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Paper Towers and Endings

By • Scotland
You can feel it in the air. You can see it on the streets. The festival is drawing to a close. Walking along the streets of Edinburgh today, there were significantly less people than usual. The venues are less crowded, the shows less well attended. Our show, sold out for the entire festival, is now playing to half full houses. People are going back home.

There's an air of closure, of shows winding up as the festival winds down. There's a feeling of relief amongst residents that they will get their lovely city back to themselves, and of relief amongst cast members that they can go back home and sleep in their own bed once more. You can almost see the shopkeepers lower their prices back to non-festival levels. I know this for a fact because I was queuing to pay for a sandwich and heard the shop owner assuring the customer before me at the till that prices would revert back to pre-festival rates, just as soon as the sod behind her had paid for his sandwich.

All this thought of 'the end is nigh' came to me when I was was queueing to watch what probably was my last show of the festival. I was standing in the queue looking at a row of posters stuck to a board. Many of the shows they advertised have now closed. It got me wondering about all the posters and flyers that I've seen during this festival. What happens to them now? For example, we know there have been 2453 shows playing at this year's fringe. I recently learned that the average number of flyers for any show to print off is around 20,000. I know, it sounds a ridiculous amount to me too, but there you go. Just to keep matters simple, let's assume that 2000 of the shows printed 20,000 flyers each. That's a grand total of 40 million flyers! Do you have any idea how many flyers that is? Let's try and put that in perspective. The thickness of an average flyer is 0.04cm. If you had to pile 40 million flyers on top of each other, you would end up with a paper column 16km high. That's thirty five times higher than the Empire State building. Or 117 times higher than the London Eye. Or 165 times higher than Big Ben. That's pretty high!

Your paper tower, made out of flyers only (excluding posters, booklets, fringe guides and other paper advertisements) would be 3672 stories high. If it was an office block, it would be pointless having a roof garden or open-air observation deck, as the temperature up there would be well below freezing, there would be very little oxygen, you would be on the edge of the Earth's troposphere, and you would be in serious need of some sunblock as you'd be almost as high as the ozone layer.

To get rid of that many flyers, you would have to give at least five to every man, woman and child living in London. So in all, that's an awful lot of flyers. You might be thinking that my mathematics is rather flawed. After all, what are the chances of 2000 productions printing 20,000 flyers each? That's true, but even if you half everything, that's still a LOT of paper! An 8km high paper tower is still very, very high! Higher than the altitude your average airbus might fly at.

So anyway, I seem to have deviated from my point a little. I just wanted to say that the festival feels like it's closing. It's hard to describe the feeling in the air. I suppose the closest you'd get by way of comparison, is a seaside resort shutting for the winter. In a couple of days, the festival will end, not with a bang or anything. It will simply peter out. Kind of like this blog entry.


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