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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.