What is CAFF?

CAFF’s member festivals have worked together for more than thirty years to pioneer a made-in-Canada model unique in the Fringe world. Our festivals are designed to put artists and audiences in direct contact, fostering experimentation and discovery on both sides of the fourth wall. It is a movement for artistic innovation through audience-driven “curation.”

History

The first Canadian Fringe was the Edmonton Fringe Festival (est. 1982). Inspired by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (est. 1947), the success and growth of Edmonton’s adapted formula soon led to the creation of Fringe Festivals across Canada and the United States. Each festival evolved its own flavour to match the distinct personality of its home city, yet each dedicated to the Fringe philosophy of accessible, inexpensive and fun theatre-going.

Ideals

The Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals was formed to protect these five guiding principles:

  • Participants will be selected on a non-juried basis, through a first-come, first-served process, a lottery, or other method approved by the Association.
  • Artists will receive 100% of the tickets and pass price, as agreed upon between the artists and festivals (less any applicable government taxes). Festivals may add a surcharge to tickets and passes.
  • Fringe Festival producers have no control over the artistic content of each performance. The artistic freedom of the participants is unrestrained.
  • Festivals must provide an easily accessible opportunity for all audiences and all artists to participate in Fringe Festivals.
  • Festivals will promote and model inclusivity, diversity and multiculturalism, and will endeavor to incorporate them into all aspects of our organizations including our boards, staff, and volunteers.

Mandate

In 1994, the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals was officially registered as a non-profit organization with the following mandate:

  • To safeguard the integrity of Fringe Festivals as outlined in the four minimum criteria.
  • To recognize that the health of all member Festivals is important to the Circuit and therefore the artists’ health as a whole.
  • To encourage communication and cooperation between member Festivals thereby fostering the continuity of our guiding principles.

Mission

The mission of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals is to unite, support, empower and strengthen member festivals in order to cultivate and foster independent artistic exploration for artists and audiences across North America

Fringe and Fringe Festival are registered trademarks of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) and cannot be used without expressed written permission from the Association. This trademark allows CAFF to ensure that any theatre festival in Canada that wishes to call itself “Fringe” must abide by the CAFF mandate and the four guiding principles.

CAFF Today

There are currently 32 members of The Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals including 11 members in the United States. Canada now enjoys more Fringe Festivals than any other country in the world and each festival is a leader in the development of theatre artists and audiences in its community.

Collectively, CAFF festival audiences are a boon for independent artists. In the last 3 years alone, they have generated more than $10,000,000 in box office revenues, returned directly to our artists.

For Artists

The Fringe provides an unequaled opportunity to bring to light new and innovative works or rarely staged classics. It is also a forum for local artists to mingle and exchange ideas with members of the national and international theatre community. For many groups, the Fringe has brought overnight success with productions being scouted and remounted by numerous established companies such as Mirvish Productions, The World Stage Festival, Magnetic North, and the High Performance Rodeo. Fringe artists have also gone on to win numerous prestigious awards such as the Chalmers Award, the Governor General’s Award for Theatre and Tony Awards.

For Audiences

The Fringe is a unique and exciting menagerie of drama, comedy, musical theatre, clown, dance, and multi-media works… A place of discovery and invention. Fringe audiences also have the unique opportunity to interact with Fringe artists and to share their thoughts about the performances while on the festival site. Fringe audiences are encouraged to spread the word about the great shows they have discovered and post reviews for others to read and consider when planning what shows to see. Typically, it is the audience’s positive word of mouth that has propelled productions to sold-out runs at Fringe Festivals across the continent. 

CAFF Update – Looking back at 2021

As we peer into 2022 and hopefully see the return of full events, we wanted to look back at some of the things the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals has been doing behind the scenes over the past year.

Like many organizations, we continued to deal with the impacts of the pandemic on our members and supported each other through the ever-changing landscape for festivals and events. We also used the time to work on a long list of projects such as:

  • We formed the Touring Artists Committee to look at issues and develop policy specifically for artists on the CAFF Touring circuit once it resumes
  • We conducted two self care workshops including one specifically for BIPOC staff
  • We invited experts to offer workshops for CAFF Producers
  • We held the 2021 CAFF Conference digitally for over 45 participants
  • We created a CAFF Member Code of Conduct and annual check in process. This code of conduct includes specifics about creating a safe, positive, and respectful work and festival environment for participants, staff, and volunteers of member festivals.
  • We created the Touring Artist Code of Conduct that will be revealed in 2022 and implemented when we have our next full CAFF touring opportunity.
  • We helped create the successful pitch for Orlando Fringe to host the 2022 World Fringe Congress
  • We met weekly with all CAFF producers
  • We met quarterly with our Fringes Like Me groups; The Fringes like me are three groups for each festival to self select which they identify most with; StartUp Phase, Growth Phase, and Mature Phase offering a chance for similar festivals to connect with one another and discuss similar issues facing them.
  • We worked on (and are continuing to work on), our website to make it more accessible and user friendly both for artists and for CAFF Producers
  • All CAFF committees met monthly to work on projects;
    • The Diversity Committee
    • The Communications Committee
    • The Membership Committee
    • The Policy Committee
    • The Executive Committee
  • The Membership & Executive Committee worked to help with leadership changes in various fringes

We were not able to run our usual CAFF Lottery for 2022 as most Festivals have held over companies/artists from 2020. That said, we are looking at alternative options, so please look out for an announcement in early 2022.

We are looking forward to the new year and returning to a full festival season. We are hopeful for the future and can’t wait to get back to Fringing with you!

January 10, 2022

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