The term “Fringe” theatre originated in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1947. The Fringe Festival was born when local artists and activists protested the strict entry criteria into the Edinburgh International Festival, a corporate theatre showcase. Boasting the best in experimental and Do-It-Yourself theatre, it was open to anyone who wanted to participate, and was the beginning of one of the world’s most interesting theatre festivals. Indeed, a whole new style and approach to the craft was developed: risky, experimental, low budget, and wacky; often employing unique venues. The fringe phenomenon spread virally, not only outgrowing the original festival, but multiplying across the globe. There are currently over 30 of them.
Unfortunately, this international festival of anything-goes DIY theatre has recently come under threat from corporate interests: the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) has trademarked the word “Fringe” and begun restricting its use for artists. It is now common to see the festivals heavily endorsing (and even being named after) corporate interests and charging the artists they supposedly support “registration” fees ranging from $400 to $600. Once a popular people’s festival of creative resistance and expression, it is now a co-opted commodity with a corporate agenda. A Fringe™.
In Montreal, summer of 2001, the first show ever in the history of the fringe was kicked out. The Gazette, a Can-WEST Global publication (and corporate sponsor of the Fringe™), literally kicked anti-authoritarian show Car Stories out of the festival. A playful attempt to charge the theatre critic, followed by a satirical critique when she refused to pay, sparked off a chain of disturbing reactions. Not only did The Gazette threaten to withdraw $15,000 in sponsorship, but also halted all fringe reviews. Car Stories was asked to vacate the premises by the end of the day. The Montreal Fringe Festival™ predictably sided with the corporate sponsors. The CAFF™, disregarding its own mandate, sided with the Montreal Fringe Festival™.
Since then, efforts have been made to stop this branding and ownership of our culture and to put the fringe back into the hands of the artists and the community. From this, the infringement Festival was born in 2004 and is now growing rapidly.
Join the infringement and reclaim your culture!!!