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Have I learned anything?

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This sounds like the title of a school paper assigned after pupils have completed a charity event or Duke of Edinburgh Award or whatnot. I'll answer it nonetheless since I assigned it to myself. My first blog outlined the large amount of unexpected problems we came up against in our attempt to get Rachael's Cafe to the Edinburgh Festival this year. To be honest there have been various additional surprise expenses constantly during the Fringe. This in itself was a learning curve. I learnt that a) I need to have a generous contingency plan and b) There are always going to be unforseen expenses.

Obviously this situation got me down at times and made me feel a little inept. It's one thing working unpaid in this industry, but once it starts to cost you money to work, there really is a question of how long you can call yourself a professional theatre maker. The thing that really saved me here was something my mother said. She told me to look at it this way: There are all sorts of expensive courses and classes that people go on and to in order to learn how to work in this industry. This might be costing us just as much money as those courses but we're also learning a hell of a lot. It's just a different way of learning. You may or may not agree with that viewpoint, but it certainly worked for me. I suddenly grasped the importance of 'learning on the job' and always being aware of both what we were doing and what was going on around us at all times.

Of course I made mistakes, I lapsed at times but who doesn't? I'd rather be making my errors at this level than with a much higher profile, more expensive show. Through tears and tantrums we discovered so very many important aspects of how both we and the industry work, what to do and/or not to do, what is too pushy or not pushy enough and currently are studying the intricacies of tour booking and overseas festivals.

I noted very early on that I found myself very busy and tired in Edinburgh, and spent much less time socialising than I normally would. I'm still not entirely convinced what is the appropriate way or amount of time to socialise and how much of it will ultimately reflect itself later in a business contact or opportunity. I did learn, in a promotors' meeting at Fringe Central, that both the Traverse and Assembly bars are fantastic in the daytime or post-shows for networking and meeting interesting people involved in theatre. I personally managed to beg a stage copy of a piece of brand-new writing seconds after the Actress performing the role stepped out of the stage door, and a friend booked five meetings in one days with people she meet at the Assembly industry bar.

In terms of working the festival, both my own experiences and attending the Stage One/Masterclass Producers' panel taught me so much. I'm thrilled with what I achieved this year and would feel confident about doing it all over again in 2012. There are some changes I would make, a major one being that I wouldn't do theatre on the Free Fringe again. It helped me get an audience, I loved not charging extortionate amounts for tickets and I particularly liked the variety of ages and backgrounds that we attracted partly due to the lack of cost involved. However the spaces, proximity to loud bars, disinterest from the major press and awards bodies means that it ultimately cost me much in terms of exposure. Despite knowing it will most likely cost me a fortune, I will be paying for a venue next year.

I don't wish to bore anyone with this list of my achievements and failures this year. Everyone who went to Edinburgh has a story and that's the fabulous thing about the Fringe. I hope mine was interesting for you to read and if anyone has any interest in following what I do in the future I believe all my info in somewhere below this blog on the pretty Whatsonstage.com page. Thank you to all for reading and, to those of you thinking about hitting Edinburgh next year, I urge you to do so!


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