LAST Thursday, the 2020 Edinburgh Fringe was cancelled. While obviously the correct decision given the current crisis, it still represents a major blow to arts performers of all stripes and to many businesses who rely on the massive influx of tourists during the festival. And while not due to take place for another five months, months of preparation have already been put in by people across many industries.

Now, there’s probably a lot of you thinking: “That’s a shame for them, but I don’t live in Edinburgh/have never been to the Fringe so this doesn’t really affect me.”

Well, if you enjoy comedy, on television, radio, the internet or at your local comedy club – and you should support your local club either when they reopen or right now if they’re streaming – this does affect you and has for decades.

Comedians come from all over the UK and the world to perform at the Fringe. It serves as a kind of “Comedian Bootcamp” and it’s not an exaggeration that only the strongest survive. An Edinburgh run is a massive commitment and an even bigger risk.

While The Stand, as signatories of the Fair Fringe Charter, endeavour to look after the acts – ensuring even if they don’t make money, they don’t lose it - there’s only so much anyone, or any company, can do when hundreds, if not thousands, of shows are competing for the public’s attention every day.

Across the many venues that pop up around the capital, some comedians have extremely well-connected agents and dedicated press and flyering teams, while others have their own leg work and a strategically placed bucket for audience members to “pay what they feel” on the way out – if they feel like paying anything. Acts from abroad who fill stadiums at home can find themselves back at square one, distributing flyers to blank-faced tourists and performing critically acclaimed, award-winning shows to four people and a dog.

The outcome? Once the three weeks are up, the highs and lows hit, venues dismantled, the leftover flyers recycled, the blood, sweat and tears (and at some point, there’s always tears) cleaned up, each comedian emerges better at their job for the experience, even if at times it felt mainly negative.

You’d be hard pressed to find a comedian on television or radio that hasn’t done the Fringe. From Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie back in the day, to the acts currently all over your TV – Romesh Ranganathan, Katherine Ryan, Dara O’Briain, Limmy to name a very few – they’ve all done it. John Oliver had another run booked at The Stand when he got the call to head to America.

Not a stand-up fan? Okay. Ever watched Fleabag? Flight of the Conchords? League of Gentlemen? Taskmaster? Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace? Mighty Boosh? All done live at The Edinburgh Festival before being picked up for television.

Whatever happens, August 2020 in Edinburgh is going to look very different. The hard truth is we could still be on lockdown. Even if we have been "released", it’s arguable the world has changed irrevocably. Some people think the days of crowding together are over, others think once the public feel certain the risk has passed, it will be business as usual.

One thing that is certain – even if all restrictions have been lifted, the number of performers will be far fewer than normal. The Fringe Society has stated that they will support anyone who still puts on a show, but it’s unlikely people – especially those who would have travelled to Edinburgh – will have the time or resources to organise events, if any are possible.

However, unlike promoters who come from other parts of the UK and rent space during August, The Stand is already there, and generally operates all year. So, if – and it’s a big if – the doors reopen in time, The Stand is determined to put on as many great shows as possible in those three weeks.

It won’t be the same, that’s obvious, but could serve as an opportunity in some ways. A common – and unfortunately often justified – complaint from local acts is that they struggle to get media coverage at the Fringe, but any shows The Stand do would feature those people heavily, hopefully giving them the attention they deserve. Mark Nelson, host of The Stand livestreams, has recently gone from being well known in Scotland to having his own mini fan club in Jamaica.

You can see feedback from the public in real time during streams and it’s noticeable that – just like the Fringe – people come for the big names, but it’s discovering the great act they hadn’t heard of that makes it special.

This August, be it during live shows or livestreams – and the plan is to keep them up even if you can come for real by that point – The Stand will keep Standing. Let’s Stand together.

The next Stand livestream will be at 8.30pm this Saturday:

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