Resisting The Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Resisting Whiteness have been watching and witnessing the accounts of racism experienced by performers at and visitors to the Edinburgh Fringe festival, from microaggressions to racial profiling.

Recently, Layton Williams – a Black actor and performer – was kicked out of Assembly George Square Gardens for “looking suspicious” and bearing resemblance to someone who had jumped the fence two weeks ago, when Williams was not in Edinburgh. Not only was he removed from the venue unjustly, but he was also treated abhorrently by the staff at Assembly Halls, with one white woman giving him the middle finger, and another member of staff – disappointingly a black security guard – threatening Williams if he posted the content on social media.

Layton Williams’ experience is not unusual. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is controlled by gatekeepers who continue to irresponsibly exert their power and privilege over others. To all the performers of colour who have been denied access to bars behind their white friends, who were let in without passes, or into their own venues despite their faces being on the posters. To all the visitors of colour who have gone out for a fun night only to be ‘Othered’ by  intoxicated people with grabby hands and violent mouths. To all the black and brown residents of Edinburgh who contend with this city’s unacknowledged and rarely-challenged history of white supremacy. We see you.

Black and Brown accounts of experiencing the Edinburgh Fringe such as Layton Williams’ reminds us of what we’ve always known: They like our music, acting and dancing, but they do not like us. They want to be entertained by our bodies, but they do not want to see us as people when we come off the stage.

Edinburgh is a racist city. Edinburgh Fringe is a racist mess. Edinburgh Fringe is nowhere near accessible if, time after time, it allows racism to infiltrate its system with the help of its silent audience. Just by adding some colour to your programme when convenient does not make your festival less racist. This is the point when we should learn about accountability and when we have had enough.

Resisting Whiteness has had enough and stands with Layton Williams, and with those who have experienced the racism of Edinburgh Fringe. We are here for you.

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