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asher Tea 05-22-09 11:59 PM

Hello everyone this is a note to advise you that the Edinburgh Fringe will be charging performers this year for the right to perform. If you are going to perform there this year or you have performed there before please pass this info to anyone else you know who is thinking about performing at Edinburgh this year. If we all stand up against this cash grab we may overcome it if we don't band together we will pay for the right forever.
As a group we are trying to resist this new fee based system as it will eventually,
1- Inflate over time
2- Price out artistic and new acts
3- Influence other festivals to charge street performers.

We are going to boycott this fee, please do not pay it and tell anyone you know who intends on playing at the fringe to do the same.

Please join this facebook group if you are on facebook,
or post your comments here.
This is a copy of the letter sent to all potential street performers at this years Edinburgh Fringe festival,

Dear Edinburgh High Street Performers,
I would like to thank you for the petition you sent to the High Street Manager.
Although some kind of fee will have to stay, we have listened to the arguments made regarding the
unbalanced nature of the flat fee and will respond to this.
I can confirm that we will be implementing a new fee structure that we hope will make the High Street
financially viable for all involved.
The fee helps towards providing staff and security for the event and, along with other revenue streams
such as sponsorship, contributes to the cost of providing a safe, enjoyable environment for tens of
thousands of people every August.
The High Street in August receives no public subsidy and we need to be able to cover the costs of
staging the event. The Fringe Society is a registered charity, which re-invests any surpluses back into the
Once the structure is confirmed we will be uploading the 2009 application forms; this will be happening
in the coming weeks.
I hope that the Fringe and street performers can continue working together in a constructive way that
benefits all involved.
Kind regards,
Tim Hawkins
General Manager

gav 05-23-09 04:28 AM

How much are they charging ?
As much as I'd like to be able to perform everywhere for free and without a permit, I can however understand that there needs to be some kind of system in place to keep order, and some kind of charge to cover administration costs.
Currenly I can't work my local pitch because the police keep telling me so. There is no system for street performers here and now I'm trying to make one and would be happy to pay for it if it meant I could work and make money when I want.

Point being, the fringe creates the situation where a lot of performers can make a lot of money (sometimes), and it costs them money to put it together.
Why not show your appreciation and give a little back ?
20-50 pounds would be reasonable surely.

Otherwise I recommend that a group of performers gets together to gather sponsorship to fund the street performer aspect of the fringe. Couldn't be that hard surely.

No doubt I'll get shot down over my opinion on this one, but I've been street performing for 20 years now and a lot of that time was spent worrying about if i could work somewhere and make money or not. I love busking more than doing gigs and hope I can go on doing it for a long while yet, so I'm at the point where I'd be glad to pay a little to have the right to play a lot.

Evan Young 05-23-09 04:43 PM

Festivals like this do shoulder the cost of extra police support, first aid responders, and clean up. Sponsors probably normally cover the cost of all that, but it's a bad economy this year.
A lot of the shows that perform at the fringe in the theaters loose money. Overhead is extremely high, but they do it in the hopes of getting "discovered".

A local festival here wanted to charge for street performing rights and I laughed at them because I know that it wouldn't be worth it for me to wast my time. I could easily make more money going down to my normal pitch and providing that area with kick ass entertainment without paying rent. The Ed fringe doesn't have that problem of being small fries, it's one of the best street performing opportunities in the world, and I would say it's probably worth shelling out some money for.

I pay extra for nicer gear that works better for me, why not pay extra for the best pitch?

Also, if you pay for something, you have a right to be upset when the service provider doesn't live up to it's promise. So, just be ready to bitch when you don't get a green room and convenient bathrooms.

Juggalicious 05-28-09 06:02 PM

I agree with evan - I don't have a problem paying at all - I've never been to this specific festival - but I have been to a few where you do have to pay - And it's worth it - I would have no problem participating in payment. and maybe one year I actually will make it to that festival.


Frisbee 06-01-09 12:55 PM

I am on the fence on this actually...the majority of the "staff" people working the fringe are volunteers, the people who maintain the shows and keep time of the slots are also volunteers, I assume that this year, paying the performance fee or not, that the majority of the "staff" people handling the street scene will be volunteers.

There are for sure people I know that were paid to be out there, however with the huge fees that people pay to have a fringe venue, surely those costs are covered by that as is securty and structure of the event.

what is the new payment system going to provide extra that has not been covered by volunteers or the fringe in the past?

the lockup I am sure costs something...

Are there going to be garunteed spots for everyone who pays the fee? or is it still going to be a draw where you may not get a show for days.

I am with Gav, 20-50 pounds sounds reasonable for the month.

asher Tea 06-01-09 07:40 PM

The reason we are boycotting the fee has nothing to do with the amount, 50 is not a lot of money to pay. The reasons are,
-the fee will inflate over time
-the fringe do not own the street
-it prices out small and new acts
-it is a cash grab for services that have been provided free for years.
-the street performers provide thousands of pounds worth of free entertainment each year and are the face of ed fringe, this is how we pay the fringe back for staffing the pitches.

In response to Gregs argument about the wages of volunteers and storage. Our combined fee's would not be adequate to pay volunteers wages and that is not our responsibility, that is the responsibility of the Edinburgh fringe. the storage is there irrespective as the shipping containers are used to bring in and pack out the stages on the high street used by fringe performers to spruike their show.
If we do not stand up against this now we will be paying for ever for the right to perform. The fringe draws tens of thousands of people and major sponsors each year to cover their costs. Less services are being supplied this year than the previous year and the fee is the same as last year.
Keep the street free!

Evan Young 06-01-09 11:49 PM


Originally Posted by asher Tea (Post 54047)
-the street performers provide thousands of pounds worth of free entertainment each year and are the face of ed fringe, this is how we pay the fringe back for staffing the pitches.

I read a lot about the Ed fringe in magazines and the like quite a bit, but usually don't see much about the street performers unless I'm reading it here at P.Net from performers who think that this organization who organizes and promotes a world famous festival that they can crash un-auditioned to make tons of money at without having to put forward any effort or money into advertising or festival promotions somehow owes them a free ride. I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to call yourself the "face of the ed fring"; it makes you seem ungrateful, and it rings false.

otherwise, I'm a little sympathetic.

nick nickolas 06-02-09 12:13 AM

Hey why don't you all just boycott the festival?!?

There's pitches a plenty where you can make money all over the place, go somewhere else,

I played Edinburgh for years, have not been back since they brought in licence's, draws, insurances etc...

It used to be a jungle I liked it like that, when it was street, when it was fringe.

Come on everyone, one for all and all for one just don't go.

That'd show them !


Juggalicious 06-03-09 01:29 PM

Changing opinions
A good point was brought up - at this fringe you can go days without doing shows - and if that's the case then I don't think you should have to pay a fee to perform - at all the other festivals I have paid at it was as evan put it - paying for a great spot -

at this particular event though - you don't get shows every day - so why should you have to pay to be there?

maybe so less people go and you DO get shows every day?

AJJames 06-04-09 05:00 AM

no consultation
despite years of opportunity to have a dialogue with us they have chosen not to. therefore by not consulting with us, they do a bad job of supporting us.
because they do a bad job and their attitude towards us wrong, we need to stop playing ball, we need to have a total boycott of the high street until they agree to enter into negotiations.

the principle of pay to play is not the debate, I too would be happy to pay for a pitch where my fee adds value to the production of a show, ie, sound system, bleechers, stewards that are well paid (not students on work experience but expereinced promotional staff that are well informed about the shows, and can direct the public, press and booking agents to the right shows.

the High street does cost money to manage during the fringe, but the costs are covered by the revenue that we help generate by our shows. The Arts Council , in their most recent strategy on street arts, quoted research carried out by the Royal Bank of Scotland(RBS), that during the fringe festival, ATM usage goes up massively, for 3 weeks the high street gets attraction and dispersal of large crowds. This is stimulating comercial activity according to RBS and therefore we should not be charged ,anything for playing the high street.

Paying to play is fine ...IF..the pitch in question isn't normally a busking pitch, ie if they put alot of energy into animating a space thats normally too quiet, then great, why don't they do that?
I would also pay to play if...
they give us a green room, guaranteed slots, a sheltered pitch when it rains, sound systems on all pitches, dedicated promotional team ,Bleechers (Tiered seating), if they invited festival organisers from around the world and gave them press packs with all of our promo, a page on the web site with contact details etc

Dan The One Man Band 06-04-09 11:40 AM

Buskers unite!
What a great sign of solidarity if everyone boycotted, but I don't think it's really possible. Too much $ at stake. They do need to provide something more if they want to charge a fee.
Edmonton Fringe seems to work pretty well with their "expensive" outdoor stages, where they only take certain number of acts and each act gets guaranteed times, and the "less expensive" side pitches which have draws or lineups. There are enough pitches so the chances of not getting a show off are slim to none.
I played Edinburgh when there was way less BS to contend with. Some of my best times performing were there when it was a jungle and we governed ourselves.. Too bad it'll never be that way again.

It'd be great to see what powers that be would do if everyone did boycott...

AJJames 06-04-09 04:06 PM

united we stand
Hey Dan,
for sure it would be literally amazing if we can pull this off. I totally agree its going to be tempting for everyone to just pay the fee.
Basically we are all anarchic and will instinctively resist even mild forms of collectivism like meetings , let alone jump straight into a hard core union action like this. It would be unprecendented and inspiration to the global community.
its hard to get all of us to agree, we are a bunch of contrary rebels.
We do all share another crucial character trait and that is we like to govern ourselves and we don't like being told what to do.
we need to put up a fight, to win some respect and fair treatment.
the long term benefits of which will be,
green room, increased storage ,sound systems, staging and seating, promotional teams, web page linked to the fringe for bookings.
we can be pussies and give in, and be bullied more and more as the years go by, that would be the easy way.
we can fight for our festival, the one that we created and they stole.
We can resist for atleast 3 days , we can support each other , no ones gonna starve or sleep on a park bench.we can get a lot of press and high profile support from celebrities and politicians, make them agree to scrap the fee and re write a system with the consultation of performers.
I propose people nominate representatives;
I nominate
Rex Boyd
i have no idea if he wants to do it, i just think he would be the best advocate for lots of reasons, would you be interested Rex?

and anyone whos got the time to put in.

Cheeky Pete , you would be good
Rob Collins also,

If we capitulate we save our selves a few days of hassel and we lose the opportunity to make a stand.
If we stand up for ourselves, it would only have to be for a few days at the start of the festival. if we get round the table we can negotiate and we will feel the effects for years to come.

Evan Young 06-04-09 07:09 PM

The proposal and logic that AJ puts forward makes a lot of sense to me. I won't be there either way though.... Good luck!

stickman 06-05-09 09:11 PM

This is a hard one for me as well. Spent most of last summer rained out. Already paid half the rent for a room in Edinburgh this August, but really don't feel like the joy I once felt to be heading to the festival. Everyone goes on about the kit storage. Since when has my show box ever fit in the storage container? Does that mean I'll get a discount? Ok they did provide a tent last year after deciding the one I bought for the job wasn't "pretty" enough. Last year the fee was supposed to be for getting the mound, noticed we don't have it this year. Also what happened to aquiring the Grass Market this year as an extra pitch like they were considering? So less pitches and still the same fee. Honestly I used to throw in a hell of alot more then 50 quid for the volunteers party at the end of the festival, but don't like the idea of it being required. Would like to know who's considering boycotting so I can make a informed decision. I would be willing to lose several days of hats to make a point.


AJJames 06-09-09 09:26 AM

The Plan
I know that our community generally gets on just fine without any formal organisation, and most of us including me are inherently resistant any form of beaurocratic structure, and why not its usually bollocks but I believe now that the best thing we can do is to form an association of Edinburgh Street performers
with a general aim to represent the interests of street performers at the Fringe.
The aim is to be officially consulted by the Fringe so we can inform the fringe on how to best support the street performers.

We need to nominate 4 Officers, to perform the following duties
Chair person
Vice Chair Person

and a simple system on how members can nominate and vote for officers and representatives.

This already has a bit of momentum, I have established a dialogue with several organisations that are willing to be affiliates to our Association, this will give us more credibility, especially as a newly formed group we won't have much clout.

The Free Fringe are willing to be affiliates and support us, Peter Buckley Hill said he will speak up for us in meetings with The council , with the fringe society and with the press.
I am also talking to the National Association of Street Artists, The Circus Development Agency and others about how they can support us.

so who wants to help?
I am not going to do all the work but I will happily do my part if others are willing ?
who fancies doing a thankless task? which will be hard work stress full and may cause others to misunderstand your intentions?
please sign up, if you know what you can do to help.

jugglerjosh 06-18-09 11:41 PM

Edinburgh Street Performers Letter of Support.
(Posted on FACEBOOK: Edinburgh Street Performers)

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Josh Weiner, and I am a New York City street performer since 1990. In 1998 I visited Edinburgh and stayed after the EJC Festival for one week. I performed behind St. Giles Cathedral, and the local performers were quite kind and respectful.

I would perform at times when a large group of regular acts were in queue for the afternoon. There was a Drum Group, a man who Stacked Dice & had a man walk on him lying on a bed of nails. There were dancers. Musicians. A comedian. Lindsay the rope walker/violinist was also there.

All the performers were courteous and allowed me a fair share for the entire week. It was an oral agreement, with a handshake. I was, and still am, quite poor, and they allowed a visitor from the USA to work without fee or local harassment. I looked quite asian and young perhaps a runaway teenager, and there were no moments of unwelcome confrontation.

So, thanks to you, the Edinburgh performers.

I returned to the USA, and still work the street, legal in parks, even subways without permit, protected by the US Constitution Bill of Rights.

I also perform with two organizations: The South Street Seaport and MUNY (Subway Performers).

The Seaport in NYC did start a $500 per performer annual request that was stopped due to protest and local petition (Signed by dozens of performers, professionals, local and even Civil Liberties Lawyers and local Union organizers like Local 802) and negotiation several years ago. Buskers are non-union, not on official payroll, and sign a hold harmless agreement to work in designated organized locations. But business certainly changed since 9/11/2001.
Many stores closed, many left the city.

I have since organized a festival, in 2005 in post 9/11 NYC. It took many hours of calls and paperwork, but the festival was granted sponsorship by LOMA and a banquet was held, which was a thank you and small stipends for all performers, and then down to business for all the downtown tour groups and stores in the area involved in their business networks. Although I felt "out of the loop" of the large business deals, I was genuinely thankful for the hands given to poor struggling artists and working class performers simply surviving with the skills and crafts they still possessed.

The past years have been a erosion of our Busking Rights. The Season is shorter, and the business deals with a River-To-River music festival, or beer tent, are completely marginalizing and overshadowing pure Busking. Each year I send a petition for an annual festival and it is not considered. The property is struggling to remain in business. Our "Busker's Hall of Fame" has left he property. Our hours are regularly, locations on the property are blocked due to special events and several performers were not welcomed back onto the roster.

I was also arrested later in 2005 working with the proper MUNY permit and held in jail for 48 hours.

I continue in good faith.

I am financially ruined and facing housing court to keep my apartment (flat). I am thankful for the smaller hats, and simply facing the reality of basic needs.

Peaceful Days & Safe Travels. I hope reading this is helpful. I hope you win. Organize!

Both Seaport and MUNY have paid organizers who designate location and times. There is also an audition process. No performer accepted in the program pays a fee to work. We get no salary, we are not on payroll. We are a tax write off of some sort.

Sincerely, Josh Weiner, Performer 1977-2009. NYC Busker 1990-present.

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