Flyering dressed as a pirate - what could go wrong?Cerian Craske

I went to the Edinburgh Fringe this year for the first time, along with half the population of the Cambridge Theatre Facebook group, and it was a fantastic experience overall. I had no idea what to expect when I went - I usually end up behind the scenes in theatre, but on this occasion I was acting in a comedy musical about pirates. Somehow. I’m still not entirely sure how that happened to me, but I loved it. Our show seemed to attract audiences of mostly children and elderly people, all of whom seemed to have a fantastic time in each performance; particularly memorable was a woman who once sat on the front row and gasped and laughed incredibly loudly at every panto-esque innuendo. 

However, my Fringe experience was not entirely perfect. I was introduced to flyering (bothering people on the Royal Mile to try and get them to come to our show) for the first time - I’m naturally fairly extroverted, so I wasn’t too worried about having to chat to people and bothering them into coming to see the show. A couple of people emphatically told me to fuck off when I gave them flyers, but fair enough, I was flyering early in the morning outside a pub. Our director had decided it would be a great idea for us to flyer dressed as pirates, talking to people in character - what could possibly go wrong? I learnt very quickly that the phrase “Be ye looking for a pirate adventure?” works fantastically on children, and works entirely too well on a certain kind of man. I said it twice to older men and got the response of “only with you, sweetheart” or “only if you’re offering”, and then quickly changed my strategy. 

Harassment is not something you should ever have to expect anywhere, and that includes the Fringe.

I then found out that I didn’t even need to engage with these men in order for them to find me. I was sitting under the arches to the side of the Royal Mile one day, taking a break and scrolling through Twitter, when a man wandered towards me.

“Are you flyering for a show?”

Never one to miss an advertising opportunity, I replied: “Well, not right this second, but yes,” and attempted to hand him a flyer.

“What’s it about?”

I explained that it was a comedy musical about pirates.

“Do you play one of the pirates?” He asked, taking a step closer.

I replied that I did.

“In that case…” He stepped forward again and raised his hands in mock surrender. “Can I be the victim?” There’s a lot to unpack there. I laughed nervously and he went on. “I’ll take a flyer… if I can take a picture of it with the most beautiful pirate.”

I made some excuse as to why I no longer wanted him to have a flyer, and he left. 

Firstly, “can I be the victim” is neither the best nor the most relevant comment which could be made about being a pirate. However, most importantly - why do people think this is okay? I heard similar stories about this kind of behaviour from other women (and men) at the Fringe; people seem to forget that just because you’re playing a part, doesn’t mean you’re not a person underneath it. The comments I got were, at times, fairly funny, such as the multiple pitiful attempts at pirate-themed pickup lines, but it all had the same creepy undertone. Harassment is not something you should ever have to expect anywhere, and that includes the Fringe - you’re there to have fun and to put on a show, not to get leered at by old men (I can do that quite easily at home without paying for a train ticket to Edinburgh).


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I had a fantastic time flyering at the Fringe as a whole- turns out there are a lot of elderly women who get very excited when you ask them if they want to take over as Pirate Queen. Additionally, my friends and I got into the habit of letting each other know when there were friendly dogs on the Mile, a method of destressing which I would thoroughly recommend. I discovered mac and cheese pies (incredible) and bagpipe music (less incredible) and also got concussed by someone with a keyboard (funnier than it sounds). I will never forget the memories I made but when I go back I’ll definitely be warier of what I say and where I flyer. I’ll also be fully aware that no matter how innocent I think my comment is, there will always be someone out there (inevitably the person I’ve just tried to hand a flyer to), who will think it’s an invitation to flirt or harass. Even if it’s 9 am and someone is playing bagpipes very badly across the street.

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