It’s July, and with just over four weeks till the 68th Edinburgh Fringe Festival, one of my favourite times of the year, and a wonderous stramash of art, culture and comedy, all coming together in a month-long Festival of fun.
As it’s a huge and often expensive affair, many people avoid the Fringe because they think it’s cost prohibitive, or they say “There’s nothing good on”. Now both of these statements aren’t quite right. This year there are over 700 free shows at the Fringe. So you should go see them!
Longtime readers of my blog, and followers of mine on twitter, will no doubt know that for the last several years I’ve made up a handy wee spreadsheet with all of the Free Fringe shows on it, sortable by catagory, and with dates and showtimes all clearly marked up. It’s the same exact system I’ve used for a decade, to plan out my own schedule for reviews for British Theatre Guide. Essentially what I needed, was an easy system where I could look at each date of the festival and sort the shows out by their showtime. After that it’s just a case of picking what order to watch them in!
Here is the Edinburgh Free Fringe Showlist for 2015
If you’ve used the Showlist before, then you’ll know precisely what to do, and if not then read on!
Note: There are a LOT of shows to look through, and since most shows at The Fringe are new each year, and this is especially true for the Free Fringe, there’s really no way for me to recommend anything. It’s also useful to use the showlist in conjunction with the Fringe Programme so you can check out the show’s content & description. There are also what are refered to as Pay What You Want, or PWYW, which are shows where tickets can be bought, but also you can alternatively just pay on the door. (I have marked these in RED text on the spreadsheet) These aren’t free as such, but even with a free show, you really aught to be expecting to throw a few pounds into the hat at the end of a good show (it’s only polite)
This is the easy part. But since the online sheet is locked (to stop people accidentally altering it) it needs to be downloaded onto your own computer.
- Click on the link and go to the page. Where you will find the guide.
- Go to the top left corner and click ‘File’, scroll down to ‘Download As’
- Depending on your software of choice, you should choose a spreadsheet package (Excel if you have MS Office, if not then get OpenOffice here for free & use OpenOffice Calc)
- Once it has downloaded, open the file up (assuming it hasn’t automatically) & if it’s “read only”, then change this setting to off. In the case of MS Office, you should see a handy yellow banner with PROTECTED VIEW written on it. Simply click the ‘Enable Editing’ button on that banner.
- Now save it somewhere handy (I prefer my desktop)The spreadsheet has been optimised for both systems, and should work on other spreadsheet programs as well.
One aspect of this guide, is that it’s fairly large and cumbersome. At this stage you might want to chop a few days off the alender, to suit your personal schedule, or time in Edinburgh.
- The easiest way to do that is simply to click on the Letter in the column above the dates you want to remove (which will highlight the whole column)
- rightclick on the highlit area
- scroll down to ‘delete’ and select it
Another option is to remove show categories. As many people only come for the Comedy, or the Theatre alone, it may be an idea to remove unnessessary categories (although I’d recommend enjoying a smattering of different styles of show, it’s far more fun!)
- click on the Category heading
- click the Data heading in the top menu bar
- scroll to Filter and click it ( then click autofilter if you are using Open Office)
- a drop-down Triange tab will have appeared beside the word Category click that to open it up
- Click on whatever category you want to remove
- You should now only have the shows in that category
- highlight them and delete!
- click data and filter/autofilter to go back to seeing everything again
- repeat as necessary
Planning Your Day & Scheduling some Fringe Fun
If you’ve followed the directions so far, then you’re ready to plan out some shows you want to see!
- The first step should be to highlight any box on the Top Row on the guide, (the one with Show Title, Length, Category, Venue etc etc…)
- then click Data, then Filter, (then finally Autofilter in Open Office)
- A small downward pointing triangle should now be in the right of each cell on that top row. This is fine.
- If you want, then click the triangle in the Category list. Then whatever show category you wish to see that day (e.g Comedy)
- You should now only see the Comedy shows, (You can undo this by simply clicking the triangle again and Select All)
- Choose a relevant Date you wish to plan out. (For example 6th) 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 6th) & click OK, and smallest to Largest (or in ascending order)
- Now click the triangle on that Date’s cell
- Choose Standard Filter, which will make a new box pop up.
- For MS Office – scroll to the bottom of the checkboxes of times, and uncheck the box marked Blanks
- For Open Office – Under Field Name ensure it says your chosen date (For example 6th) 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 Aardwold Presents: Wet Behind the Ears 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 daily showlist.
e.g. Say you wanted to see a comedy show around 10am on the 6th. You could pick Life Gives You Lemons at 10:15 in The Free Sisters, which is one hour long. Then look down the showlist a few entries and see that at 11:15, David Callaghan: No Momentum is at the same venue, or alternatively Shaken Not Stirred, at 11:40 just down the road at The Mash House, giving you a leisuirely 25 minutes to skip happily down the Cowgate to that venue.
With that all done, and at this point, hopefully, you’ve got a few shows in mind for at least a few days.
But a quick note on the shows, leave enough time between shows to move between one and another. Edinburgh is often thought of as a large village, and the Fringe is mainly based around the city centre, so you can walk across it in 30-40 mins at a leisurely pace. But like all great capital cities, it’s built on seven hills. So wear good shoes! Always factor in the distance, using Google maps or the handy one in the back of the Fringe Programme. Generally I leave at least 20 mins between shows, but preferably you want 45 mins, just in case you need to take a rest break or grab a wee snack somewhere and chat about what you’ve seen with a friend or partner.
A Word on Etiquette
It’s also tempting to think that since a show is free, then you can chat and talk, and I hope my readers are more sensible than that! But it happens. Now in comedy shows, or some others, there is an element of audience participation. But just remember the old quote from the TV show Firefly:
“You’re going to burn in hell… in a very special level of Hell. One they reserve for child molesters, and people who talk in the theatre.”
Everyone loves to have fun in the theatre, or in a comedy show especially. But it’s important to remember that although these are “Free” shows, or “pay what you want” shows, that these are still hard working people on the stage trying to entertain you. As such, it’s still a good idea to drop a few pounds into the bucket or hat at the end of the show. Especially if you had a good time, and enjoyed yourself.
In that same mode, I’ve added a wee donate button at the bottom here. If you found this guide and the attached showlist helpful. I’m more than happy to receive a kind word. But I’ll also happily take the price of a pint of beer or so, if any folks are thus inclined to generosity.