Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the bucket
As I walked along The Royal Mile in Edinburgh politely fending off flyerers, I realised I had to buy a bucket. I’m performing on the Free Fringe [7.15pm, Canon’s Gait – Ed], which means people come in for free, and may put money in a bucket afterward if they enjoyed the show. How big a bucket should I buy? Should I be ambitious and buy a dustbin or modest and just hold a cap?
It’s the bucket that has put me off performing on the Free Fringe in the past. The worst part of the bucket is the bucket speech. Free Fringers have myriad ways to ask for notes instead of coins and unsubtly priming for value of the contribution. Do I have to do that? I hate that. Free Fringers tell me that the speech pays. I think I should ask the audience to put money in the bucket to compensate for my pride-damage in having to make the bucket speech. Great, got an angle. I’ll write something on it and make it funny. Now, I’m looking forward to making the bucket speech. In the course of this paragraph I have become a fan of the bucket speech.
But the thought of holding a bucket and asking for money is dire. I’m not a beggar. On the other hand, why shouldn’t I ask to be paid? I ask promoters to pay me all year round. Doesn’t it make more sense to ask the punters who can make an honest decision how much the show was actually worth? Yes it does. Everyone should do it. That’s how businesses should operate. Buckets are the way forward. I now believe in the ethos of the bucket.
I decided to do the Free Fringe this year because I decided not to do the Fringe this year and then thought that was a bit extreme. Instead, I would do a quiet little show for the sake of having to come up with a new hour of material.
This will be my 10th solo hour. As I write this, I realise that I’m more relaxed than ever. I have spent pittance on publicity, just flyers. Normally I would have invested thousands of pounds in a show I had just written, despite the impossibility of predicting how well it would be received in this, the most competitive performing environment in the world. Most acts who come here know that even if they sell out every night they will still lose thousands. What a bunch of dicks. Seriously, tossers the lot of them. I’m embarrassed these people are my friends. All I have to do is buy a bucket. A bucket that makes so much sense and is the most honourable way to do the festival.
The Free Fringe is seen by many as a step down from performing in the pay venues. So why are so many established acts moving over to it? One act told me he wouldn’t do the Free Fringe because he values his talent too highly. I think I nodded at the time. But now I’ve changed my mind. Paying to perform is not valuing yourself. A performer should be paid, especially if he or she values the hard work they’ve done in writing a show.
And I’m so happy with my decision. The show is easy to sell. It’s free. If you don’t like it you can have your money back. I’m free. Free of stress, Edinburgh debt and artistic neediness. I’m just free. If you fancy meeting up for a coffee just say the word. Let’s catch a movie. Let’s go and see a show where we can watch someone paying to talk to us. Afterward, I’ll lend them my bucket to cry into. I’m freeeeeeeeeee. I can concentrate on just having a great time performing and enjoying the festival. Yes, I am now convinced the Free Fringe is the best way for a performer to do the Edinburgh Festival (I reserve the right to write an article next year about how whatever I’ve decided next year is the best decision).
And guess what. As I walked along the Royal Mile today, realising that buying a bucket was the most stressful the Free Fringe had got so far, I bumped into another Free Fringer who told me there’d be a bucket at the venue for acts to use. Ha! I don’t even have to buy a bucket. I love the Free Fringe. I might buy a really fancy bucket anyway with all the cash I’ve saved because I LOVE BUCKETS.