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Hey, look at me

Pauline McLean | 21:01 UK time, Tuesday, 4 August 2009

It's that time of year when the going gets tough and the tough get desperate. Even the most shameless self promoter will struggle to stay the centre of attention for any length of time in the midst of almost 35,000 performances.

This week is the traditional Week Zero - when venues get up and running - then come, Friday, it's the free for all as the Fringe officially gets underway.

So how to get some attention from the press in the midst of this cultural maelstrom? here are just some of the attempts i've witnessed over the years.

1: Send gifts. The more bizarre the better. We journalists like nothing better than opening a huge cardboard box full of polystyrene chips to discover a small plastic mouse. Or squashed Quality Street. Probably made sense to you but then you have been working in a mad frenzy to get your show ready for the festival and your brain is likely to be as squashed as the quality street.

One thoughtful company once sent a box containing foot gels and other soothing balms in a bid to persuade reviewers to attend their far flung venue. It failed although at least everyone's feet smelt nice.

2: Offer food - strange that anyone should think we hacks are swayed by a squashed Turkish delight in the post, or indeed a small boxed chocolate cake. A colleague once returned from a lengthy stay in the capital to discover a mouldy croissant and a small bottle of flat bucks fizz in her pigeon hole. It was apparently to mark a breakfast launch some weeks before. Timing is of the essence.

3: Show your best stuff in bite-sized chunks. Venues like to showcase excerpts of their best work. These showcases have now become as popular as many of the shows themselves - with countless civilians posing with notebooks, claiming to be critics from esteemed London journals. They also feed and water you well which makes them even more popular.

4: Get naked - if all else fails, take your clothes off. Not convinced that it will gain you any more than a cold, and a night in a police cell if you do it in a public place. Used to work when Edinburgh had its own answer to Mary Whitehouse - Councillor Moira Knox - to express outrage. Less impressive when everyone seems to do it all the time. Chippendales take note.

5: Get controversial. Threaten to smoke onstage despite the smoking ban - although even Mel Smith as Churchill didn't defy the law. Get blasphemous. Get banned. Just make sure someone notices - or your efforts will be entirely in vain. The problem with having so many shows is that moral crusaders can't get round them all - and if they don't bother, neither will the audiences.

6: Get put out of your venue. Whether through flooding, closure, or act of God, a sudden relocation of shows is always newsworthy. Reminds people of the "show must go on attitude" of those early fringe days, even if it's a completely manipulative business move.

7: Get robbed. Preferably of life-sized, hand carved puppets, cartoon costumes or silly hats. Get a sad appeal in the Evening News asking for their safe return and don't forget to mention the place and time of your show in passing.

8: Get lost. Also works for cast members, particularly small children and animal ones.

8: Get a celebrity. Denise Van Outen, Lionel Blair, Alisdair MacGowan will all be spotted doing mundane things around Edinburgh over the next few weeks. But even they will struggle to get a mention without resorting to one of the above. Denise Van Outen may attempt number four. Less advisable in Lionel Blair's case. All will be overshadowed by Peter Andre's arrival at the TV festival at the end of August. Everyone will want to see him shopping in Tesco Metro.

9: Get celebrity endorsement. Sean Connery was asked what his favourite film was at the 2007 Edinburgh International Film Festival. He said Black Watch, which apart from being a stage play at the Fringe, was also completely sold out anyway. Still nice to be able to run the tagline "as recommended by Sir Sean..." Kylie had a similar effect on sales of tickets for the Sri Lankan show she sponsored when she apparently "popped in".

10: Have a great show. The best and most honest way to gain press coverage. Word of mouth will spread quickly and before you know it you'll have people begging to get in.

And whether you're a publicity hungry promoter, an enthusiastic performer or a confused punter, have a great festival. Hopefully bring you the best bits - without the hype, the nakedness or the squashed sweets - here on the blog!



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