The Other Fringe: Dublin’s Thriving Festival
by Scott Lyons
“If Joyce and Beckett were around now they’d be priced out of their gaffs by an Airbnb” - David Kitt.
This was recently the title of an article featured in The Irish Times, and it couldn’t be more bitterly true. In recent years, the European headquarters of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Airbnb etc. have all set up shop around the Grand Canal Docks, rather aptly known as Silicon Docks. There are around 7,000 highly paid tech professionals from around the world working here daily, which is, in turn, pushing the prices of the city and rent up whilst kicking many artists further and further out. This is putting an intense strain on finding living and rehearsal spaces, and pressure on balancing money jobs with your artistic profession. Ireland is very nostalgically fond of its previous golden-boy, grey-haired, manly artists but it’s not so supportive and kind to the next generation. To the average Irish taxpayer (especially those in the online comments section of sites like TheJournal.ie etc.), we are just another hindrance to the improvement of their roads, schools, and hospitals.
In WWII, Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts. He replied, “Then what are we fighting for?” In Dublin today, with the support of a few organisations, the artists keep fighting the good fight. One of those organisations is the Dublin Fringe Festival. DFF has been supporting emerging artists of many disciplines for over twenty years and has become a marvel of its own kind. It is the birthplace for many great modern and contemporary Irish plays, which often take the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by storm the following year.
However, unlike the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, DFF doesn’t take over the city. Many Dubliners won’t know or care that it’s on, you won’t be bombarded with flyers on your way to work, and you’re unlikely to bump into anyone dressed up as orange faced Trumps trying to promote their mediocre show. It is important to note that the DFF is an entirely curated festival, meaning it’s not just a free-for-all fest that is consumed by uni improv troupes, acapella groups, and bad white male comedians.
Taking place over 16 days, DFF programmes budding artists (such as Joe Wright’s hard-hitting show Astronaut at the New Theatre), and established artists (such as Peaches performing a one-woman version of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Abbey Theatre). It ranges from theatre to dance to live art installations. This year there’s a strong focus on showcasing the growing Dublin hip-hop scene with Fried Plantains Collective and Mango X Mathman. Some things are free, others range between €10-€15.
The fantastic thing about DFF is that they support their artists year around. From their Fringe Lab HQ, they provide free rehearsal and desk space where possible. They provide excellent production and marketing advice. During the year they run the Scene + Heard scratch festival and hold the platform for Fishamble’s Show In A Bag initiative for actors who haven’t written their own stage play before (which was the birthplace of Emmet Kirwan's Dublin Oldschool), and run the Scene + Heard scratch festival. For shows at the DFF, they run the Information Toolbox, which is a platform to meet and pitch your production to national and international venues and festivals. Though it’s difficult to live and produce work as an artist when you have to pay around €1600 a month for rent, it’s encouraging to know someone out there has got your back.
If you’re an international artist or company and want an alternative to the beast that is Edinburgh, I’d highly recommend giving Dublin a visit this September. It’s a great opportunity to take a look at the vibe of the festival, the venues it has, and the work it puts on. Whilst you won’t be running your show for 26 performances, the Dublin Fringe Festival provides many other comforts and opportunities that you may not get from other festivals. It takes place directly before the Dublin Theatre Festival, where more established companies such as DV8 and Druid perform. My one wish would be to see an alternative free/donation based festival coincide at the same time as the DFF.
Dublin Fringe Festival takes place during 8—23 September 2018.
PS. If you end up in Dublin, get yerself a pint of Murphy’s and some garlic butter fries from Wowburger in Mary’s Pub off Grafton Street. Trust me, you won’t regret it.