team, the media or the public, people will find out and there’s nothing sexy about a moody-two-shoes.

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Sleep well

That ‘other’ drink may seem like it will wake you up. It won’t. It will just turn you into more of a gibbering monkey, tactlessly slagging off your director in front of the programmer of the Sydney Opera House. A rested mind and body can do the job it came to the festival to do. It’s amazing how many people invest their life savings and fuck it up by not being very good, because they are exhausted.

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Be prepared

Bring condoms, lube and spermicidal jams and jellies – even if you are not planning on sleeping around. Festivals become a hot mess of sexual activity; I once caught crabs just looking at [NAME REMOVED FOR LEGAL REASONS] in a bar.

Seriously though, practice safe sex. In Edinburgh, new cases of HIV are on the rise in both the gay and straight population.

Shagging aside, know where you are and tell at least one person you trust where you are.

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When in Scotland, prefix your emergency contact’s name in your phone with ICE (In Case of Emergency). It’s how the Scottish emergency services will know who to call if they find you in a ditch. Anywhere else, ask around to find out what regional processes are.

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I first met Peter Michael Marino in 2012 when he was in town with his brilliant, one-person production ‘Desperately Seeking the Exit’. He offers sage advice about making the most of your experience and paying it forward. ‘Hydrate. See other people shows. Attend panels in Fringe Central. Bring your best, don’t use the Fringe to ‘try’ new stuff, but most of all, come prepared’.

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These are sentiments echoed by almost everyone.

Writer/solo performer of the Sweater Curse Elaine Liner and I first had coffee in New York, on the back of one of the Fringe roadshows. You’ll have heard her speak in the podcast featured in last weeks post.

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Elaine has become a bit of a legend in Fringe Central with her ‘How to Be a Media Darling’ sessions booking out every year and she had this to say:

‘Come in healthy and try to stay healthy, whatever it takes. Eat your greens and get your sleep. Talk to strangers. Everywhere. Your audiences, other audiences, in cafes and coffeeshops. And believe in what you’re doing. If you don’t, your audience (and the critics) won’t’.

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PX-SpringDayComedianSpring Day is one of the hardest working women in comedy and has been performing across the world for longer than she’ll admit.

Her advice is pragmatic:

‘No one is rich or talented enough to afford to be an asshole. It’s a small word and if you work hard, people notice. If you’re a dick when no one is looking, someone pissing in the bushes is watching and probably works in TV. You soon realise the fringe world is full of people you want to help and people you don’t’.

If you’d like more in-depth advice, check out Mark Fisher’s incredible resource The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide (http://www.edinburghfringesurvivalguide.com), incidentally the first book I’ve been interviewed for and quoted in.

So… that’s the fun stuff out of the way.

Later this week I’ll be addressing the very real mental health risks we all face when we pit ourselves against our peers.

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Barry Church-Woods is a for-hire producer, arts manager and sometimes writer based in Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner Josef.  He’s worked for local authorities across Scotland and been as a consultant for the Scottish Government. During his time with the Edinburgh Fringe Society, he delivered guest lectures in festival and event management in NYC, Prague, Adelaide and Edinburgh.  He’s still not over the Madonna ‘cape’ incident.