What does this mean? Well, to me it means that it’s time to start thinking about the Fringe again. The annual Augustan maelstrom is bearing down upon us all once again, and this year I have yet again made up a Free Fringe Spreadsheet for the common good and cheap entertainment needs. If you know what I’m talking about then that may be a cheery thought. If not I’ll try to sum up what this is all about.
Back in the mid noughties, I started writing for The British Theatre Guide. As well as covering various shows during the year it was open to all of the writers to get involved in reviewing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and its many shows.
Now you know me, and you know I never do anything by halves if I can overdo things and make a giant endeavour of it all. So I set myself a simple task. 100 shows in 21 days, at 5 or 6 shows a day, easy.
That was a mistake.
Over the following years I managed to narrow it down to a workable 60 shows over the three weeks of the Fringe. A much more manageable palavar but still very enjoyable. I’ve arrived at the incredibly fortunate position where every year I look forwards to a hugely busy month of August, where I spend every day rushing hither and yon, from venue to venue, loving every moment. To me August and the Fringe is the high point of my calendar, and I revel in it utterly. In the interests of getting through the Fringe with my sanity, I worked out a system to make up my daily show-lists, made up a spreadsheet that made it simple to filter by day, and plot out by the time.
Which is why I decided a couple of years ago to put together a Free Fringe Guide. Originally for just a few friends to use, then it occurred to me that others would benefit from it as well. I input the info from the Fringe Guide into the spreadsheet template that I use myself, and popped it online. It seemed popular so I’ve done it again.
Who is it For?
Well, anyone. Everyone! It’s usable by any person planning to attend a free show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. Most specifically I made it to address the bizarre comment I’ve heard from many folk who told me, “There’s not much on, and it’s all too expensive” Thie former of those points being utter rubbish and the latter, while true doesn’t hold for all the shows. So I made my spreadsheet for anyone who would love to see an entire month of Fringe fun without having to bankrupt themselves in the process.
Of course, that comes with a wee proviso. No performer puts on a show at the fringe in the hope of getting nothing back at all. Common decency ought to have taught people that much like tipping good waiting staff, chucking a couple of pounds to a performer or troupe who have entertained you for an hour is hardly asking too much.
How Does it work?
This is the easy part.
- Click on the link, and go to the page. You’ll see the Guide in all its glory. A wee bit much all at once, it’s true.
- Go to the top left corner and click ‘File’, scroll down to ‘Download As’
- Depending on your software of choice choose a spreadsheet package (Excel if you have MS Office, if not then get Open Office here for free)
- Once it has downloaded, open the file up (assuming it hasn’t automatically) & if it’s “read only” save it somewhere handy (I prefer the desktop)
- Here’s the only complicated bit: For this section I am assuming you use Open Office, please make necessary adjustments for Excel.
- First select all the cells under the Days of the Month (30th up to 3oth), in their own section of the spreadsheet.
- Once they’re highlighted (you can hold shift & drag across the E-AJ letters at the top which will highlight the whole of each column
- Right-click anywhere in the highlighted area
- select ‘Format Cells’
- Select ‘Time’ and use the XX:XX format ( i.e. 14:00 to mean 2pm)
Your Spreadsheet is now ready to use. If at any point this goes wrong, just re download it and follow points 1-5!
Planning Your Day
Now as a critic, I’m certainly the last person who should be trying to tell anyone how to spend their time! But in the case of this Guide I’ll make an exception. The first thing you ought to decide is if there are any part of the guide you do not need. For example, I know many friends who only want to see Comedy at the Fringe.
This sort of thing is easy enough.
- The first step should be to highlight any box on the Title Row on the guide, (which has Show Title, Length Category etc etc…)
- then click Data, then Filter, then finally Autofilter
- A small downward pointing triangle should now be in the right of each cell on that top row. This is fine.
- Click the triangle in the Category list. Then whatever show category you wish to see (e.g Comedy)
- You should now only see the Comedy shows, (You can undo this by simply clicking the triangle again and selecting ALL)
- Choose a relevant Date you wish to plan out. (For example 4th) and highlight that cell on the Title Row
- Click Data in the top right menu, then Sort
- The Box that pops up will let you sort by anything on the Title Row, Length Category or any date. Choose the date (For example 4th) & click OK
- Now click the triangle on that Date’s cell
- Choose Standard Filter, which will make a new box pop up.
- Under Field Name ensure it says your chosen date (For example 4th) and under Value, select “Not Empty” – Then click OK
You now have all of the Comedy shows sorted out in order of start times for the date you have chosen. In my example the 4th. So to follow my example the first show at the top would be Sanders & Co. starting at midnight (00:00) at the Counting House. Using this, you can now easily look to when you want to start seeing shows; see what is on, where it is on, and for how long. Allowing you to work out a showlist.
Now depending on your level of computer literacy and technical expertise, that will have all sounded either fairly confusing or patronising in the extreme. As a follow-up to this piece and this guide, I will be posting a series (if I have time) of small posts detailing some of the Fringe venues and locations of choice. With some simple instructions and directions from one to another.
At the end of the day, I’ve made this guide up really just as a wee tool for anyone who might find it useful. I love the Fringe, and I hope that in some way I can pass a little bit of that love of the best Festival in the world onto others.
With that, enjoy the Fringe!