Edinburgh Fringe: Finding the Next Big Thing!

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a renowned launching pad for some of the biggest and most celebrated acts in showbiz. From Russell Brand to Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry and Flight of the Concords, the careers launched by this annual event have made it a hotspot for spotting stars of the future.

Having lived around Edinburgh most of my life, I’ve acquired some good tips for finding that sought after ‘next big thing at the Fringe’ – that’s before they get famous and you end up paying triple the ticket price!

Here are some handy hints on how to do it.

Spot who’s handing out flyers

With over 2098 shows, in 265 venues, over 25 days, Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival performers face some pretty tough challenges in competing for your attention. What’s more, with so many acts seeking venues in what is quite a small city, it costs a lot of money just to hire somewhere to perform at the Fringe. This means that most new acts have to do their own promotions and publicity in order to keep costs down.

Remember, in a lot of situations, the people you see passing out flyers for a gig or show will also be performing in it. This gives you a good chance to talk to them – and perhaps even ask for a live preview (as I’ve done many times myself!). Whether they are a comedian, a dancer, a singer, or even an acrobat, most performers will be happy to show you some of their skills…and also to revel in the public attention!

Seeing an excerpt from a show will give you an idea of how good the players are as well as some insight into how popular they could become. If they are performing well, other people will start to gather round. If lots of people gather quickly then you know it’s an act that is likely to catch on in the mainstream!

See as many new acts as you can

Sounds simple, but to give yourself the best chance of spotting the next big thing in Edinburgh, you have to go out and see as many new acts as possible! Although established performers are great to watch, they tend to be much more expensive because they are already well known. What’s more, the more time you spend seeing reputable acts, the less time and chance you have of finding next year’s stars.

Try and watch at least one Edinburgh first-timer a day! Performances generally last about an hour, so that still leaves you a lot of time to experience Scotland’s capital and check out one of the more seasoned performances if you’re still keen.

Believe you me, there is always a new discovery waiting in those Edinburgh wings. The more new acts you see, the more chance you have of spotting it first. It’s simple math!

Find out who the press and award committees are going to see

One of the main ways that underground comedians, bands, or performers are discovered at the Fringe is by winning an award, or being featured in the media. It’s this exposure which gets them well known and helps them make the big time.

In the past I have rung up newspapers and magazines, especially ones like the Scotsman and the Herald which have their own award for acts at the Fringe. I’ve asked them who they are going to see, or who they’ve heard about on the grapevine. Here’s a hot tip –they’ll usually tell you!

Any awards you hear about for up and coming acts are also great to investigate. Here, it’s a good idea to call up or email the award committee and ask who they are planning on reviewing.

On the other hand, if you have already seen someone you think could make it big, why not tip off a newspaper! If they really are as good as you think you may just have helped them get that exposure they need.

And the verdict is…

While there are many ways to spot the next big thing at Edinburgh Fringe, these three methods have always worked well for me. Apart from this, simply use your creativity: check internet forums, scour Facebook pages, rely on word of mouth – whatever suits your style!

Just remember, the Fringe Festival was created to give un-heard-of acts the chance to perform, learn their craft and gain an audience. In the thousands that turn up each year, there is always a diamond or two waiting to be discovered. The question is: can you spot them first? Why not book your youth hostel in Edinburgh and see if you can make it as a talent scout.

Jane is a freelance travel writer based in Edinburgh. She currently writes from her travel blog website RunawayJane.com, providing tips and advice to other travelers.

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Thanks to freefotouk, Lorkan and Taylor Dundee for the images off flickr. Please note that all images were used under the Creative Commons license at the time of posting.

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