Horizon is the new kid on the block, embarking on our first in-person Fringe after delivering a pilot digital showcase in 2021. As a project which focuses on forging reciprocal new relationships between artists making performance in England and international partners, the unparalleled opportunities that the Fringe offers for artists to make international connections are impossible to ignore, and the tangible differences showcasing within the context of the Edinburgh Festivals can make are very clear.

But we know that the Fringe can be challenging, that it operates on a very different economic model to the funded sector and that it doesn’t have the best reputation with artists working in that sector. Even when they are paid to participate, as they are with Horizon, for many artists the quick turnarounds between shows, performing in a non-purpose-built venue with limited tech, or sharing a space with 7 other shows can present barriers to participating. They (and we) worry about venue staff and other artists being exploited, the space for audience care, and how accessible something of this scale can really be.

With these challenges always in mind, we are keen to be part of the change that many partners and stakeholders across the Edinburgh Festivals are seeking to make. We hope that helping to address some of the challenges for the artists we support might positively influence the Fringe ecology. We value the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s status as an international marketplace, alongside the excitement and diversity of the world’s largest arts festival, the opportunities to see work you’ve never seen before and the chance to catch up with many colleagues from across the world.

Back in April of this year, we wrote a short statement about how we choose our Edinburgh venue partners, initiated by a(nother) discussion about pay and volunteering at the Fringe. We picked 4 important areas – Fair Work, Access, Sustainability and Community – which are areas of debate and concern about how the Fringe operates. You can read the full statement here on our website as part of a longer document about our working culture.

The document sets out our aims and commitments in all these areas, and talks about how we will work with partners who share our values. We imagine this to be an evolving document, that grows as we build Horizon and learn from the work we do together. We see Horizon as an opportunity to continue to push ourselves, and colleagues across the sector to work towards best practice in an ongoing way. We aligned ourselves where possible with existing benchmarking systems run by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society – for example the work the Society has done around supporting venues to improve their accessibility, or around identifying venues which meet certain standards of employment and volunteering practice.

We were pleased to see the recent announcement of the Edinburgh Fringe’s six development goals: Thriving Artists, Fair Work, Climate Action, Equitable Fringe, Good Citizenship and Digital Evolution, showing that there’s an alignment of thinking between Horizon, the Fringe Society and the wider Fringe community about the priorities for development. We’re looking forward to getting stuck in and can’t wait to showcase ten exceptional artists making performance in England to international audiences later this month.

Written by Verity Leigh, Project Director

Image: Oozing Gloop The Gloop Show (c) Fierce 2019 credit Manuel Vason