Maybe the weirdest outcome of theatre – and the most difficult to articulate – is what’s called ‘normalisation’. Theatre generates a lot of behaviours by making them social. This still happens today – although we pretend that the media have a great influence over behaviour, in reality, until something is appropriated on a more local level, it doesn’t have a social impact. Film and TV are a more pure and illusory simulation of this. Theatre grants immediate contact to a new reality, and the nuts and bolts are visible.

That those nuts and bolts, and how they are put together, are important for the meaning of the play itself, is not a new idea (though today we often pretend, or wish, they don’t exist). As Mike Daisey says in his controversial monologue The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: “The way in which a thing is made is part of the design itself”. He’s talking about the iPhone. And technology is a very visible thing today. But it’s still not as visible as theatre.

If you’ve ever been to Edinburgh as a performer or a spectator, you know about flyering in a way that the rest of the world doesn’t. Because flyering in Edinburgh is not only a tradition, it’s a manifestation of the cut-throat nature of the Fringe existence. The average audience of seven, the huge up-front fees artists are paying to be there, the relentless conveyer-belt of competition for audience – these all create conditions where the struggle to survive is won by the most resources and power, to blanket the city with flyers. Your return on investment is directly quantifiable with the amount of waste you produce, the amount of flyers you force into hands on the Royal Mile, and the amount of bollards you fatten with tape and paper.

A lot of artists are reasonably rational, ethical creatures. I imagine many of them have a problem with this scenario, at a time where climate change is moving towards a phase where it will become irresolvable. The biggest arts festival in the world leads the way for trends with these things, so what happens in Edinburgh – these ‘norms’ – gets exported to Australia, to the US and to Canada, as well the the burgeoning fringe scene in continental Europe. So it matters what happens here.

It’s hard to change the rules, and it’s hard to change habit.

This Sunday, James Howie and I, of ASCUS Art & Science, are calling for Edinburgh’s first ever Flyer Free Day.


1) Performers: No flyering on Flyer Free Day
2) Public: No taking flyers on Flyer Free Day
3) Paperless promotion of shows, and acceptance of that promotion, is allowed
4) Minimal writing details on pre-existing little bits of paper you have to hand is allowed
5) If you are being paid to flyer as your job, I recommend suggesting to your employer alternatives to flyering. These may include arming employees with information about the show, having them to actually see the show so that they can talk about it, or encouraging more creative and sustainable promo actions.

We need a new agreement between audiences and performers, one that doesn’t involve reams of pointless waste when it’s both unnecessary and unaffordable.

How will you promote your show on flyer free day? #FlyerFreeDay

To find out more about Flyer Free Day, please visit our website.

Richard’s by-donation End of Species is at a secret location at 8pm until the end of the festival.

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