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Performers Information for 2011

Laughing Horse | About Free Festival | Why Free? | What will it cost me? | What will I get out of it? | Venues

Application | 2011 Performer Downloads & Info | Show Producers talk: Paid or Free, and Show Tips

We are now taking applications for Fringe 2011.  Please read through these pages of performers information for how we operate, what our venues offer, and tips for helping to produce a show - as well as the application form. Shows will run from August 4th to 28th in 2011. We do reccomed you read through these pages before starting your application! Click Here to start your Application

Laughing Horse Comedy

The Free Festival is organised by Alex Petty of Laughing Horse Comedy, along with a team of volunteers from the performers, promoters and producers who have presented shows at the Free Festival over the years. At the Fringe we aim to produce shows across all Fringe genres - not just comedy! In 2010 we had over 40 theatre shows, 40 music shows and many other types of show alongside comedy shows. (click here for last years programme)   

Laughing Horse Comedy is a professional production company that promotes comedy events and venues throughout the UK during the year, with its own comedy clubs that range from new act nights deseree.jpg (32945 bytes)through to shows with big names and large venues - along with booking for other comedy clubs, shows at Festivals, Comedy Courses, a booking agency and running the UK’s largest search for new comedy talent. Laughing Horse also promote two venues at the smaller Brighton Fringe in May, with a mixture of Comedy, Theatre, Music and Children's shows.

For the Edinburgh Fringe Laughing Horse manages the venues, and selects and programmes the comedy elements of the Free Festival programme, with a number of producers of theatre, music and art selecting other elements of the programme.

"The Laughing Horse's Free Fringe shows serve as a useful reminder of that frequently encountered concept - The Spirit of the Fringe" - Malcolm Hay, Time Out

About the Free Festival

2011 is the eighth year that the Laughing Horse has run free venues at the Edinburgh Fringe, and in that time the Free festival has grown from a single venue to 15 separate venues and 32 performance spaces, making it one of the biggest organisations at the Fringe. In 2010 there were 304 shows and just over 4,300 performances in our venues. 

The Free Festival allows performers to experience the Edinburgh Fringe, in professionally managed and equipped venues, without the overbearing costs of the paid venues, or the shambolic nature of some other free venue promoters who only provide empty rooms and expect you to provide all of your own venue equipment! Although we are free, we are still a major part of the Fringe, with shows part of the main Fringe programme, and as such with all of our performers gaining all of the benefits of being a Fringe Performer and part of the world's largest arts festival, with performers qualifying for all of the major awards, and getting the opportunity of getting reviews, or being seen by promoters and other industry people.  

imran99.jpg (86238 bytes)2010 saw Free Festival show "An Audience with Imran Yusuf" become the first ever free show to be nominated for the main Edinburgh Comedy Awards (Formally the Perrier Awards), and Free Festival shows have also been nominated for and won awards from The Three Weeks Editor Awards, Total Theatre Awards, Musical Theatre Matters Awards, Fresh Air Radio Awards, Mervyn Stutter's Pick of the Fringe and The Malcolm Hardee awards - an event that was hosted as part of the Free Festival for the first time in 2010, and will take place again with is in 2011. Along with these awards, and numerous five and four star rated shows the Free Festival has become known as the place to see quality free shows, as well as for shows that offer the full diversity of the Fringe programme - as we aim each year to truly put the alternernative back into the Fringe!  

We seek to only operate from quality venues that are welcoming to audiences and performers, situated in popular areas of Edinburgh - there's no point coming the Fringe and trying to run a show in a venue miles out of town! All of our venues are set-up, at minimum, to the standard that you would expect of small comedy club, with PA, lights and stages - and in many cases to a much higher standard, with bigger sound systems, lighting, stages and AV equipment, and in the case of the Counting House’s ballroom, the Hive's Big Cave and The Three Sisters, we offer a high specification performance space on a par, if not better than many large paid venues with a full lighting rigs and sound systems, a large stage and room suitable for large theatre productions, full cabaret shows or big-name comedians. All of our exact venue specifications can be found here.

We believe that for performers to produce the best possible shows they should be concentrating on their performances, which is why we fully manage the set-up. Performers should not be worrying about finding equipment for venues, coping with performance spaces without facilities or at the other end of the scale worrying about over-bearing costs and large financial losses. We aim to foster the best atmosphere possible at our venues, to help you achieve your Fringe goals, be they media attention, excellent reviews, furthering your career in the arts or simply performing during the Fringe to large audiences and having a very enjoyable August.

Overall we encourage an atmosphere of teamwork, and foster an ethos where performers volunteer to help maintain the success of all our venues and shows, who all work together to the benefit of everyone - with the best in new talent being encouraged along-side bigger name performers.

Since we started running free venues we have had full runs of shows from the likes of Pappy’s Fun Club, John Gordillo, Lewis Schaffer, Imran Yusuf, Nick Wilty, Sol Bernstein, Steve Day, Cabaret Whore and Ivor Dembina, plus appearances on our stages from performers such as Alan Carr, Scott Capurro, Stewart Lee, Arthur Smith, Richard Herring, Brendan Burns, Marcus Brigstoke, Reg D. Hunter, Dan Antopolski and Paul Foot - amongst many other stars of comedy, theatre, music and dance. Many of our shows have been taken from the Fringe and gone from there to break into a full time career in the arts, UK and internal tours, and paid work from Beijing, to Adelaide, from Scriptwriting for Disney to performing at Festivals worldwide. 

imranl.jpg (40089 bytes)We don’t just concentrate on comedy either, we run venues that provide a mixed programme of shows that encompass all Fringe genres including theatre, music, comedy, cabaret, opera, musicals, children’s shows, events and art displays – all programmed by experienced producers in each area.

In 2011 we have more performance spaces on offer than ever before, with some new venues operating alongside our venues from 2010. Our venues have capacities from 40 to 200 and are able to accommodate a huge variety of performances. Each venue also has a number of friendly bars and spaces for audiences to congregate, including four with dedicated outdoor areas and outdoor bars.

2010-1.jpg (44504 bytes)We aim to encourage and create better conditions for performers, and better value for audiences while being inclusive of all performers and working with others who share that ethos. We believe that being negative about other organisations detrimental to everybody’s aims and would rather concentrate on doing our best to promote the shows in our own venues, and work with other organisations where we can - and this has included working with Underbelly, The Museum of Scotland, Kopparberg, Various Churches and smaller venues, and many other organisations over our years at the Fringe. 

2010 was our most successful and critically acclaimed year ever, with the Free Festival as a whole gaining fantastic reviews, award winners and nominees and coverage from Sky News, Reuters, The BBC, STV, The International Television Festival, The Guardian, The Independent, The Times as well as many reviews and articles in Scottish and ads2.jpg (67683 bytes)Edinburgh publications and media such as the Scotsman, The List, the Metro, Leith FM, Forth FM and other media and web based media. Our performers achieved success with awards, a huge number of reviews and further work, higher profiles and tours and productions of their shows in the UK and internationally. 75% of our shows were reviewed as 3 star and above, along with nearly fifty 4-star reviews and 18 5-star reviews.

"[Free shows are] a reminder of the roots of all this. The main fringe is colossally expensive big business now, it’s rather disingenuous to call it “Fringe” when it’s now a main event and cost the price of a small car to put on." - Julia Chamberlain (Highlight Booker, SYTYF Producer, Chortle Reviewer)

Why Free?

as1.jpg (41141 bytes)One of the two main gripes of performers at the Fringe is the costs of producing a show at the Fringe, which is often quoted as being between 6,000 and 10,000, and performers having to present their shows to small audiences. By performing your show for free you can negate both of those issues.

We don’t charge a hire fee for the spaces, therefore removing a large amount of your costs, and audiences aren’t charged to come in, meaning much larger audiences – and at the Fringe that still means people are coming to see your show, it is just that being free means they come in large numbers because of the overall dissatisfaction with high ticket prices across the Fringe in general. Audiences are asked for a contribution on the way out, which goes 100% to the performer.

2010-2.jpg (48823 bytes)The average audience for one of our Free shows is 48 people, although that obviously depends a lot on time, location and the performers PR. The average donation per person is between 1 and 2. Many performers in 2010 took home over 50 a day, with some performers reporting collections in excess of 200 on occasion, and successful/well reviewed shows achieving

Click here to read producer Poppy Ben-David and performer Lynn Ruth Miller's experience of the Free Festival, compared to bringing shows to paid venues

"What should worry [now ex-Fringe director] Morgan and, indeed, the Big Four, not entirely smiling all the way to the bank, is the continuing growth of the free Fringe, where punters pay what they wish at the end of a show; some comics report they have made more from the collection bucket than they ever did at the main venues."- The Guardian

What will it cost me?

The cost to use our venues is completely free, there is no hire charge for the space at all.

To cover the cost of equipment, damages and repairs, central Free Festival publicity, signage and advertising we ask each show to pay 40 into central funds, which is the equivalent of less than one days collection. For this you get all of the venue equipment that is listed in the venue plans, it covers all venue signage and advertising banners for all shows, plus the production of 60,000+ Free Festival brochures, the website and a lot of general PR, advertising, posters and flyers.  (Single performance shows only have to pay 20 to us)

Along with this you need to pay for your entry into the main Fringe programme, in 2010 that was around 280 for a run of shows, or 70 for a single performance. (This should remain the same in 2011 plus extra for the new VAT rate).You must enter the Fringe programme, as without this it is near impossible to promote your show and get audiences, and you will be invisible to reviewers,  promoters or the awards panels -  In essence, if you are doing a show in Edinburgh during the Fringe and you are not in the programme you are doing a show in Edinburgh while the Fringe is on, rather than being part of the Fringe. 

You will have to pay for your own show advertising, and this can be as little as 140 with the special deal we have organised with Tenfold printing, and this covers 5000 A6 flyers and 50 posters. We even have designers on hand who offer discounted design for our free shows if you need this.

The above should be seen as the minimum advertising required, as even though your show is free you will still need to publicise your performances to get good sized audiences. You can do more, and the principle of the more you put into your show, the more you will get out of it really holds true. Use your funds wisely and if you invest in PR, further advertising and more marketing your audiences and media coverage will grow. If you treat your show professionally, then the media and audiences will treat you as a professional performer.

Other than that, it is up to you – obviously you will have your accommodation costs (we are hoping to get a special deal on accommodation this year for our free performers), your travel costs, plus it is up to you how much further you push your promotion by getting professional PR, or increasing your advertising, display advertising in publications. In terms if display advertising the Free Festival has negotiated discounts with several publications. Remember that you are putting on a professional show, and your production should be treated professionally - the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.

With the collection money taken, many shows in 2010 broke even, and especially with performers who had no or very little living expenses some made a reasonable profit. In most cases, performers who lost money were limited to a few hundred pounds, unless they had thrown much more into expensive accommodation or PR – and of course that can be recouped from work gained after the festival. if you are able you can also sell merchandise after your performance to increase your income further (with 100% of merchandise profits going to the performer).

bighiive.jpg (39486 bytes)The Free festival also helps you to enjoy the Fringe by offering performers discounts at our venues bars, and on food and drink, to help keep the day-to-day costs of being at the Fringe down, plus free internet access and networking and socializing events throughout the month, as well as the Meadow Bar becoming the de facto performers bar for free performers and people who don't want to go to the expensive performers bars in the mega-venues. 

Being a free show you are also currently exempt from PRS charges.

“There is a rebellion at the Fringe this year. High venue costs have caused some artists to take matters into their own hands. Doug Stanhope is charging 7349 for a one-off show in someone's living room and the Free Fringe organisations have brought more acts than ever to Edinburgh at no extra charge” – The List

What Will I get Out of it?

As well as the experience of performing intensively, and the enjoyment of being in Edinburgh with a large group of like-minded people in a welcoming and friendly atmosphere, you will also gain significant chances to network with other professionals and further your careers.

With good PR you will get press and media attention, along with reviews. In 2010 the majority of performers reported that they had been seen or approached by promoters or bookers for further work, and some have been invited to perform nationally and internationally - you will see our performers at other UK Festivals, in New York, at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, Hollywood Fringe and in many other places around the world because of their Free Festival shows. In once case a performer is currently putting together a treatment for a television series, another has toured to Beijing and so on!

In short you can achieve anything that you could do in a paid venue, but without the significant costs of this.

“Best Freebies: – shows are free to audiences, venues do not charge fees to performers. The Free Festival is hosting 157 shows – with an expanded programme which now includes children’s shows, a free night-club and an opera. Performers tend to pass round a hat at the end of every show – but there is no pressure and you’ll enjoy the relaxed and friendly atmosphere.” – The Scotsman

"Free shows are great. I feel I should confess that I did one myself this year so I do have a vested interest in this. But overall I think they’re great for acts to be able to try stuff out without the chance of losing thousands of pounds. I think it gives audiences the opportunity to see some fantastic offering from a broader range of artists." - Tim Arthur, Time Out Comedy Editor

Show Producers talk: Paid or Free, and Show Tips
fest2.jpg (39689 bytes)Below are links to articles written by Free Festival performers to help you decide on how to produce your show at the Fringe from their own experiences, and a series of Interviews of Festival performers, reviewers and producers by Ian Fox.

Paid or Free Shows? - What you need to know! Advice on bringing your show to Edinburgh. Two Articles, by Producer Poppy Ben-David and performer Lynn Ruth Miller

sl1.jpg (46824 bytes)Why is Keara Murphy performing with the Free Festival? Keara's Histrionics of the Fringe. Keara Murphy is a performer who has performed and produced Fringe shows with the Gilded Balloon, The Stand, Independently, The Buckley Hill Free Fringe and The Free Festival - read about her Fringe experiences over the years with each, and why she is now working with the Free Festival

Critics Interviews - A selection of interviews with critics on how they choose which show to see, and how they thing Free shows can be approved, with interviews from Jay Richardson (Freelance), Steve Bennett (Chortle), Julia Chamberlain (Chortle & producer), Geoff Evans (One4Review), Claire Smith (Scotsman), Julian Hall (Independent), Melissa Brugess (The List, Chortle, MEN), Tim Arthur (Time Out) Chris Hislop (Fringe Review) and The Stage review team.

Comedians Interviews - Interviews with comedians who have a long Edinburgh history including Toby Hadoke, Jason Cook and Kev F. Sutherland.

Venues Details
Our venue details for 2011 are available here. Full and updated downloadable plans and specifications are now available - and we also now have a number of additional venues for 2011.

Applying for 2011

Our Application Process has now started for 2011, and this year all applications will be handled online. We have a barnd new database driven booking system and website in the pipeline for 2011 that will make the application process easier, and cut down a lot of time and work for both you and ourselves! This will also give you much greater ability to edit your show details and advertising on our website, and will also allow us to produce much more detailed information on teh website and in our advertising, and also generate full listings for the media to help promote the Festival and your shows.

We welcome applications from performers across all performance genres. We will start to make decisions from late January, right through until the Fringe programme deadlines in April. Our aim is to select the best possible shows for our venues, and therefore we do not programme on a first-come, first-served basis, however it is advisable to get your application in as soon as possible so you have the best chance to get the venue and time that you would like.

To apply, you should first familiarise yourself with all of our venue and space information and then fill in the form:

Click Here to Start your Application for 2011

Every application is looked at by relevant producers and programmers, so do please bear with us while we go through a lot of applications. If you have any queries do email is on   

2011 Performer Information & Downloads

Free Festival venues

Click here for our venue list and venues full specs and  information

Help and Advice

Paid or Free Shows? - What you need to know! Advice on bringing your show to Edinburgh. Two Articles, by Producer Poppy Ben-David and performer Lynn Ruth Miller

Why is Keara Murphy performing with the Free Festival? Keara's Histrionics of the Fringe. Keara Murphy is a performer who has performed and produced Fringe shows with the Gilded Balloon, The Stand, Independently, The Buckley Hill Free Fringe and The Free Festival - read about her Fringe experiences over the years with each, and why she is now working with the Free Festival

Critics Interviews - A selection of interviews with critics on how they choose which show to see, and how they thing Free shows can be approved, with interviews from Jay Richardson (Freelance), Steve Bennett (Chortle), Julia Chamberlain (Chortle & producer), Geoff Evans (One4Review), Claire Smith (Scotsman), Julian Hall (Independent), Melissa Burgess (The List, Chortle, MEN), Tim Arthur (Time Out) Chris Hislop (Fringe Review) and The Stage review team.

Comedians Interviews - Interviews with comedians who have a long Edinburgh history including Toby Hadoke, Jason Cook and Kev F. Sutherland.

How to Produce a Free Festival Show - Tips and hints from Free festival veteran Ian Fox (with additional material by Mile Belgrave)

How to promote a Free show - Tips and hints from Free festival veteran Ian Fox (with additional material from Lynn Ruth Miller, Ivor Dembina and Bob Slayer)

How to promote a Free show Part 2 - Tips on free show promotion from Liz McIntosh (Festival previews) and Mark (Editor of the British Comedy Guide)

How to list a show in the Fringe Programme - tips on how to list your show in the main Fringe programme by Ian Fox

Best Posters & Best Free Festival Posters - ideas on producing your poster by Ian Fox 

For other articles do see Ian Fox's Wordpress site for others that have been added:

Downloads For Fringe Performers in 2011

2011 Downloads will be available from Spring 2011 - currently the 2010 logos and downloads are on this page

Click Here for Performers Downloads - logos, maps, images etc

Everything you'll need for your advertising in 2010

Guest Performers in a Fringe show in 2011

If you are a professional, or newer act there will be several shows that will have "Guest spots" at the Free Festival venues. These should be booked directly with the promoters of these shows, and not through this web site. For places at The Laughing Horse Comedy Club shows you can email after May 2010.

Comedy Courses

Newer acts may be interested in attending the About Comedy Courses run at Edinburgh City FC during the festival - these help new performers develop, and also the tickets sold for these go towards supporting the Free Festival venues. See 

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