I spent the month earning pennies at a bar in one of the many venues that pop up for the festival. It was the same first-day-at-school excitement of moving to university all over again. I was meeting people from different areas of the world, forming friendships, and having spectacular nights out in strange and exciting new places. It’s the honeymoon period for an entire new group of people, a stage of incestuous behaviour that, as a result, provides a great piece of staff gossip for the next shift. Freshers’ week, with fewer people. For a month.
A night shift involved drinking shots and soft drinks, consuming more of one than the other depending on how busy the night was. If you were lucky enough to finish before the bar closed, it’s pretty likely that you would join your co-workers and roll down to other bar venues until 5am. If you landed the slightly unluckier night shift, including closing and clean up, you would leave the venue at 5.30am. Still, I can’t complain. Even a close shift ended with a drink and a group of the staff walking to the park in the early hours, watching people make their way to work.
Honestly, there was a lot of bin juice and tiredness to contend with, but it’s in the job description. You get over it and have fun on the night shifts. I would be lying if I claimed to not feel like a true professional when I became able to start pouring the customer a pint of cider and have their change given back to them before the glass over flowed. Sleek, some would say. Other achievements on a Saturday night include a personal mental maths challenge where I attempt to beat the till with my furious arithmetic abilities. Suave, some would say.
My month could have been a lot worse. Day shifts were a dream. A quieter, usually fairly sunny day spent ambling around in sunglasses, socialising, and making plenty of Pimms. Daylight hours were a chance to speak to the performers and front of house team too, bringing in more people to grow fond of (or fancy) after a month of spending everyday together.
Did I see many shows? I must admit I may have gained more of an advantage from my discounted drinks rather than using my free tickets to shows. I saw a few though, including an Australian all male burlesque show entitled Briefs that proved to be very entertaining show with a talented cast, that’s why I went to see them twice! There were some late night comedy shows that were bawdy but hilarious, and a pretty smashing a’capella group… Not too bad, but for a festival that hosts over 2,695 shows, perhaps not the best effort.
It would be rude not to mention that the month ended with some big staff parties. We experienced glamour, courtesy of our employers, after a month of not-so-glamorous work. Free alcohol from the leftovers was our reward after two days of taking our venue down post-Festival. I’ll admit I found it both amusing and endearing to watch all of us clean up after ourselves each night, collecting our glasses or throwing disposable food containers away. We did it all month; it would have been a crime for us to leave the place a mess while we went on and partied the night away at the end of our festival experiences.
Staff nights out were the most exciting. It’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it? Give a room of people who have mingled or flirted all month a bit of alcohol, and the results will turn out as expected – and more. The following days, shocking gossip would leak out about bizarre couplings that were conveniently too late to be gossiped about. Hilarious characters unmasked their sober, quieter guises that they had maintained so convincingly all month and leapt into cracking the jokes and directing the banter. We sat back laughing, in awe of the transformation.
What can I say? I had a mad one! It doesn’t seem real to me, and yet I feel this is the festival feeling anybody can get: the freedom, fun, letting loose. It was exciting to be involved in the other side of the Fringe, knowing the inside as well as out, being there from before the start until after the finish.
I confess my behaviour has been conducted by the nature of the month I’ve had. I’m writing this article sober and I’m sad to say goodbye to August. September, such an ominous month, means to me beginning another new leaf of staying studious and sensible as I enter honours. I have once again become aware of my increasingly rapid approaching graduation. It’s lurking nearby now, and it scares me. But I will work hard, and let my festival fever go. Though perhaps I could wait until after freshers…
Image by Alice Mahoney