Busking is a lottery at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Mon Aug 10, 2009 3:45pm EDT
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By Paul Casciato

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Before the jugglers, acrobats and comedians hit the streets of the Scottish capital to busk at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe there's morning coffee, a chat among colleagues and the lottery.

The three-week long Fringe welcomes street performers of every type to provide the raucous carnival atmosphere, from young men dressed as poppies to high-flying acrobats who have honed their skills for years. But providing space for the top street acts is a carefully managed process.

Hundreds of buskers and street troupes coming to perform at Edinburgh must apply to the Fringe based on their abilities to hold the attention of an audience by size and time to sort out which spaces are suitable.

Then they must enter their names in a lottery for the chance to have the best spots for drawing crowds and earning money.

"It's one of the few jobs where a lottery defines your daily work rate," street comedian Herbie Treehead said.

Treehead, who has been performing at the Fringe for 21 years, told Reuters the lottery system was devised by the performers and run by the Fringe to parcel out the best spaces at the world's biggest open access arts festival.

Just off the city's Royal Mile in a quiet square down a cobblestoned lane top performers turn up for the lottery each day at 10 a.m..

To be eligible for a shot at one of the 4-5 most coveted 45 minute spots, the acts must demonstrate they can hold the attention of a large audience. Fringe officials then draw names from a hat.   Continued...