The Network of Independent Critics is once more providing accommodation help for independent critics at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Coverage for any fringe show is difficult. Sure, word of mouth is great, but how do you get people to see your show to have that word to begin with? Doing it on the London fringe circuit is challenging enough already, but what about at the world’s largest theatre festival: the Edinburgh Fringe Festival? Press coverage is your best bet, so getting as many publications in to see your show is your optimal way of getting word out there that you exist, as well as giving much needed feedback. Here’s where the Network of Independent Critics (NIC) can help.
There are literally over a thousand shows that you have to compete against in Edinburgh, and comparatively less reviewers who have a limited amount of shows that they can physically see. Given the big cutbacks of some of the larger publications, especially outlets such as Lynn Gardener’s blog at the Guardian who has always been an essential part of the fringe’s coverage, getting reviewers into your show is becoming more and more difficult.
Not Just For Laughs
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is best known for comedy. Many of the world’s best and up-and-coming stand-up acts are there plying their trade and trying their newest, and hopefully, funniest material. But that’s by no means solely what the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is about. There’s everything from cabaret acts, storytelling, student drama productions, classics, new writing, pieces of political activism, and specialist genres that also happen in the maelstrom of insanely changeable weather (“all seasons in one day” is an actual thing, not the name of a play) and productions. It’s vastly important that these shows get the coverage and feedback that will help them thrive in what is the most intense acid test for any show, as well as criticism that can help develop a show for a life beyond the festival.
…many publications’ reviewing positions at the fringe are completely unpaid and rely on a critic’s own personal resources in order to live, eat, and see shows on their behalf.
The problem is, that even with some of the larger magazines like TV Bomb and Broadway Baby covering the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, there just aren’t enough critics to go around and many shows, especially in special interest areas such as LGBTQ, sometimes go unnoticed and uncovered. Furthermore, many publications’ reviewing positions at the fringe are completely unpaid and rely on a critic’s own personal resources in order to live, eat, and see shows on their behalf.
The problem with covering the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is that it’s expensive. Edinburgh has it’s own micro-economy and thing’s such as accommodation and food are more expensive than London if you look in the wrong places. One outlet charged me £6 for a pint of real ale last year, and some budget hotel chains (like Ibis, Premier Inn, and the like) were charging over £200 a night! The cost of accommodation and living expenses stop many of us getting up there for even a week, especially when we work full-time jobs and have to take annual leave to head up to Bonnie Scotland for the world’s biggest theatre shindig. So, what can you do to get more critics up to Edinburgh to cover more shows in more specialist areas?
The Network of Independent Critics was set up by theatre critic Laura Kressly and circus critic Katherine Kavanagh as a way to help small publications cover the fringe, and also ensure shows get the maximum amount of exposure and criticism they deserve. They achieved this by securing discounted accommodation, therefore broadening the opportunity for bloggers to get to Edinburgh and review it. Last year, 19 independent critics generated over 400 reviews, including social media content covering some of the festivals events.
“By ‘independent’, we mean mean someone who produces arts criticism unsalaried, and maintains their own platform for doing so,” – Katherine Kavanagh
The Network of Independent Critics also promotes specialist coverage. I was one of two critics who sepcialise in covering LGBTQ content, whilst other critics covered everything from BAME shows, female-led shows, shows for children, and cabaret. Critics came from all over the country, not just London, and there were even some from overseas, such as USA and Hong Kong. However, they should be independent persons who look after their own publication.
“By ‘independent’, we mean mean someone who produces arts criticism unsalaried, and maintains their own platform for doing so – although they needn’t be producing content for this outlet exclusively,’ explains Kavanagh. ‘We’re keen to open up the Festival to those working primarily in online media, which means those who produce video and podcast reports, as well as those who run their own blogs and websites for written reviews.”
My experience of being part of the Network of Independent Critics’ scheme last year was fab. Being selected to cover LGBTQ content at the festival opened me up to a wealth of shows and experiences that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to cover, as well as being able to give shows vital feedback. The Sexual Fears of a Modern Day Virgin is one such show that has contacted me to say they were very grateful for my views, and are now embarking on a UK tour of the show. Furthermore, it gave me a real test of my reviewing metal, giving me a lot of things to take on board regarding both the written and video reviews I produce.
Where Do I Sign?
If you’ve ever found that the thought of the cost of Edinburgh has put you off providing coverage of this, then the Network of Independent Critics may help take your blog to Edinburgh.
Applications open on 21 March and close 9 April. To apply, please email NICritics@mail.com.