Looking for laughs in Auld Reekie

Edinburgh Festival

from flickr Creative Commons: ©www.theedinburghblog.co.uk2006

Princes’ Street, Edinburgh, Saturday 15th August 2009. We’re surrounded by a throng of people – all ages, nationalities, some dressed up in random outfits or carrying outlandish props, others clutching their Starbucks coffee observing the jugglers and street performers entertaining people all along the street.  We’re first timers at the Edinburgh Festival, and have done no prior research on what we might want to see.  But we’re here and we definitely want to see something.

One friend goes for a reccy to try and find a Festival guide.  Little do we realise that there is no one definitive guide, or even one Festival. In fact it’s 11 festivals which take place over 5 weeks, with more than 2000 shows at over 100 venues, many shows having several performances a day!  As an information professional I found it fascinating to try and comprehend the information management side of organising something of this scale.

Our challenge was just to find one show we wanted to see, buy tickets for it, find the venue and then enjoy the performance!  With all the variety on offer, this should have been easy, right?  Not so much.  The first problem was finding some information.  We got hold of one of the guides, but it was very wordy – long articles about highlighted shows.  We needed to know:

1.  what was on next (information by time)
2. what was the content of the show/ credentials of the performer (information by content)
3. where was the venue and could we get to it in time from where we currently were? (information by location)

Next stop one of the ticket offices.  Fortunately there was a queue which gave us time to acquire a daily listings guide (see below)


and several flyers thrust at us with comments such as, “It’s a play about 2 ice-dancers in a world without ice!”.  We needed to make a decision quickly, yet we still didn’t feel we had the information we needed.  We could now see what shows were coming up over the next couple of hours but:

- didn’t know anything about them
- didn’t know where the venue listed was in relation to our position

Inside, the show we had picked was sold out but this gave us time to acquire some further info sources and then retire to a cafe to work out our plan.  We were now armed with maps of the venues and a brilliant guide to what was on.  The trick of this guide’s success?  It had arranged the shows by time but had colour-coded them by venue, making it easy to pick out the cluster of venues we knew we could get to and simultaneously to see what the next shows were coming up.  It also had a brief textual blurb about the show and an image as well as ticket and date information:


The Scotsman Edinburgh Fringe Festival Guide

This made it easy to decide there was nothing on in the next hour or two that we either wanted to see or could get to without a trek.  So the decision was made to buy tickets for the following day so that we could see something of choice rather than ease of location.  Our choice?

7 Ages flyer

7 Ages flyer

We liked this because the flyer gives some indication of what the show is about and what to expect i.e. the use of masks, not all scripted etc.  It sounded like something we could relate to that had good potential for making us laugh, but with the appeal of fresh humour through the ad-libbing element.  The fact that Kevin himself was handing out the flyers but talking about it in the third person somehow endeared us to him more as he seemed modest and unpretentious.

As my first time at the Festival I’m delighted that we achieved finding one show to enjoy!  The sheer amount on offer can seem overwhelming especially once you have to factor in the content of the show, the location, the time and your current location.  Different information and the way it was presented certainly helped or hindered our decision making. The information that was most helpful seemed to have been compiled with a good awareness of what a visitor to the show would need to know and presented this in the most concise format.

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