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An interview with Sharon Burgess, Assembly Festival

Sharon Burgess Assembly Festival

Edinburgh Festival Fringe is fast approaching and we at Assembly Rooms are delighted to have Assembly Festival back at our venue for 2018. Assembly Festival is the longest running multi-venue operator at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe running five separate sites including Assembly Rooms. With an excellent programme of shows and performances and with excitement building we spoke to Sharon Burgess, Managing Director of Assembly Festival.

What are you looking forward to most about this year’s festival Fringe?

“As with every year – I look forward to seeing lots of familiar faces, be it performers, returning staff or the many friends who come to see the shows.”

Is there anything that sets 2018 apart from previous years?

“Every year our production and tech teams come up with new and fun ideas in our locations, this year we are building a new innovative performance space which will be on George Street, The Blue Room.”

What are the key challenges with programming 28 performance spaces?

“Programming our venues is a huge moving puzzle, just when you find the perfect show, for the perfect space at the perfect time... it all changes again! It’s frustrating and exhausting – but when it works it’s magical! Thankfully it works most of the time!”

What is key to ensuring Assembly Festival operates effectively over five separate sites?

“A great team, we are very lucky to have lots of returning staff year after year who understand the challenges – it really is all about the staff.”

What are some standout facts about Assembly Festival?

“This year we have over 850 performers taking part in Assembly’s 200 + shows.

“As an indication of how much we have grown in the last 5 years - in 2012 we averaged sales of around 8,500 tickets each day during the Festival whereas last year we were averaging between 14/15,000, which is a huge increase in a relatively short period of time.”

What are the highlights of this year’s Programme at the Assembly Rooms and Terrace?

Some of the highlights at the Assembly Rooms this year include: The 7 Fingers from Quebec returning with the UK premiere of their spectacular new show ‘Reversible’ a riveting mix of theatre, circus, dance and music; ‘The Greatest Showman’ singalong screening every night with a variety of different hosts; music from the ‘Choir of Man’, ‘Janis Joplin Full Tilt’, internationally renowned African American singer Andrea Baker, gritty songs by Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Ian Dury in ‘Belly of A Drunken Piano’; plus Sylvester McCoy and Robert Picardo in ‘A Joke’, famous faces and celebrity guests in ‘Once Seen on Blue Peter’, and Olivier award winner Simon Callow in Oscar Wilde’s ‘De Profundis’.

What exciting things are happening at your other sites?

“We have a two storey Treehouse in George Square Gardens with spectacular views - this has been a labour of love by our production team and it’s a wonderful use of Edinburgh’s storm damaged trees. The Treehouse will play host to outdoor performances of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Twelfth Night’ by the world’s first cycling theatre company The Handlebards.

“This Festival we are also out at Murrayfield Ice Rink with ‘Vertical Influences’ from Canada’s iconoclastic graceful contemporary ice skaters Le Patin Libre.

“Behind George Square Theatre we have another new venue ‘The Bubble’ where ‘Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist’ starring Tom Lenk from Buffy, 12 comedians from The Amsterdam Underground Comedy Collective take to the stage and many other huge talents will entertain the hundreds of thousands of visitors at the Festival this August.”

Find our more about what’s on at Assembly Festival this August  - www.assemblyfestival.com