Fringe benefits: job highlights and horrors from the Edinburgh Festival 

Performer on The Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

As the world’s biggest arts festival kicks off, recruitment website has spoken to some of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe performers – alongside fellow Edinburgh residents – to find out what lengths they would go in pursuit of that dream job. 

From developing a thick skin working back-to-back shifts in a call centre to watching your hands slowly turn purple from the chemical degreaser as a kitchen porter, this year’s performers are full of stories and experiences that have helped them take a small step forward in pursuing their dream job at the Edinburgh Fringe. 

For those starting out on their comedy career path, the road is rarely straightforward or glamorous. For Nick Cohen, performer and writer of Life with Oscar, his first ‘industry’ job as a runner on a film location saw him suffer constant pranks by the builders next door. 

“Disruptive football chants escalated to laxatives in my tea and being mildly electrocuted with a piece of copper pipe.”

Though in the end, Nick feels it was worth it: 

“Nonetheless it helped me climb up the film ladder which eventually led to living in Hollywood with a double Oscar winner and providing the inspiration for my new show.” 

Often, upon reflection performers may look back at the weird and wonderful jobs they completed with mixed emotions. Ex-Teletubby Laa-Laa, Nikky Smedley, whose show Confessions of a Teletubby reminisces about her life as a giant yellow puppet and part of a “global television phenomenon”, says: 

“Every time I was out of the suit, working on Teletubbies was the best job ever, but inside the suit was a living hell and definitely the worst.” 

Whether the idea of standing up in front of a room of strangers and trying to entertain them sounds like a dream or a nightmare, there is no denying the buzz and energy of the Edinburgh Fringe. Amie Kendall, performing in the eighties-set comedy Gold!, never tires of her festival experience: 

“Every time I arrive and see all the faces I know and love, all the colours of the venues and hear the audience clap at one of the shows I get to play a tiny part in making, I pinch myself.” 

And for Tim Marriot, lead actor in Sherlock-inspired Watson: The Final Problem, working at The Fringe has provided him with some extra special life experiences: 

“The most pinch me moments at The Fringe would be finding myself, thick with a cold, discussing the best recipe for a hot toddy with Eddie Izzard, me dressed in a Victorian frock coat, Eddie in a frock and the bartender unfazed, not blinking an eye, as she made our potions.” 

Tim Marriot in Sherlock-inspired Watson: The Final Problem

However, the life of a performer isn’t for everyone. In a survey of Edinburgh residents, HiJOBS, 43% cited unsociable hours – regularly associated with performance arts and comedy circuits – as a major job turn-off.  Similarly, there was a reluctance to travel too far from home, with just 6% willing to travel more than 100 miles for a dream job.   

Almost four in ten (38%) Edinburgh residents believed it was their lack of confidence that held them back from going for their ideal career. Add to that ‘fear of the unknown’ being quoted by 30% of locals, it appears that it’s mainly internal barriers to be tackled in order to nab that dream job – essentials for a career in performing arts and comedy. 

Dancers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Nevertheless, for those committed to their passion, it’s worth the hardship. Singer and musician Giles Robson, performing at Up Close with The Blues, recalls his time working for a small holiday park chain working six nights and travelling 666 miles every week for six months as challenging, but building a resilience that has served him well:

Although not artistically satisfying, I credit it in hardening me into a professional performer who after this experience could jump on stage and thrive in any set of circumstances and in front of any audience.”  

Laura Saunders, Commercial Director and Founder, HiJOBS said:

“It’s fascinating to learn more about the sometimes-winding career paths of this year’s Fringe performers and the commitments they’ve made in the course of pursuing their dream job. Whether you think they’re fearless or foolish, when it comes to our own careers there is absolute merit in following their example and taking the plunge, even when we risk rejection. After all, the reward could be dreamy.” 

To explore the results of HiJOBS annual job survey visit:

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