Edinburgh Fringe: Call to Action
This year Nouveau Riche brought CASTE-ING written by Nicole Acquah to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It is about the issues Black women are facing in the industry. Sadly many of these issues explored in this gig-theatre piece became a reality for our cast and team working in Edinburgh.
We were surprised that little had changed in terms of diversity and safety for Black and Global Majority artists from when we were at Edinburgh Fringe in 2018 with Queens of Sheba written by Jessica Hagan. As the theatre industry has slowly begun taking steps in the direction of inclusion and anti-racism, it truly feels like Edinburgh Fringe 2022 is at a standstill. In 2018, fellow Edinburgh Fringe artists were shocked we were paying the cast of Queens of Sheba a fee to perform at the Festival. This year we were shocked that the majority of artists are still relying on profit shares as payment for their work. This just isn’t feasible for our community. Before the Festival even begins, there’s a host of upfront costs to cover like administration fees, venue fees, accommodation costs (which are rapidly increasing every year) and travel. All this while artists still have rent and bills to pay at home and are relying on a profit share from ticket sales. The lack of public funding available makes it near impossible for working-class artists of colour to be included in this festival.
It doesn’t stop there, throughout the Festival our company have had to work twice as hard, being not just artists but also activists. The cast has reflected feeling like the token Black women, very often performing to mostly white audiences, being mistaken for actors from other productions with Black actors, and no effort was made to learn their names. One such incident, was when a man who wanted to interview the cast, asked them cast if he could call them ‘coloured’. Although the team apologised, they used his age as an excuse for his lack of education. The constant fight and expectation to educate those around as well as performing over twenty shows has taken a toll on the team. This has been disheartening for our cast which has tarnished their first experience of Edinburgh Fringe.
On the Edinburgh Fringe website (edfringe.com) it says “anyone who has a story to tell and a venue to perform in can put on a show here.” This quote truly sums up the essence of the festival, there is no limitation to what graces the Fringe stages. However, we, artists of colour like many marginalised groups, struggle to find truth in this statement. This does not truly reflect the struggle and the financial strain for artists of colour and working-class artists to produce a show at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Nouveau Riche expected a different festival this year, a more diverse and safer festival for our company and community. We write this letter in distress and frustration to request solidarity and change in the structure of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival so that 2023 may see a festival that reflects the society we live in and work from diverse perspectives.