Backstage Work at Edinburgh Festival

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Simon Lovelace, Course Developer & Presenter of Crewclass says:

Going to work at Edinburgh Festival is almost a requirement in developing ones career as a professional in the backstage and production industry.

Potential employers like to see it on the C.V, likewise Higher Education Establishments.

It’s a good ice-breaker at Industry Events and get-togethers; everyone has got an Edinburgh story to tell and it’s nice to be able to join those conversations by sharing yours.

Once you’ve done it, you join the huge society of Edinburgh veterans, and having that “badge” will do you nothing but good as you progress in your career.

Whilst you’re there, you are almost certain to have one of the times of your life! You are immersed in an exciting, creative, and above all relentlessly positive environment, largely surrounded by people with the same passions and aspirations as yourself.

The social scene is amazing. The  tecchy conversations in the bars and coffee houses are ones that you will relate to, be intrigued by, and find easy to join.

You will meet a great many people, some of whom will become life-long friends and industry contacts. (Crewclass is in residency at The Arcola as a direct result of the current technical manager and I working together at Edinburgh in 2007. QED)

The sense of cameraderie and goodwill is palpable.The whole place is buzzing.

If you get an opportunity to work at Edinburgh Festival this year then I say “go, go, go”.

So what’s the “but”? There’s always a “but”.

Well, the first thing I’ll say is you’re highly unlikely to make any money. In fact, be prepared for it to cost you money! If you’ve been offered an expenses only or minimum wage type deal that doesn’t include accomodation, do your research. Accomodation will be at premium price. An all-in fee of, say, £1000 doesn’t sound quite so good when you discover your digs alone are going to cost you £1200.

There are so many paid and unpaid opportunities every year at Edinburgh it’s difficult to give general advice over and above the point I’ve just made. I can only speak from my own experience.

Every time I’ve been to Edinburgh I’ve been contracted to one specific show and paid by the producers (in advance, I hasten to add) on a fixed fee including accomodation. I suggest that this is far and away the best deal to be on in Edinburgh, but not always easy to get. So what are the alternatives?

Working for an individual production on accom plus expenses/profit share? This is fine but there almost certainly won’t be any profit to share! Make sure the accom is going to be to an acceptable standard  and try and get your expenses up front!

Working as a venue tech in a specific venue? I’ve never done this, but I know people who have. On the plus side, these jobs usually come with a small fee and accom. You also get to work on a lot of different shows. Great experience. I’ve been told the days can be very long, and the job quite demanding. It’s not just one performance that you’re giving your full attention to, it’s 5,6,7 a day!

Just turning up with a tent and seeing what happens? Actually, not as crazy as it sounds! Edinburgh is a true phenomenon, and there’s nothing wrong with just going up for a long weekend, hanging out, and drinking it all in. Why not just go up and have a look? My guess is you will come away inspired, affirmed, and motivated.

I welcome comments from other Edinburgh veterans.

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