Page last updated at 11:12 GMT, Monday, 18 August 2008 12:12 UK

More get in on act at Free Festival

By Lucy McCalmont
BBC Scotland news

free festival website
Hundreds of shows are part of the Free festival

As the big venues at the Edinburgh festival continue to increase their prices, a growing number of performers are putting ticket cost decisions in the hands of the audience.

Alex Petty, one of the organisers of the "Laughing Horse Free Festival", said he wanted to returned to the roots of the Fringe.

It was originally formed as a breakaway from the first Edinburgh International Festival to make shows more affordable and accessible.

At the free festival, shows of various types perform for audiences who then decide whether or not to pay and how much.

"This is our fifth year of putting on free shows. Each year we've grown in the number of free shows and the audience has grown with it," Petty said.

He sees the cost of tickets and the problems at the main box office attributing to the success of this year's Free Festival, which has had packed venues throughout the day.

'Bit of everything'

However, the low price of performances does not mean limited shows, he said.

"We've got music, we've got drama, we've even got a 78-year-old stripping granny at one of the venues - a bit of everything, just like Fringe itself."

With the Free Fringe boasting almost 400 shows, performers have also recognised the benefits of performing for free.

Donald Mack is one "Free Festival" comedian who performs his stand-up show every night at Espionage.

He said that without the festival he would not be here.

"It's a festival I really want to be a part of, but I can't afford to do it if I do it the other way.

"Actually, I would be less comfortable if I were in a venue playing to four people, but charging 15 a ticket."

When you pay, you expect a certain standard of entertainment
Lee Gant
Other acts have also said that eliminating the ticket prices has reduced stress and competition.

"At the "Free Festival" there is camaraderie between the performers," said Lee Gant of The Cocksure Cowboys.

"We all know each other at the venues and we all go and see each other and support the shows."

Audiences have also been receptive to the "Free Festival" which enables them to balance out paying for shows and seeing acts for free.

"When you pay, you expect a certain standard of entertainment, whereas when it is free, you don't know what you're going to get and sometimes you get something really good without putting your hand in your pocket, so it's nice surprise," said one festival-goer.

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