By Beth Smith – UK Box Office and Production Manager
The prospect of giving up my London life and carting everything off to Edinburgh for a full month of (hopefully organised) chaos was a daunting one. As box office and production manager, I have been preparing for the festival for months (tickets went on sale soon after EFF 2017 finished) but readying myself for a month away is a different ball game.
Not only that, but this year we brought up four shows instead of the usual two. Working the Fringe is notoriously busy for all involved, but double the shows means double the props, double the actors, double the audiences and double the trouble! And this year, I’ve been on the business end of making sure everything is in place.
I started working for ITI just over two and a half years ago, initially in the customer service department. I came up to the Festival for 10 days in August 2016, working Front of House and making sure the shows ran smoothly on the night. It was very different then as Faulty Towers was still at our old venue – B’Est Restaurant, and The Wedding Reception was brand new. Since then, I have taken over both the Production and Box Office departments as manager, which means that this year a lot more responsibility was on me to ensure everything was in place and ready to go.
Throughout this year’s Fringe, I have mostly been found sitting behind the Box Office, ready to greet you as soon as you walk into v119: The Principal Edinburgh George Street Hotel. Box office itself sounds quite straight forward – collect tickets, sell tickets… but there’s so much to consider in such a concentrated space of time.
It’s not just ticket sales; it’s managing allocations, numbers updates, seating plans, end of show reports, this list goes on! Thank goodness that everything has (mostly) been running quite smoothly (with a few hiccups along the way). Our tickets are spread out across our box office and the Fringe, so it’s quite a task to make sure everything’s up to date and we’re not overselling on tickets (there’s always one who manages to slip through the net!). We’re always lucky, though, that these issues are able to be rectified and it’s usually a great show in the end.
Another reason we are lucky is that this month has seen plenty of sold out shows! It’s great because (apart from the obvious) it means we can be ultra prepared in getting everything ready to go ahead of the show. Working on shows that also include a meal component means coordinating with the venue ops team, the kitchen, front of house, and all our admin and performer team to get everything ready – sometimes with a very tight turn around, so sell-outs make the planning for this so much easier and the running all that smoother.
It’s true what they say – nothing can quite prepare you for how busy the Fringe is, nor how tired you’ll be, or how ill you will potentially get. We’ve all come down with ‘Fringe Flu’ at some point over the last three weeks. Working and living so closely together has caused it to be passed around the whole team…sharing isn’t always caring! This year the cold has been particularly pesky too but we are lucky that we have a team so willing to support each other when needed.
All in all it’s been a tiring but rewarding three weeks. It’s really quite a buzz but very intense. I feel lucky that the whole team – admin, performers and hotel staff are all great and an absolute pleasure to work with. There’s one week to go so the fun doesn’t stop here either!!