Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society and Serco Caledonian Sleeper - Caledonian Sleeper & Edinburgh Festival Fringe Summer Partnership 2015
Impacts: Community & social empowerment, Environment and Tourism
SERCO, the new Caledonian Sleeper provider, took over the service in March 2015. As part of the launch they worked with a number of partners, including VisitScotland, to bring entertainment to the service as part of the launch of their takeover. As the world's largest arts festival, we recognised this as a great partnership opportunity. With a large percentage of participants and audience members travelling to Edinburgh from London, it was clear that there would be a number of ways in which working together would be beneficial. Relationships were forged in late 2014 and continued into 2015 when the partnership was agreed.
The sponsorship provided both performance opportunities and travel for Fringe participants on the Caledonian Sleeper. In exchange for first class return travel to Edinburgh from London, participants performed for 20-30 minutes in the Bar Coach on leaving London. Caledonian Sleeper supported the participants with PR and social media, and participants were also able to distribute flyers on the train. Feedback from participants was generally positive, and most commented that it was an interesting experience. The contract also provided six first class return journeys for journalists (selected by the Fringe Society), editorial coverage in the Sleeper Magazine, and advertising and brand association.
With the financial support from Serco and Arts & Business Scotland we were able to deliver a bespoke online equalities training course. Without this support, we may not have been able to raise funds to deliver the training in 2015. The training was aimed at increasing staff skill-bases and confidence in working with people with accessibility needs to create a positive festival experience for audiences. We know that attitude is key to all audience members having a positive experience, and by creating this online training course we were able to ensure staff were trained in advance of the Fringe starting so they were prepared, informed, confident and positive. Designed specifically for Society staff, the training was also appropriate for other festival staff in venues, box offices and companies, as well as the wider cultural sector in Edinburgh.
Developed by Blonde Digital with content and advice from VisitScotland, Euan's Guide, Tourette's Hero, Attitude is Everything, the RNIB, and Scope, the pilot training course was launched in July 2015. A total of 63 members of staff from across the Fringe core team and Fringe venues signed up to complete the training.
Arts/cultural organisation story
Our aspiration is to be a truly accessible festival and we are working towards the provision of accessibility information for audience members and participants coming to the Fringe each year. We want to use technology to help with our aim to champion accessibility for venues, participants and audiences. Our partnership with Caledonian Sleeper allowed us to take positive steps forward in becoming a more accessible festival, breaking down barriers for performers and audience members.
By improving the service that we provide to visitors to the city we will encourage return visitors, increasing tourism spend, both during festival time and throughout the year. Training staff and improving the visitor experience is at the very heart of this project, developing Edinburgh into a first class tourist destination for everyone. Edinburgh's 12 festivals take place in the city across the year in a combination of year-round and pop-up venues. At the Fringe in 2015 there were 313 venues used for a variety of performances of different size and scale. Training frontline staff at the Fringe, and the wider festival, about general accessibility will have the ultimate benefit of improving experiences for audiences with accessibility needs and will position Edinburgh’s festivals as accessible destinations. The bespoke training modules will include information about the city of Edinburgh as a tourist destination, transport offers, venue and specific festival information, all of which will improve frontline customer services.
Benefits of training staff:
- Staff trained in disability awareness to provide the best service possible to all visitors, during the festival and throughout the year
- Improved information for those visitors to the city
- Continued accuracy in the information that is communicated
- Ensuring that the attitude of all staff is open and confident
- High quality and memorable audience experiences delivered by skilled and passionate people
SERCO/Caledonian Sleeper will be providing performer opportunities on trains for up and coming performers to engage with audiences. They will run the sleeper as a venue on four separate occasions during August, providing free travel for the performer(s), providing performers with the chance to engage with audiences on their way to Edinburgh, as well as supporting performers with PR. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society will be offering the opportunity to performers, and managing the administration of the programming of the events.
The sponsorship includes a bespoke package allowing SERCO/Caledonian Sleeper brand association with the Fringe brand - establishing them as the new contractor for the Sleeper, information on their services across the Fringe estate and support for their events.
- Brand association with the world's largest arts festival
- Access to a large, engaged audience, both nationally and internationally, who are willing to travel
- Support to programme 4 x on-board performances
- Half page advert in the Official Programme
- Editorial on travelling to Edinburgh via the Caledonian Sleeper in the programme and on the planning sections of the website
- Button advert on a tenancy basis on edfringe.com
- Promotion of the partnership on social media and via email bulletins
- Joint press release to be issued by Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society
Feedback from Caledonian Sleeper
The Caledonian Sleeper was delighted to act as a sponsor of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015. The sponsorship was an opportunity for the new Caledonian Sleeper brand to associate itself with the largest arts festival in the world and one of Scotland's most recognisable brands.
The Caledonian Sleeper was keen to use its sponsorship of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to raise its profile among potential travellers, bring the overnight travel experience to life for guests and link the Caledonian Sleeper not just to the act of travelling but with the things to see and do at the festival once visitors arrive. The Caledonian Sleeper was also keen to support the arts by facilitating travel for artists in order for them to perform at the festival.
As a new organisation which took over operation of the service in March 2015, the partnership offered an opportunity to change perceptions, both internally and externally, of what the Caledonian Sleeper experience could deliver for guests.
The sponsorship was useful in demonstrating the Caledonian Sleeper’s commitment to partnership working with Scotland's heritage and cultural organisations and therefore worked to raise the profile of the new service amongst its stakeholders.
It was also one of the first sponsorship commitments that the new organisation made and was a good opportunity to test a range of tactics within the partnership in order to approach 2016 with a clearer understanding of the activities that were most effective in delivering results. The experience also helped to shape new partnerships, and following work with the Fringe, the organisation developed partnerships with organisations including the Glasgow International Comedy Festival and Edinburgh City of Literature Trust.
Since the Edinburgh Festival Fringe partnership, there is a growing confidence to try new things on board and to work with an increasingly diverse range of partners to ensure that the very best of Scotland's cultural events and attractions, food and drink and heritage is showcased on board to guests.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world's oldest, largest and best renowned open access arts festival. Our aim in the coming years is to also make it the most accessible arts festival in the world. We've already taken the first steps in improving the services we provide to people with specific access requirements. Our Box Office team includes Access Co-ordinators who can help deal with individual enquiries about what is available and how accessible specific venues are, and our website and programme have comprehensive accessible information for many shows. In 2015 we extended this service by integrating it across our box office and customer service teams. We know from research that the most important thing that people with specific needs require is accurate information about what facilities are available.
Our primary audience for this project are the 12 Edinburgh festivals, their festival staff, and the staff and volunteers of the many permanent and temporary venues that are situated in, and pop up around Edinburgh throughout the year.
The second audience for this project is the Accessible Tourism market; tourism that caters to the needs of a full range of consumers. The accessible market not only encompasses people with permanent physical disabilities, but also families with young children and senior travellers. This year round market for Edinburgh is growing, with many businesses which cater for this market seeing higher occupancy rates and development of a loyal customer base who keep returning.
Our ambitious project to improve access to the Fringe could only have been delivered through the support of funding partners such as Arts & Business Scotland who allowed us to pilot our project this year. Most of our staff are on the customer service frontline and deal with thousands of public enquiries over the duration of the Fringe. Many of them are not permanently based in Edinburgh but by offering the training online they can complete the course before they arrive in the city and in advance of August. We'll also offer this facility to the staff and volunteers of all 300+ Fringe venues and it is our hope that this online training can be rolled out to our sister festivals and ultimately grow into a resource for the whole city's cultural sector.