The Five Pound Fringe started at the Edinburgh Festival last year, giving people the chance to see established comedy names as well as music and theatre acts for, as its name implies, a measly five pounds. We spoke to its organiser, the delightful Lisa Keddie, to find out more about what they do…
Hi Lisa, could you tell us in as long and detailed a way as possible who you are and what you do?
I’m Lisa Keddie, hello! I run a thing at the Edinburgh Festival called Five Pound Fringe, which pretty much does what it says on the tin. It’s a collective of lots of shows, mainly comedy, who have decided to do the Edinburgh Fringe show for £5.
In case you don’t know, the price of the average festival show in Edinburgh has been going up and up and up. It got to the point where you were paying £9 or £10 to see people that are really good and putting on great work, but you don’t know who they are. They’ve not got any TV presence. They’re not a household name.
When most people in the public are faced with the option of seeing Jimmy Carr or Russell Brand for £12 or £13, versus someone you’ve never heard of for £10, then obviously they’re gonna go for the name they know and trust.
So, it’s about encouraging people to take a bit of a risk and taking it back to what a fringe should be, seeing five or six shows in a day. People you’ve got no idea who they are, maybe seeing a couple of duff shows. But, basically, discovering new talent, you’re new favourites, really.
What kind of acts can we expect to see?
It’s completely open to all kinds of things. We’ve got a lot of comedy. Me and John, who I work with, come from a comedy background. [We] used to produce a lot of comedy shows, which is where the idea came from. And people know us and trust us from comedy, hence why we’ve got a lot of [shows]. There’s stand-up shows and sketch shows, but then we do have some theatre and music things this year as well, which is nice.
A lot of it is people doing their first ever hour show, it’s a good platform to go and write. When people go and do a show that’s a bit more expensive, they end up selling two-for-one tickets essentially selling the show for a fiver.
Any particular acts you’re eager to show off?
A lot of it is about getting new up-and-coming, exciting people who, within five years, you’ll be saying, “Oh my god I can’t believe I saw them for a fiver!” People really like the idea. They like the ethos of it.
This year we’ve got Richard Herring and Andrew Collins, who are doing their podcast with us. We’ve got Robin Ince too, while last year Mark Watson came and did a show. We had Nicholas Parsons who dropped in to do a few bits and pieces. If people like an idea they’ll support it. It’s lovely.
I think the exciting thing about The Fringe is seeing all the newbies, going in to see them and not having any idea who or what it’s going to be like, then coming out and thinking that was the funniest hour! People are going in then coming out and saying, “What’s next?”, just getting in to the whole Fringe spirit.
You mentioned there’s also musical and theatre acts. What kind of productions do you put on?
We’ve got a show from last year, Bane, which is actually one of the guys from a sketch group called Test Tube. It’s a one-man comedy play about a murder mystery. He’s doing the sequel this year and, because he sold out last time, he’s gonna do the original as well.
There’s also a big Irish theatre collective who’re doing different things each week. A Shakespeare theatre performance and some new writing that they’ve done.
And there’s another one-man show about a real life story when he was an architect. He built this palace for this completely corrupt gangster! He did it at uni for his end of year project. He met this guy and he said, “I’ve got this project” which never ended up getting made. “I’ve got this palace for you.” and this gangster says. “Of course, that’s fine,” so he did it and passed his degree then the gangster went, “Well, build it for me now.”
That was his first professional commission! I’ve seen the process and I’m really excited to see it finished! It’s this crazy story about this mental man who keeps getting stalked and all these little things happen. It’s a true-life tale and it’s got this hook that he can get killed for telling this story! It’s exciting, probably not true, but exciting!
This is your second year running this. What lessons did you learn from the first?
Don’t get robbed! Last year, two days before the venue opened, we had a break-in and they took all the computers and phones. Other than that, there were no major disasters.
This year, we’re a lot better organised and everybody’s ready to go. It’s just things like realising that a room without any windows is going to get really hot, so we’ve put air-conditioning in it. We’ve got more furniture too.
It was really busy last year. We sold 17,000 tickets. Hopefully, it’ll run a lot more smoothly this year and people will come. Fingers crossed, that would be nice.
How does it feel to be involved in giving new acts and groups this platform?
I love it. One of my favourite things is seeking out what’s happening. One of the things we run is the Lunchtime Club, which is five brand new-ish acts and they do 15 minutes each. That’s our first show of the day. Last year, there was a guy called Joe Lycett who went on to win Chortle’s Newcomer of the Year in their student competition. And we had Ivo Graham who won So You Think You’re Funny.
It’s really nice to have that group. It’s such a good thing to do getting yourself a gig every single day for a month. It’s good practice to get into the industry.
We’ve got a lot of people doing their first ever hour show, too, like Elis James last year. He’s a Welsh guy who’s just brilliant. When he started, there was just a few people coming in, but by the end of the month he was selling out. It’s word of mouth. People were going, “This is a brilliant show.” It’s lovely to see that progression. It’s such an important month for comedy.
To wrap it up, why do you think should people go to see your shows?
It’s a bloody good programme! One of the things I’m most proud of doing it is, everything I put on, I would pay to watch. You’ve got to keep that in mind. I’d feel terrible if I put on something I didn’t believe in and someone came up to me and said, “I didn’t enjoy that.”
At least this way, if people don’t like something, it’s a fiver. You can come and discover your new favourite comedian, have a proper Fringe experience and still have enough money for a pint after!
Lisa Keddie, thank you very much!
The Five Pound Fringe will be running at various venues in Edinburgh throughout August. For more information, check out their website at www.fivepoundfringe.com, and follow them on Twitter @Fivepoundfringe.