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Interview An Insider's Guide to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

An Insider's Guide to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

With Edinburgh Fringe starting this month, we thought we would give you the low down from two performers who really know the festival inside out. If you have been living under a rock since 1947, and haven’t heard of it, the Fringe festival is a three-week period in August when the capital city of Scotland opens its doors to a creative explosion of comedy, music, art and performance. Sharing their insider knowledge, we spoke to seasoned performer Ian Stone, who has been making audiences laugh at the Fringe since 1996, and comedian Ivo Graham, who made his name at the Fringe winning the prestigious ‘So You Think You’re Funny’ award in 2009.

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Ian Stone is an institution on the stand-up circuit, a hilarious radio presenter and a regular feature on panel shows. We spoke to him to find out his thoughts on Edinburgh, after two decades of performing there.

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Ian Stone 

Can you tell us the highs and lows of taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe? 

Bloody hell, there’s a start. I would say the highs are selling loads of tickets, doing great shows, and, most of all, just sitting in your flat at 4am having tea and toast with your mates and talking about absolute rubbish. This is honestly one of the best highs of the whole thing – it’s just such good fun.

The lows have to be not selling tickets, the weathe... my god the weather! It is terrible sometimes. Well actually, it is terrible all the time. Getting an awful review is always a low. And the hills – there are so many hills. I did an entire show based on this premise called 'Where is the down?' – we are going uphill entire time!

Are you doing the fringe this year, what keeps you going back?

I’m not doing a run, but I am going up for three days. I have taken 6 one-man-shows up there in the past. It was almost like a co-dependent relationship. It is a lot of fun so you just keep going.

"I remember it got good reviews, but it was the hottest room on earth – I was close to passing out on multiple occasions and I lost a stone and a half."

What was your first show at the Fringe?

In 1996 – that was the first one, in a room called the WEE room (as in small - although, it did used to be built on the site of a public toilet). It was a 50-seat room, and I performed the best hour of material I had at the time. I remember it got good reviews, but it was the hottest room on earth – I was close to passing out on multiple occasions, and I lost a stone and a half.

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"It is almost like a co-dependent relationship."

How much has Edinburgh changed?

It is an industry now; it is a different thing. The programme issued in 1996 is about one fifth of the thickness of the one issued now. There are just so many shows now with much bigger audiences, there is much more industry involvement too.

One thing you can’t survive the Fringe without?

Optimism – and decent walking shoes.

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Thanks Ian! Comedian Ivo Graham also spoke to us about his thoughts on the Fringe. Being the youngest person to win the ‘So You Think You’re Funny’ award at just 18 in 2009, Ivo owes a lot to the platform that the Fringe provided for him. Here's what he had to say to us!

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Ivo Graham 

Can you tell us the highs and lows of taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe? 

The highs: the roars of laughter from the sold-out crowds who have paid to see you and are absolutely lapping up every single thing you say.

The lows: the wall of indifference from the audience of seven who reluctantly allowed themselves to be flyered in out of the rain and are now wondering they'd rather have just got wet.

What is the one thing you can't survive the Fringe without? 

I'm embarrassed to say that despite being 26 and not being about to sit my A Levels, I still have an emergency pack on Pro Plus on me at all times for those sudden, debilitating third-week energy crashes. "Coffee without the teeth stains!", to use the new slogan that they still haven't got back to me about.

"Take yourself out of the game for a bit. Deep breath. Then bang a couple of Pro Plus and charge back into the chaos."

What would be your top tip to first-time performers going to the festival? 

Pick some hideaways - pubs, cafes, and patches of grass - about 10/15 minutes out of town and go there for "time out" windows as much as possible. Take yourself out of the game for a bit. Deep breath. Then bang a couple of Pro Plus and charge back into the chaos.

Who is your audience? 

My parents, friends of my parents, and people who don't know my parents but would get along with them an absolute treat - should a meeting ever arise.

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"The programme issued in 1996 is about one fifth of the thickness of the one issued now."

If you could change something about the Fringe, what would it be and why? 

Such a mean-spirited little moan, but it really is so hilly. I haven't helped, of course, by choosing to stay in a flat at the bottom of a hill for the second year in a row. I'm not including Arthur's Seat in this critique, by the way: absolutely as worth the climb as everyone says it is.

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Thanks Ivo and Ian – good to chat to you both. You can catch Ivo’s show at Edinburgh at the Pleasance Courtyard, and if you’re lucky you might bump into Ian the three days he is there! 

For further information or to book Ivo Graham, or Ian Stone, call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070+44 (0)20 7607 7070 or email info@speakerscorner.co.uk.

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