Yesterday, day one of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I climbed twisting streets and wynds until I emerged, slightly breathless, at the head of the Royal Mile, where I was immediately caught in the rip tide of the crowd. It was an exceptionally warm, sunny Edinburgh day, and the very air seemed to be pulsing with music from a percussion band performing in the shadow of the St. Giles Cathedral, while not twenty feet away a man juggled with fire. In the chaos, flyers were thrust at me from all directions, and like a good sport, I took them all. I made my way past feather-bedecked women gyrating to the pounding of the drums, past painted faces and a marionette dancing mournfully, accepting more flyers from show promoters–a man in a snail suit, a group in Victorian dress, a man with a shock of traffic-cone-orange hair. The Fringe creates an inversion of expectations; the more you stand out, the more you fit in. All around me, people clutched cameras and smart phones, and, no doubt, some were also tweeting, Instagram-ing, and consulting the Official 2013 Fringe App, which allows for things like searching for shows and venues, purchasing tickets, and connecting with Facebook and Twitter.
After this first experience of the Fringe, I couldn’t help but reflect on the evolution of the festival from eight theatre groups performing outside the official program of the Edinburgh International Festival in 1947 to the massive gathering it is today–thousands of performers and countless attendees from around the world–and wondered at how festival communication has evolved during that time. In 2013, you’re as likely to get Fringe news from Twitter as on the street.
I even noticed one promotional poster that used Twitter:
This integration of Twitter is appropriate, because Twitter is probably the number one source for social media at the Fringe. The official Twitter hashtag is #EdFringe, and by following this you can find out about shows, get reviews, and generally keep up with the buzz around Edinburgh during this hectic festival season. Many theatre companies, shows and performers have their own Twitter feeds. You can also keep up with the Fringe through blogs, on Tumblr, and on Facebook.
Interestingly, the online Fringe Guide to Selling a Show has tips not only for making effective flyers and posters, but also offers tips for social networking, such as: starting early to build a following online, using the #edfringe hashtag, and connecting with journalists and other companies.
Embracing social media at the Fringe, my colleagues and I will be blogging and tweeting our little hearts out over the coming weeks. Be sure to keep up with our blog as well as our class hash tag #mlsfringe on Twitter (our Twitter feed is also embedded in the sidebar of the blog–how cool is that?). For us, social media is a great way to communicate with each other as we go through the documentation process, to record our experiences and to share and connect.
Note: A version of this post was also published at the Follow the Fringe course blog at http://followthefringe.umd.edu/