“The Public Reviews” Gets Snubbed by Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Ian Garrett brought this to our attention recently and it’s a very interesting controversy indeed.

Apparently this group The Public Reviews – a group I was unaware of until now (bad me!) consists of “public non-professional reviewers” and has been growing exponentially for the last three years.  In 2009 they were given media/press accreditation by the Fringe Media Accreditation Team (MAT) but this year their request was snubbed.  Apparently because this year they didn’t meet the criteria for accreditation.  And yet the MAT refuses to reveal what that criteria actually is.

What’s even more bizarre is that the actual theatre companies, theaters and producers of the Fringe are more than happy to give The Public Reviews reviewers free access to their shows for review. Apparently they are very happy with the job that they have been doing.

Hmmm.

So Public Reviews wrote an open letter to the MAT.  You can read the whole thing here, with comments so far.

Here’s a nice snippet from the letter:

The Public Reviews was established in 2007 and in May this year we celebrated our third anniversary. The site has the sole aim to provide a unique voice in the world of reviewing, allowing normal (i.e. non-paid or “non-professional”) members of the public to become part of our dedicated and passionate reviewing team; a team that now consists of over 80 reviewers not only in the UK but also in the USA and in Australia.

And this:

In our humble beginnings we were receiving approximately 50 website hits a month but, nevertheless, many theatres including The Chichester Festival Theatre, The English National Opera, and The West Yorkshire Playhouse believed in our product so much that they welcomed us as an accredited media outlet to review their productions. Since then we now review in excess of 90 theatres across the country, also being welcomed as press to many West End productions – a number increasing on a daily basis. We currently receive approx 50,000 unique website hits a month. If that wasn’t enough, we also are invited to interview some of the biggest names in theatre including Craig Revel Horwood, Olivier Award Winning actress Janie Dee, and National Youth Theatre Artistic Director Paul Roseby.

But then came this response from the MAT to this year’s request:

With over 1,500 requests annually for accreditation, we have a responsibility to ensure that those journalists and bloggers who we offer accreditation too [sic] are going to produce reviews that will help performers, many of whom will struggle to recoup the cost of bringing their work to Edinburgh, to sell more tickets.

Many different groups and individuals are using new technology to take reviewing in interesting new directions – such as the aggregating of twitter comments to create a ‘buzz’. Many of these innovative models are carried out by people who do not have media accreditation.

It is worth pointing out that not being accredited by the media office does not prevent a potential reviewer from purchasing a ticket for a show or approaching the producers or venue hosting a show and asking them for a complimentary ticket for a performance. It is also the case that if the producers of a show ask us to arrange a ticket for an individual who is not accredited we are happy to do that”

And here is the letter’s final tossed gauntlet to the MAT:

We feel that this whole process has been patently ridiculous and, at the end of the day, only two parties come out of the whole process worse off. The first is the Media Accreditation Team, who are unable to provide satisfactory responses to, not only our questions, but also the concerns raised by a large number of theatres and members of the public who frequently rely on our reviews. The second (and ironically the one that you purport to help) is the theatre companies. We are one of the UK’s most recognised theatre reviewing websites with a huge following including a vast number of theatre going public and the theatres themselves who have no issues or concerns with quoting our reviews alongside those of The Guardian and The Observer, to name just a couple.

The Public Reviews will continue to grow on a week by week and month by month basis, and it is a shame that such a small-minded and blinkered point of view will mean theatre companies, producers, actors, directors and the theatre going public will be short-changed from our lack of coverage of this year’s festival.

No respect, I guess.  Will be interesting to watch and see what happens.

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Colin Mitchell About the Author: COLIN MITCHELL: Actor/Writer/Director/Producer/Father, award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Broadway veteran, Marvel comics scribe, Van Morrison disciple, Zen-Catholic, a proud U.S. Army Brat conceived in Scotland and born in Frankfurt, Germany, currently living in Los Angeles and doing his best to piss off as many people as possible.

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  1. Hi Colin,

    Many thanks for the article, I have to say I am amazed at the response to our ‘Open Letter’ to the Edinburgh Fringe Media Accreditation Team not only from members of the public who use our site, but also from support from major theatre companies in the UK.

    I can say over a week on we have still yet to receive any sort of official statement from the MAT regarding our questions and we at The Public Reviews await with baited but not held breath(think we may die of asphyxiation if that was the case) for a response.

    As a result of not being accredited this year, the site has grown, the hits to our website has increased by nearly and extra 10,000 results and sites such as yourselves finding out about us.

    We will be going to Edinburgh this year and we will be reviewing the four major venues: The Pleasance, Assembly Rooms, Underbelly and Gilded Balloon have all pledged their support, likewise over 200 other companies have asked us to independently review their productions.

    All that is left to be said is to the MAT – if this is the sort of response we are getting – how can we not be of benefit to those smaller companies screaming for press attention during the worlds largest arts festival?

    John Roberts – Editor

  2. Ian says:

    Hey John,

    You’re welcome down at Venue 13 on lochend close, just let me know when you want to come. :)