When you think of art, literature, comedy, what do you immediately relate it to? Entertainment? Pleasure? What about class? With the Edinburgh Festival in full swing, I went to see a show entitled ‘Best in Class’, a project crowd-funded by comedian Sian Davies, in order to give a slot to working class comics in the world’s biggest comedy festival – though only as part of the Free Fringe side-show. When I first heard about this, I was excited to go see a show to which I presumed I would relate, due to my own class, but I was confused as to why it was necessary. These comedians were all hugely entertaining, but generally performers in the free festival do so to make a name for themselves, or as advertisement for their main-festival shows. It turned out that Davies had been offered a place in the festival, but only provided she put down a large deposit – the kind of deposit that is inaccessible to the everyday worker, without large sacrifice. For further inclusivity, Davies was then cut from the festival when they discovered she had been taking GoFundMe donations to fulfil the huge economic aspects of playing the Fringe, as she had ‘misled’ them about her finances.
Why must someone’s ability to perform comedy depend upon their financial stability, especially considering the Edinburgh Fringe prides itself on diversity?
So why must someone’s ability to perform comedy depend upon their financial stability, especially considering the Edinburgh Fringe prides itself on diversity? Will we ever be able to diversify the performing arts if they rely so heavily upon financial independence? It’s one thing having to put down a kind of ‘I promise you’ll make your money back but just in case’ danger money deposit, but why is it over a grand? And why, if you cannot raise that money out of your own pocket, should you be cut if you receive charitable donations?
Because it isn’t for people like us.
All I heard in my head when Sian told this story is the echoes of the people I went to school with – myself included. People who wanted to create art, drama, literature, comedy: these are not reasonable dreams for people like us, people who don’t have the money to support these dreams, or to fall back on whilst we start them up for nothing – whether that be performing the free Fringe, doing unpaid internships, or writing a column for no pay. People like us would naturally have to work three times as hard as those classes above us, to even dip our toes into these dreams. How is this fair?
This is why Sian Davies’s comedy collective of the working class – well worth the watch, by the way – is so vital. If institutions are not providing any kind of support for those who are already walking into these arenas four-steps behind the middle-classes, but are in fact providing further barriers to our getting through the door, then we just have to break it down ourselves.
The more they set us back, the more we have to set ourselves forward. Then maybe, just maybe, our presence in these spaces will elevate our voices, and prevent the hoops specially designed to block our paths in, from existing in the first place.