Steffan Alun: The Festival is Always Worth It

Stand Up Steffan Alun has a fair few things to say about stepping up to stand up at the Free Fringe. We’ve asked him to write an irregular column for us about the whys and indeed hows of performing comedy in Edinburgh.

My first Fringe show has finished its run. Twenty-two performances in a row. And I'm going to say it's been a great success.

We made mistakes along the way, of course. I regret the way the time was printed on the fliers - 24-hour clock, in a font that's quite hard to read. I suppose the silver lining is that almost everyone who came to the show were incredibly determined to come. Despite this seemingly strong effort to keep people away.

I also regret not taking a single day off. I didn't know people did that! Nobody told me! While everyone else was recharging their batteries, I ... had yet another day of flyering and performing. Ah, well. At least the diminished competition boosted our audience.

Thing is, though - I don't regret anything about the show itself. On the circuit, I'm lucky to get one 30-minute spot a month. I've been able to perform for half an hour every day, to audiences who were interested in seeing me do so. Even the four occasions on which we had audience numbers in single figures - those people were generous and supportive, happy to watch us do our thing.

A split show like ours is rarely designed to be a coherent whole. The format doesn't really exist outside of festivals. Rather, they allow performers to hone their craft, to learn and develop - and in August, to come to understand the Fringe itself.

I have learnt so, so much. I can't wait to get back to the circuit, absolutely certain in the knowledge that I'll be providing better entertainment than I possibly could before. I can't wait to write new material, having been granted such insight into the tastes of different audiences.

And I can't wait to come back here next year. Half an hour a day? Next year, I'm intending to do 40 minutes a day. Because the year after that, I'd love to bring up my first ever solo hour show.

I've been so inspired by the shows I've seen. People talk endlessly about reviews and awards and industry interest. But from my perspective, the best thing about the festival is that we can be given an hour a day to do whatever we want.

That's exactly what these artists are doing. I've seen comedians performing with absolutely perfect material, and comedians performing with no material at all. I've seen shows full of music, and shows performed in silence. The most inspiring shows have been the ones where it's clear the artist is doing exactly what they want to do - producing work they're proud of, and delivering that work with absolute commitment.

I have friends who've been less lucky than we were. They struggled for audiences, and even had to cancel a few performances. But I look at the experience they had, and I reckon they've become better comics for it.

At worst, we've spent a month surrounded by great work, with plenty of opportunities to develop our own work. It's been worth every penny and every second.

See you next year!