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Joz Norris


The Guardian on the Cancellation of the Edinburgh Fringe 2020

 By Chris Wiegand in The Guardian Posted on Wednesday, April 8th, 2020
  • The Guardian on the Cancellation of the Edinburgh Fringe 2020

‘I’ll miss the camaraderie’: readers on the Edinburgh festival cancellation

We asked you to share your thoughts and experiences about this summer’s festival being cancelled because of the coronavirus. Here’s what some of you said

‘We’re £1,300 out of pocket’

We’re a theatre company in Sheffield and plan our year around the fringe. It’s expensive, but makes you feel so much more connected to the industry. We’ve got friends whose whole careers have been made by a good fringe run. Our venue cancelled the day before the public announcement, so we didn’t have to find out through social media (like some others did). But they can’t give us a refund, so we’re nearly £1,300 out of pocket. Luckily, we’ve got other projects in Sheffield, but some of the money we would have used to help make these is gone. Anonymous

‘It will leave a great hole in our lives’

My husband and I have been going to Edinburgh in August for over 30 years – we plan to retire there. Edinburgh at festival time is like nowhere else on earth – buzzing with fun and culture, filled with people from all over the world. We’ve seen so many wonderful sights, met so many lovely people. It will leave a great hole in our lives – and millions of others. Jean Allen

Joz Norris as Mr Fruit Salad
Finding a bigger purpose … Joz Norris as Mr Fruit Salad. Photograph: Steve Ullathorne

‘Suddenly my show felt insignificant’

I had been preparing a new solo show, blending absurd, slapstick elements with a story about the emotional upheaval caused by having to move out of the flat where I’d lived for eight years. I would have been taking it back to my favourite venue, Heroes @ The Hive. As world events spiralled, it became clear that the fringe could not go ahead for public health and financial reasons. Suddenly, my show felt insignificant – how could I possibly talk about the emotional upheaval of moving house when a far more significant global upheaval had happened? There is one idea in the show that keeps haunting me – the idea of leaving an old life behind and half-wanting to get back to it, but knowing we never can. It now feels like a much bigger idea. I hope some version of this show will survive and that I find a place to perform it in late 2020 or early 2021. I’ve realised that if I do continue making silly, imaginative stuff for a living, then it has to be for a purpose bigger than myself. It has to be useful in some way. Joz Norris

‘This will take a huge percentage of our custom away’

I have been making and selling fused glass and wrought-iron furniture, lamps and giftware for 15 years at our workshops in Scotland with my husband. We exhibit at a fair for three weeks during the festival, selling to local residents as well as tourists. Approximately 200 arts and craft-makers at the event will lose a major part of their income stream. We have an online presence, and some orders coming in from long-term repeat customers, but this will take a huge percentage of our custom away. Lisa Badger

‘A fallow year might not be a bad thing’

I love the festival, and it’s always been with huge pride that the collection of festivals has taken place in my city. That said, it’s become a monster, one that has started to see the corporate machine take over. A fallow year might not be the worst thing for the festival. Maybe get it back to what it was – a showcase for talent, rather than a corporate event for making money. Nic Stuart

Maddy Anholt
‘There are more important things to focus on now’ … Maddy Anholt

‘Onwards and upwards’

I was going to be at the fringe with my fifth show, How to Train Your Psychopath, an hour-long comedy, partnered with Women’s Aid all about controlling relationships, directed by the Bafta-nominated Ben Mallaby. We were in the process of getting a big brand sponsorship deal and planning to film a panel show and do an accompanying podcast series and tour, which would have included a month in Edinburgh at Underbelly. Now that I’ve finished crying into my pillow, I’ve started writing the show as a TV pilot script instead. Onwards and upwards, there are more important things to focus on now. Maddy Anholt

‘I’ll miss the camaraderie’

I am an Edinburgh resident and have attended the festival every year since puberty. I never plan holidays in August as the city has so much to offer. I’ll miss the atmosphere and the camaraderie and striking up conversation with strangers which leads to unofficial recommendations for the hidden gems of the fringe. Anonymous

‘We’ll start talks for fringe 2021’

I was planning to return with a team of three to provide captioning for fringe performances. Last year we captioned 50 shows and we were hoping to expand that. I booked our accommodation in November and got 50% of the rental cost back. Still, it’s less than I would have lost if I’d gone to the fringe, as our expenses always outweigh what we can charge. Now I’ll start talking to venues and artists about Fringe 2021. Claire Hill

‘All my work has been put on hold or postponed’

My company champions female creatives in theatre. I was due to bring three shows, which would have been an exciting undertaking. Last year, I produced the Fringe First award-winning Bobby & Amy at Pleasance Courtyard. This year, I was due to present Bobby & Amy again, as well as Push by Popelei theatre company and Sugar Coat, a gig-theatre show. All my producing work has now been put on hold or postponed to 2021. As a freelance producer, it would be too risky for me to undertake projects, both existing or new, until the virus has passed and we can understand the new habits and patterns of theatre-going audiences. There is no doubt that the theatre world will be heavily affected by this global crisis. Emma Blackman

Popelei Theatre’s Push.
Popelei Theatre’s Push was planned for this year’s Edinburgh festival. Photograph: The Other RIchard

‘We depend on the fringe financially and socially’

My husband is a taxi driver, and his work during the fringe helps us get through the quieter months. My friends and I meet up during the festival and for some it helps them feel less isolated. So we depend on the fringe financially and socially. The small band of residents who make such negative noises have no idea of the impact on everyday working-class people. We are already struggling financially and were pinning our hopes on the fringe. Anonymous

‘I lived Edinburgh in my bedroom for two minutes’

I was hoping to take my debut solo show up there. I decided to make a video, living out what would have been my Edinburgh experience, in my bedroom in two minutes. It has resonated with others who can’t perform their shows this year. It’s been great to get that confirmation you receive from an audience, even when I’m unable to do the gig live. Katie Davison

‘I rely on the income’

I’ve worked for a fringe venue for a few years as a technician. It was the first professional job I ever got in theatre and how I learned most of the tech skills I have. I rely on the income to get me through the start of the academic year. If theatres open by summer, I’ll try to get some work in one; if they’re not, I’ll try and find a job in retail. Either way, I’ll feel lost this year without the fringe. Anonymous

‘A chance to rethink the fringe’

I’m a keen fringe reviewer (I usually see about 40-50 shows), so spend most of August in dank, poorly ventilated cellars and back rooms with a bunch of strangers. Those would be the worst places to be in the current climate. The cancellation will perhaps reveal how important the festivals are to the city and may also provide a chance to rethink the fringe a bit. There are too many venues right in the centre of the Old Town – a spreading-out of venues would ease congestion problems. I’m looking forward to the 2021 fringe already. Charlie Ellis

‘My thoughts go to all the arts workers’

My play, Failure Studies, was supposed to run at the PQA venue. My thoughts go to all the arts workers that will struggle financially over the next months. Hopefully, the industry will be able to come up with something (eg shows on Zoom) to support them. PQA has offered to keep the show for the 2021 fringe, and we have accepted. I reckon there will be an upsurge of coronavirus-based shows next year. Marco Biasioli

‘It broke my heart’

We were coming to celebrate my 50th birthday. It broke my heart having to cancel the hotel reservations and plane tickets. We’re trying to decide between delaying our visit until next summer or going to Edinburgh for Hogmanay. Brian Farrey-Latz

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