The Edinburgh Festival-based Best In Class project is seeking working class comedians to take part in its 2022 Fringe run, and has launched a bursary to help performers who are doing a full run at the festival with their accommodation costs.
Best In Class is a crowd funded profit sharing initiative that champions the talent of working class comedians. The project was set up in 2018 by Sian Davies, a working class comedian from Liverpool. She was invited to audition for a well known Edinburgh Fringe showcase, however was told she would have to pay £1800 to the promoter by the end of the week to secure her place. She set up a crowdfunding page to help with her costs. Within an hour the promoter called her back and dropped her from the audition. Apparently she was not the sort of person they wanted to work with.
Sian decided to turn the situation into something positive. Realising that the barriers facing working class performers in the arts are systemic, she set up Best In Class, organising crowdfunding and showcase shows. Alumni since 2018 include Anna Thomas, Hannah Platt, William Stone, Jordan Grey, Charlie George and Tom Mayhew.
Plans for Best In Class shows at the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe are now in full swing, with the show booked in the Counting House venue daily at 8:45pm. Some of the acts who were due to perform in 2020 finally getting to take part, however, the organisers add: "A lot of changes have happened since the start of the pandemic and some acts have decided the timing isn't right for them this year. They will remain part of the Best In Class family and have the opportunity to take up a place on the show in future years.
"Applications are now open for working class comedians who would like to be part of the 2022 team. Acts commit to a week at the fringe, they arrange their own travel and accommodation. They will fundraise in the run up, taking part in showcases, interviews and other events. Whilst at the fringe they will be involved in flyering and the day to day running of the show. They must not already be taking part in another show but are encouraged to seek spots on compilation shows during their time at the fringe. Acts pay nothing to be part of the show and are all paid for their contribution from the profit that is made."
House Of Class, a new fund established with the help of a Fringe Recovery Grant, has also now been created specifically to support working class acts with rising accommodation costs.
Sian Davies, who is bringing her debut hour of stand-up to Edinburgh Fringe this August, says: "Most performers would be able to focus on their solo show in their debut year. As a working class comic, I don't have that privilege. I will be grafting on three shows a day to make sure my fringe is financially viable. As a working class act there is no safety net, the margins are tighter, the risk is greater. But I believe I deserve to be there, so I make it work.
"A lot of our Best In Class show costs were met by our 2020 fundraising campaign and were rolled over to this year. We want to take this opportunity to extend our support to as many working class performers as we can. Our new accommodation bursary aims to support working class acts who are doing a full fringe run.
"We were awarded a Fringe Recovery Grant which helped to establish the House Of Class bursary. Through this fund we can offer £500 bursaries to individuals to help with the spiralling cost of Edinburgh accommodation. We want to extend this to as many acts as we can so all of our fundraising this year will be directed towards the House Of Class fund. The more donations we get, the more acts we can support.
"This fund is a tangible way to make a difference to working class performers within the industry. People make a lot of noise about encouraging more working class acts to participate in the Fringe. Networking events, regional accents and plays about living under the shadow of a colliery are all well and good, but lived experience shows that the real barrier to participation is financial. I would love to see the big venues, promoters and PR companies contributing to the scheme. The Fringe gave us the money to start this fund, it's time the other big players put their money where their mouths are, so to speak. This is a real way of supporting working class performers rather than just paying lip service to the issue."
The application form to take part in the Best In Class Edinburgh Fringe run is available until the end of April.
Working class performers taking part in a full run at the Edinburgh Fringe can apply for a House Of Class accommodation bursary from 1st May via bestinclass.org.uk