Northern Stage at the Edinburgh Fringe is a year round project for us, as one festival draws to a close we immediately begin planning for the following year. After 6 years we have taken the decision to pause, re-evaluate this project and consult with the independent sector more widely on how we might best use our resources to support artists.


Today, Northern Stage in Newcastle announced it will take a one year hiatus from taking a programme of work to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018 in order to review the current model and consult on potential alternatives as part of its ongoing commitment to showcasing and supporting artists and companies from the independent sector over the next four years.

For the last six years Northern Stage has presented a programme of work at the Edinburgh Fringe. This has primarily been produced by the independent theatre sector from across the North of England, often in co-production/association with Northern Stage or other northern building-based or commissioning organisations. Supported by Arts Council England through Strategic Funds and Northern Stage’s own NPO funding, the programme has been presented in a number of venues - St Stephen’s, King’s Hall and most recently, Summerhall.

Artistic Director Lorne Campbell explains,

“We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved with our partners and the independent sector over the past 5 years - this project has made a significant impact on the careers of a number of artists at a variety of stages in their development. RashDash, Chris Thorpe, Selina Thompson, Javaad Alipoor, Daniel Bye, The Letter Room, The Paper Birds, Unfolding Theatre, Open Clasp, Third Angel and a host of others have had an opportunity to showcase their work at a major international festival, secured future touring, built networks, grown profile, won awards, accessed national and international touring and more. Edinburgh has been transformational and the Northern Stage programme has significantly and tangibly reduced the financial and critical risk of presenting work there.

“We remain absolutely committed to making a significant contribution to the showcasing and promotion of artists and companies from the independent sector, and want to take time to ensure we are doing the most effective thing in the most effective way with a range of partners from across the North.”

Read the full press release

Read Lyn Gardner's article in The Stage.


What will you be doing instead if you’re not taking shows to Edinburgh?

We’re very enthusiastic about collaborating on a platform for artist showcasing, and so we intend to work with partners and the independent sector to deliver a consultation programme between January and June 2018 which will:

  • Interrogate the benefits, barriers, costs and impact of our current showcasing model

  • Investigate alternative models for showcasing, both in Edinburgh and at other national and international festivals

  • Examine how showcasing can better integrate with partner venues’ year-round programming, commissioning and touring strategies

  • Seek the input of promoters, producers and the independent sector on the future of showcasing Northern independent artists

Does this mean that your Edinburgh Fringe programme wasn’t a success?

The fringe programme has been very successful: audiences have grown year on year, and over the last five years productions have won numerous awards from Fringe First, Total Theatre, Spirit of the Fringe and the Carol Tambor Award.

However it is also very expensive: last year almost 70% of the Edinburgh budget went on venue costs staffing and accommodation, rather than directly supporting artists. We want to evaluate whether this is the best possible investment of funding, or if there are alternative models and partnerships that can achieve our ambitions for showcasing the work of Northern independent artists.

What will happen to the funding that would have been allocated to going to Edinburgh? How else will you be supporting the independent sector in the region?

The Edinburgh programme is only one of the ways that we invest in supporting the independent sector in the region: next year we will be investing over £100,000 on everything from actor training and company development, creative residencies, commissions and presentation.

We will also be sharing our learning from five years in Edinburgh through a series of briefings and advice surgeries for companies and artists taking work up to the Edinburgh Festival, which will cover artistic and producing, technical and communications.

We are maintaining our planned investment into the Edinburgh programme across the life of our next four years as an NPO, and plan to reinvest these funds to deliver the response to the consultation process.

Can you help us find other ways to take our work to the Edinburgh Fringe?

In February next year we will be hosting briefings and advice surgeries to share our knowledge of the festival with artists and companies – you will be able to book slots with our Technical, Producing or Marketing departments to get specific advice on your projects.

What about smaller companies and individual artists who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to go to the Fringe without the support of a bigger organisation?

This is the very reason we want to examine our showcasing model: each year we get over 50 applications for only 8 performance slots within our programme. Our programme of support removes much of the risk for the companies performing with us, but it doesn’t remove the full cost of performing in Edinburgh. We have lots of conversations with artists and companies each year about why they want to go to Edinburgh, what they want to get out of it, and whether they are likely to get a good return on the considerable investment of time and money that they will have to put in. Spending the time to examine this closely next year will allow us to better advise and support independent artists in the future.

Will future plans involve a consortium model like you trialed in 2017?

2018 was our most successful Edinburgh Festival yet but while there is great enthusiasm for collaborating on artist showcasing, it became clear that it wasn’t as simple as repeating the current Northern Stage model with more delivery partners. The organisational resource required to deliver a festival venue in another city is significant, and no partner venue had the capacity to lead the project alone. There was also a strong desire from partners to better align showcasing with our year-round programmes of work, including commissioning, co-production, touring models, and alongside our producing, communications and marketing support for the independent sector. If we want a strategic partnership to be effective and sustainable over the next four years, we need to invest the time to make it fit for purpose.