What is Swindon Fringe Festival?
Swindon Fringe Festival started in 2013 as Madam Renard’s Mini Fringe. It came about because the co-founders wanted to bring something new to the Swindon arts scene, and for it to be affordable for audiences and artists. As we’ve grown and evolved, our values of being interesting and affordable for all have stuck, but we’ve changed our name to reflect that we include all types of performing arts not just theatre, and that we want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. We’re not a fringe to another festival, but the name lets our audiences know we’re presenting original, and possibly quirkier work than they might usually find in Swindon.
We program 30+ shows per Festival, plus workshops, and we attract local, national and international acts. We aim to be a diverse space for performers - where emerging artists can put on their first show alongside more established artists, and people can present a completed show or work in progress.
We do all the organising, including booking venues, technicians and front of house staff, as well as co-marketing the shows with companies. We don’t charge performers to enter the festival and we pass on 75% of the profits to them.
When is Swindon Fringe Festival
We've historically run annually in April, but this year have set the date for July to be part of the pre-Edinburgh and Camden circuit. Our 2020 dates are 9th - 19th July. Our 2021 and future dates are likely to be in June.
Where is Swindon Fringe Festival?
If you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting, Swindon is a large town in the south west of England. The population is around 200,000. We’re about 30 minutes from Bath, 40 from Bristol/Reading/Oxford, an hour from Cheltenham, 90 minute’s drive from London/Cardiff or an hour by train… We’ve got a 700 seat commercial theatre, a 200 seat arts centre, and a 50 seat independent theatre. There are various arts, literary and music festivals in the town and surrounding area, but we’re the one and only fringe festival.
Who is Swindon Fringe Festival?
We’re run by a crack team of eight and growing - doing it for love as there’s obviously no money in it! :)
Allie – Festival Director
This will be Allie’s fourth Fringe and first as Director. The fringe is a busman’s holiday from her other jobs of… arts grants, marketing, and fundraising. Allie writes, mainly scripts, and loves all stories – from lyrics to dance to radio plays to chatting to someone random in the pub. She loves the danger and energy of live performance and will happily watch all types of show, but theatre and comedy are her favourites, especially new writing. A show that can make her laugh and cry is a winner.
Dom – Technical Manager
This will be Dom’s fifth Fringe. He’s got years of tech experience and has worked his magic on award-winning productions up and down the country, as well as in his day job at Didcot Cornerstone. When he's not playing with knobs in the dark, Dom enjoys music gigs and festivals, travelling and table-top gaming.
Helen – Communications
This will be Helen’s third Fringe. Helen writes plays and scripts, as well as acting and illustrating. Comedy & Star Wars are two of her favourite things. If you’ve got a show with both, she’ll marry your face.
Bios for our new team members coming soon...
What type of shows/acts are you looking for?
Firstly, ignore everything we’ve said in our bios about the type of shows we like as individuals. We don’t program the festival for us; we program it for the lovely people of Swindon and beyond. We and they are interested in all forms of performing arts. Literally anything goes. We’re interested in the quality of the show/act and whether it’s bringing something interesting and exciting to Swindon. It can be an original show or a remake of one of the classics or something uber-experimental. It can be a one-person show or large cast. We program for family, teen and adult audiences, so basically everyone. Artists can be local, national or international. We had performers from as far away as Brazil, Italy and San Francisco and we’d love to welcome other international performers.
We’re keen that shows/acts are diverse – not as a box-ticking exercise, but because we want to attract diverse audiences and think that performers should be of all ages, colours, sizes, genders, sexualities etc, whose work covers a spectrum of subject matters.
As well as presenting shows, gigs and films, we’ll also be running workshops, aimed mainly at families or under 18s.
How long should my show be?
Most fringe shows are 45-60 minutes. We may be able to accept a small number of longer shows of up to 90 minutes if they are of exceptional quality or interest. We're not big enough to programme a show more than once, so it's single performances only.
I’m nervous about applying as I’ve never done a show before
Don’t worry, you don’t need to have done a show before. We’re a festival which supports and promotes new and emerging artists. As part of this, we program most shows as double and triple bills, so performers have moral support from the shows they’re billed with and don’t have the classic worry about ticket sales. We also get audiences to write 'three-word reviews', and we have various 'best show' awards to help artists develop their work and have reviews and awards to quote on their marketing.
How are the shows/acts selected?
Jelly-wrestling battles. We wish! We do our homework, like good boys and girls, and read all the applications individually, then meet up to discuss them all in turn. Quality of the show is always our top consideration. So although we have an eye on which shows might attract the biggest audiences, we’ll still pick ‘niche’ shows which might attach a smaller audience if they sound great quality. Or if it will attract an audience we’re not currently reaching. There are some slots which are genre-specific, for example weekend mornings are for kids shows, weekend evenings tend to be for comedy, but it's not set in stone. Other than that, all slots are up for grabs.
What will it cost me?
We’re an open access festival, so it costs nothing to enter a show. By not charging artists to enter the Fringe, we aim to remove much of the financial burden from companies. As practitioners ourselves, we understand the challenges and financial and logistical pressures of putting on shows, so we do what we can to minimise that for the artists we book.
To try and limit drop-outs, we ask companies to sign a contract once they’ve been formally added to the programme, and pay a £50 holding deposit at the contract stage. Deposits will only be retained if you pull your show out of the Fringe after 1st May 2020 when the Festival programme is ready for printing. Otherwise, it's returned to you within 10 days of your show.
What happens if my application is successful?
*Do a happy dance*. Then, paperwork : )
To perform at Swindon Fringe you’ll need to:
Sign a contract
We’ll send this once we confirm if you’ve been successful.
Provide marketing materials
We’ll need you to send publicity photos, and final blurbs for your show to go on our website, in the print programme, and on social media.
Have Public Liability Insurance (PLI) up to £5m
Let us know if you don’t have PLI as we may be able to add you to ours for a small fee.
Pay a deposit
This needs to be paid within 14 days of your successful notification. It will only be retained if you drop out of the Fringe after 1st May 2020.
Will we get paid?
Of course! Now watch while we do some maths…
Most shows will be scheduled as double or triple bills. Some shows (for example, mixed bill stand-up comedy, and music) may be pay what you want (PWYW). We’ve found that acts actually get paid more this way as audiences are bigger – lots of people are unwilling to pay to see comics/bands they’ve not heard of, even if the tickets are priced reasonably. But by making it PWYW, people take a risk on seeing unknown names as it’s not costing them anything. And once they’ve seen the acts and had a good night, they happily pay an average of about £5 each. Experience has shown us that if we charged £5 upfront, we’d likely get only a third of the audience.
We pay the costs of all venue hire, technicians, kit, marketing etc from the total takings of the whole festival. We then divide the total cost between all of the shows. From the profit that leaves, shows are paid according to the number of tickets their show sells, with 75% of the profits going to the acts and 25% to us to cover our expenses (bus fares, post-fringe rehab etc).
To manage expectations, it’s fringe theatre, so you’re not going to make a fortune. But, it’s not going to cost you a fortune like some festivals can.
Here’s an idea of some of 2018 numbers:
No shows had zero audience members
Eight shows had single figure audience numbers.
Four had 10-19
Ten had 20-29
Two had 30-39
One had 40-49
Two had 50-59
Two had 60-69
Lowest audience number: 5
Lowest a ticketed show was paid: £18.59
Lowest a PWYW show was paid: £36.61
Audience size varied depending on the type of show. Comedy and family shows were our best sellers.
The longer we run the Fringe the more we learn, the better our marketing expertise gets, and the bigger our audiences grow. We’re aiming for a 20% increase on audience sizes next year with no show having single figure audiences.
It takes us a few weeks to reconcile all of the finance after the fringe, but we aim to pay artists within 30 days of the festival ending. Payment is made by bank transfer.
Do we need to find our own venue?
No. We source and book venues and schedule shows in venues appropriate to their size and requirements. For 2020 we're aiming to have all shows in the same venue so we've not got shows competing against each other. It's a really flexible space and can fit shows from 40 people to over 100.
What type and size of venues do you use?
We have used various venues in central locations around the town, and allocate shows to venues according to date availability, show suitability for the venue – which includes size and tech requirements, and the audience size we think they’d attract.
For this year, we're really keen to take shows out of traditional performance spaces - to bring them to audiences who may not feel comfortable 'going to the theatre'. We also want to use a large, flexible performance space with lots of built in amenities. So we've booked a unit in a shopping centre. For anyone who know Swindon, it's the old C&A/TK Maxx/Sue Ryder shop in the bottom of The Brunel Centre. We'll be fully kitting out and decorating the space, which will include a fully stocked pop up bar.
Will we need to bring our own lighting and sound technicians?
You’re welcome to bring your own technician, however ours will be available to assist/run the tech for your show.
How long will we have the venue for to get-in, get-out and tech rehearsals?
Tech rehearsals are limited to approx 60 minutes. If you might need longer, please let us know and we’ll see whether it can be accommodated. Get in & outs can be more flexible.
Do we need to provide people to do front of house?
No, we provide very lovely front of house staff.
How will you promote our show?
We create a programme for the fringe, listing all shows, which we print 10,000+ copies of. These are distributed to fringe venues, and other public places in the area (libraries, pubs, restaurants, cafes etc). We put all the show posters in the venues and other public places in the area, as well as on our website. We get features and interviews with the local print press and radio. For social media, we use Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. We create a Facebook event for each show, which you'd be a co-host of. We have an active social media presence before and during the fringe to promote the shows. We strongly encourage performers to promote their shows and the fringe as a whole as much as possible, as this increases the audience/takings for everyone involved. You can bring or send flyers to be on display in the venues, and you can entry and exit-flyer other shows, or the local area. Unfortunately, we don't have the capacity to flyer for individual shows.
Will my show get reviewed?
We invite local press to all shows to help shows get reviews, which we then share on our social media. We'll also send you contact info for local press when with your contract. We also get audiences to do a 'three word review' for all shows, which go on your show poster.
Where can people buy tickets?
Tickets will be sold online and will also be available on the door for each performance. A limited number of Platinum Tickets will also be available, giving access to ALL festival shows for a one-off fee.
Can I join the team?
Of course! We’re always happy to have an extra pair of hands, whatever your skills and availability, and whether it's for the planning or the festival stage, we can find a role for you. Get in touch via our Contact Us page or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When will I know if I my show gets picked?
We look forward to reading about your show/performance and will be in contact by the end of April 2020. The full programme will be announced by mid-late May.
I’ve got a question you’ve not predicted