“With great power comes great responsibility,” as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben once said, quoting Voltaire. As President of a student improvised comedy society, I had experienced the same heady power as Spiderman or even Barack Obama, but I was also responsible for producing and directing Bristol Improv’s annual comedy pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. And I would have to do it without the tingling spidey senses that both those superheroes have.
More pressingly, I would have to do it without any money. Bristol Improv have been performing at the Fringe for the past few years – I was in the cast myself for our last show, Channel Hopping! – and, although our production was actually very successful in Edinburgh-terms, in real-world terms, that still meant we made a bit of a loss. That, some unforeseeable costs, and the fact that nobody knew how much money we had, meant that this year’s Edinburgh cast would have to fund the show on our own.
An Edinburgh show is an expensive venture, and one that is unlikely to make any return. By choosing to join Peter Buckley Hill’s Free Fringe, we had avoided pricey venue hire costs and box office fees. As part of the PBH performers, our show, Bristol Improv For Hire, will be completely free entry – although we will be standing outside with a bucket and a hopeful face at the end of each show. However, we will still have to pay for our accommodation, living costs, entry into the Fringe Programme (a cool £295.20 at least), transport, props and tech equipment, publicity materials (like flyers and posters) and preview shows.
I heard about hubbub through the University of Bristol Union; our Vice-President Activities mentioned it in a newsletter. hubbub was still quite new and didn’t have many projects yet, but I was struck by its potential to reach people outside our normal student audience. It is more than just a sponsorship site – crowdfunding encourages people to really get involved with a project and rewards them for their support. Our sponsors have pledged money for everything from VIP tickets to our shows, recordings of our performances and Executive Producer credits. (So far, nobody has chosen a dinner party or even romantic date with the cast…)
When I started Bristol Improv’s hubbub project, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I hoped our parents, family and friends would support us, but I didn’t know how much money we could raise. Our target was a fairly modest £300, which would pay for our early-bird entry into the Fringe Programme (essential for advertising our show to the public and getting reviewed). We were blown away by the support, and the speed with which donations came in. The team’s main strategy was to post links to the hubbub page on our personal Facebook pages, hoping that our friends and family would respond. A fair amount of gentle pestering also helped us reach completion only a few weeks after the project launched!
I am really pleased with the success Bristol Improv has had on hubbub. The Edinburgh Fringe is an unmissable experience, and being a part of it last year was the best thing I have ever done. I wanted the new Bristol Improv-ers (most of our cast only started improv comedy this year!) to have that same experience. We still have a long way to go before we reach Edinburgh, and we hope that we can use hubbub to raise more of the money we need to get us there. So watch this space for more opportunities to get involved with our comedy show, and more rewards for you too!
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