ED2012 Festival People ED2012 Interviews

Hartley Kemp, C Venues: The Venue Directors

By | Published on Saturday 18 August 2012

Hartley Kemp

C is one of the biggest venue operations at the Fringe, having run venues in various parts of the city over the last two decades. With the C soco space no longer available (building work having finally begun on the old Gilded Balloon site behind the main C venue on Chambers Street), a new C venue – C nova – has opened this Festival in a grand old building on Victoria Street, joining the other network of Fringe spaces with C in their name. We spoke to C chief Hartley Kemp to find out more.

CC: You’ve got another big new venue as part of the C empire this year in the form of C nova – tell us about that.
HK: We’re really excited about C nova. The venue has three new theatres, a cabaret room, multiple spaces for site specific shows, a film festival and the Registry Bar. The building has a lot of atmosphere and, in terms of design, it is fantastic, with an impressive staircase and central atrium rising up through three floors. It used to be the Edinburgh Registry Office. Of course we won’t be doing weddings during the Fringe, but who knows, maybe some Fringe romances may begin!

CC: You’ve run numerous buildings around the festival over the years, what are the challenges of taking on a new space?
HK: Where do I start? Every building is a challenge, but for different reasons. We have created Fringe venues at almost fifteen different sites over the past 21 years. We build pop-up venues, so we can be responsive to the space and also to what our companies need.

Our buildings are used for different purposes for the rest of the year, so we have to work very closely with the landlords – for example, C too is a church, C aquila a masonic lodge, and C at Adam House is used for exams. C soco was different, in that it was an empty shell, and so we had to put in everything from scratch.

C nova has been unused for some time and has real atmosphere. It offers a great opportunity for us to create unique spaces and for companies to perform in spaces unlike anywhere else on the Fringe.

CC: C is one of the biggest venue operations of the Fringe now, does the scale of it all ever make your nervous?!
HK: There isn’t time to be nervous! We have a fantastic team who really believe in what we do, and everyone is absolutely mad passionate about theatre and comedy. It wouldn’t happen without everyone working together. We throw parties for the staff and companies to mix. And when the venue opens and the audiences start to pour in, it’s like having your own massive house party with thousands and thousands of guests.

CC: How do you go about programming all the spaces?
HK: This year I’ve been spending a lot of time at festivals in Australia, so we have a strong programme of theatre and comedy from there. Our team see a lot of shows throughout the year and we get lots of recommendations. We are known for new writing and new musicals, so that’s a strong part of our programme.

CC: Taking of which, what else should we be looking out for in the C programme this year?
HK: Site specific theatre and circus shows. We’re building a name for circus at C eca. And with our new venue, C nova, we’re able to give companies much more flexibility with their theatre space – companies can build a set to remain in their space all Festival.

CC: In the two decades you’ve been running C, the Fringe has changed a lot. What has got better, and what elements of the 1990s Fringe remain?
HK: There are still a lot of familiar faces here at the Fringe from the early 1990s – that’s probably a good thing, and it is great to see that so many regulars are C graduates. This is what I do in August. The Fringe keeps getting bigger and better. But there are some things I always enjoy: the first day the venue opens, the first five-star review, the first sold-out show, and late nights at Bar Napoli.

LINKS: www.cthefestival.com

Photo: Aifric Ni Chriodain