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28 August 2008

Spirit of the Fringe? You must be joking…

You can't capture the essence of Edinburgh in a corporate-sponsored perspex award and musicals about

By Richard Herring

I have been blogging every day for nearly six years now, sounding off in the comfort of my house, often forgetting that all the crap I am spewing out can be read by anyone in the world who has a computer and the inclination to find it.

As Edinburgh drew to a close I blogged about my dissatisfaction with the if.comedy panel. Basically I said it was a bit of a cop out for them to award their special prize for “The Spirit of the Fringe” to all the comedians at the Festival, rather than one specific person or show. They seemed to be saying that no-one had done anything to deserve such a prize, so we’ll give it to everyone. Perhaps they thought they would make them popular, but the general feeling in the room was that we had all been patronised and insulted.

With the average comedian losing in excess of £7,000 at the Fringe, it seemed if nothing else a waste of money to put £4,000 behind a bar, when everyone would have had more than enough booze by the end of this month of debauchery. We have to keep drinking to forget how much money we’re losing, ironically only adding to our problems. I don’t know who is making all the money incidentally as all the venues and the managers claim they are only scraping by too. But 1.54 million tickets were sold at an average of £10 a pop. You do the math(ematics). Perhaps there is just some very canny Edinburgh based computer whizz at the ticket office sitting on a great pile of cash that he has surreptitiously embezzled.

I am not even sure that you can have an award for the Spirit of the Fringe in any case. Isn’t the spirit of the fringe to do art for art’s sake, for no other reward than having created something beautiful or startling or ugly or interesting? The minute a finance company gives £4,000 and a Perspex award to someone, doesn’t that destroy any Fringe spirit that they might have had, in any case? Every time you say you don’t believe in fairies, a fairy dies. And every time you give someone money for representing the spirit of the Fringe, another bit of Fringe spirit evaporates and gets replaced by Pot Noodle funding a musical about Pot Noodle (I haven’t made that up by the way).

Wouldn’t it be the spirit of the Fringe to smash the trophy back in the face of the managing director of Independent Finance shouting “Keep your money, bread head. All I need is my art and the air that I breathe… Shit how much did you say the cheque was for? Oh blimey, can I still have it? Sorry about your face.”

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Anyway, I wrote my blog, not thinking twice about my snidey comments, once I had sent them shooting off into the ether, but someone at the Daily Express picked up on my complaints and before I knew it the BBC website had made a story out of it and I was getting texts and emails from other comedians congratulating me on my stand. But I’d only been spouting off because I’d had nothing else to write about that day. And now I was being quoted on the BBC.

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That is the power of the blogger, in a world where lazy journalists can’t really be bothered to get out of the house to pursue a story. Hopefully in the near future no-one will ever go out again, we’ll all just stay at home writing about what we think and the world may be a better place for it.

If nothing else though I hope the if.comedy panel will retrospectively look at my revolutionary stance and realise that my objection both to their award and their choice of winner, actually means that I epitomise the spirit of the Fringe more than anyone else and they’ll send the Perspex block and four grand to me.

I will of course send it straight back. Making me an even more worthy winner, meaning they will have to send me two awards and eight thousand pounds. And so on. Until all money and perspex in the world has been destroyed and we can get back to what the Fringe is really meant to be about. Some students doing some crap plays they have written and some white men with dreadlocks juggling in the street.

I am just glad the whole thing is over. See you back there next year.