What is CAFF?
The first Fringe in Canada was the Edmonton Fringe Festival; it was established in 1982. Hoping to provide a direct link between theatre artists and their audiences the festival adapted a simple formula that was created by the Edinburgh Fringe Festival over 50 years ago. The tremendous success and growth of The Edmonton Fringe Festival soon led to the creation of Fringe Festivals right across Canada and the United States with each festival having their own unique and distinctive flavour yet all dedicated to the Fringe philosophy of accessible, inexpensive and fun theatre-going.
In 1990 numerous Fringe producers began to meet annually with their national counterparts to talk about their respective Fringe festivals, swap ideas, and to share resources. As the years went by there was growing concern that the ideals and principles that were originally inherent to a Fringe Festival were becoming more and more muddled by other theatre festivals that referred to themselves as being a “Fringe” but who chose not to abide by these principles.
In order to preserve these “Fringe” ideals and principles these producers came together to form the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals and created the four guiding CAFF principles that are still in place today:
- Participants will be selected on a non-juried basis, through a first-come, first served process, a lottery, or other method approved by the Association.
- The audience must have the option to pay a ticket price, 100% of which goes directly to the artists (government taxes notwithstanding.)
- Fringe Festival producers have no control over the artistic content of each performance. The artistic freedom of the participants is unrestrained.
- Festivals must provide an easily accessible opportunity for all audiences and all artists to participate in Fringe Festivals.
On September 26, 1994 the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals was officially registered as a non-profit organization with the following mandate:
- To safeguard the integrity of Fringe Festivals as outlined in the four minimum criteria
- To recognize that the health of all member Festivals is important to the Circuit and therefore the artists’ health as a whole
- To encourage communication and cooperation between member Festivals thereby fostering the continuity of our guiding principles.
In 1998 CAFF successfully applied to have the terms “Fringe” and “Fringe Festival” trademarked in Canada to ensure that any theatre festival in Canada who wishes to call themselves a “Fringe” would obtain membership in the association and agree to abide by both the CAFF mandate and the four guiding principles.
Since the Edmonton Fringe began back 1982, the Fringe phenomenon has spread across Canada and the United States. There are now 23 members of The Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) including six members in The United States.
Canada now enjoys more Fringe Festivals than any other country in the world and each Festival is a leader in the development of theatre artists and audiences in their community. The “Canadian Fringe Model” (where for an application fee the festival provides the artists with a venue, technician, festival associated publicity and 100% of the ticketed admission price) and the North American Fringe Touring Circuit are also considered by many national and international artists to be the most unique of its kind as no other country provides such a network of festivals where this type of support is offered.
For the artists, the Fringe provides an unequaled opportunity to bring to light new and innovative works or rarely staged classics. It is also a forum for local artists to mingle and exchange ideas with members of the national and international theatre community. For many groups, the Fringe has brought overnight success with productions being scouted and remounted by numerous established companies such as Mirvish Production, The World Stage Festival, Magnetic North, and the High Performance Rodeo. Fringe artists have also gone on to win numerous prestigious awards such as the Chalmers Award and the Governor General’s Award for Theatre.
For the audience, the Fringe is a unique and exciting menagerie of drama, comedy, musical theatre, clown, and multi-media works…a place of discovery and invention. Fringe audiences also have the unique opportunity to interact with Fringe artists and to share their thoughts about the performances while on the festival site. Fringe audiences are also encouraged to spread the word about the great shows they’ve seen and to post their reviews for others to read and consider when planning what shows to see. It is the audiences’ positive word of mouth that has many a time led to productions enjoying sold-out runs at Fringe Festivals across North America.
In 2009 alone, CAFF member festivals featured over 1700 independent theatre productions, had a ticketed attendance of more than 400,000, and returned over $2.8 million dollars in box office revenue to the artists (based on data from 18 festivals.)
BECOME A SPONSOR
CAFF provides unique access to cultured and enthusiastic audiences. For more information about CAFF’s statistics and sponsorship opportunities and benefits, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.