It all began with the ethics of neither taking money from artists nor profiteering from them during this year's Fringe season.
I've been mostly offline for the last few years so I'd missed out on the discussions about this year's extortionate charges for Fringe accommodation, but once I had a break in between day jobs from mid-July, I had an idea......
..... and I very quickly ended up with around 50 or more rooms and beds - neither part of Airbnb nor normally available for rent - specifically for Fringe artists and performers. The digs were all around 20ish minutes from Waverley station, with the hosts typically charging around £17/night, £125/week or £450/month - with a few, including myself, not charging at all - because they all felt very strongly about wanting to help out Fringe artists, and doing what they could to help relieve the financial burden of the Fringe as best they could. Additionally, some of the hosts - again, including myself - moved into their living rooms so that they could offer their own bedrooms and spare rooms to artists. I also took on additional properties, where the landlords needed to find people to stay, and I had a nice long list of them to put forward.
During the Fringe, I dealt with 145 Fringe people to arrange affordable accommodation for 187 artists. By myself, and with 13 houseguests of my own to deal with (not concurrently).
At first, artists offered to pay more, and I told them they should put it towards a good cause instead, however after several such conversations, I decided that we had a very good cause indeed - each other - which is how my idea of hardship bursaries originated, which I've named as a Porridge Fund, after the bread fund model.
So far, a mixture of guests and other artists have contributed, with more contributions still to come in, as I did not want to request offered money from artists while their Fringe expeditions were still underway. While of course I would absolutely love more donations from other parties and people, whatever is in the pot by the application deadline is to be distributed amongst some artists in need, and then we can start thinking about next year.
While I've created an application form for artists, to make this as accessible as possible, there is the option to use an online form, a Word form, a standard Word document, a text file, Messenger, WhatsApp, email, voice message or phone call (or to meet in some part of the UK in person and we can go over the questions in a pub or theatre!) If the deadline is too soon for anyone, then it can be extended by a bit - the purpose of this exercise is to distribute money to Fringe artists and nothing else.
As there are still more donations to arrive, I don't yet know how much the final pot will be, and therefore how much can be apportioned per person and to how many people; there seems to be little value in giving tiny amounts to lots of people as, as far as interventions go, that just seems to take reductive too far. For now, I'm assuming bursaries of around £100 - £250, with a limited number of larger bursaries if available. There is a question on the forms asking if assistance is needed with the cost of anything specific.
While I've been offline for so long, and as UK dance - wisely but poignantly - had such a small footprint in this year's Fringe, I've chosen to not recruit any panel judges, as I need their input but can't ask them to work for free.
Lastly, the more donations we receive, the more we can offer to artists who struggled financially during this year's Fringe. As PayPal's Money Pools are no more, I'm using Collctiv, and the donation link is http://bit.ly/PorridgeFund. If you're interested in donating, I can provide an invoice, receipt, balance sheet and / or a conversation if needed.
Not a bad Fringe run, I guess: affordable digs for Fringe artists, and Fringe artists supporting each other.
As for next year...