Hundreds of thousands of people will visit the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe to watch music, theatre, comedy and dance in huge theatres, in the back rooms of pubs, on the High Street and in pop up venues which seem to appear from nowhere for the four weeks of August. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is world famous and is the biggest arts festival in the world. What is perhaps less well known is how many people there are behind the scenes making this incredible event possible. Today, we introduce you to David “Davey G” Graham – the Venue Manager at the Underbelly.
The Underbelly venue, run by the events company events company of the same name, started off as one venue but has grown to include 7 venues within the building plus several bars, as well as the Udderbelly at George Square, Circus Hub on The Meadows -new for 2015, two unique venues home to the finest circus acts from around the world – and Topside at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre.
During the 4 week festival pedior, Davey and his counterpart Ted share two shifts, one from 10am – 7pm and one from 7pm – 6am to cover the late license granted during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and work most every day, but their role in the running of the venue starts in July as the Underbelly venue begins to be kitted out in its uniform purple for the event. Davey tells us
The venue has changed massively since it first became a Fringe venue. Up until last year, the building was empty all year apart from these four weeks, which meant it had no power and no lighting, meaning it was a big infrastructure challenge each year and a huge amount of maintenance.
The venue is now partly occupied the rest of the year by Edinburgh’s Bongo Club, which has made the transition for the festival easier.
Once the conversion has taken place and the Underbelly is ready for the festival, Davey and Ted’s job is to keep everything running smoothly, whether that’s fixing faulty taps and sinks, or rushing to a venue which has been plunged into darkness to fix the lighting- “mostly troubleshooting” as Davey puts it.
Despite the increasingly wacky shows and performers that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe attracts, managing an average of 70 shows per day throughout the four week period means that nothing much phases Davey after 9 years, although he did receive one request this year which took him by surprise
One of the shows involves taxidermy and I was called up by someone asking whether it would be ok for a stuffed squirrel to be smoking on stage in one of the venues – that was strange even for the Fringe.
When asked what the best thing about his job at the Fringe, Davey tells us that it’s the people – those who come back every year and those for whom it is their first time working at the Fringe, everyone supports each other and you do start to build good relationships.
Although Davey is a contractor, he’ll be working with the Underbelly events company in Edinburgh again in December as they run Edinburgh’s Christmas.
So if you find yourself at the Underbelly venue this Christmas, keep an eye out for Davey and his radio – the show would not go on without him.