Global Justice and the Fringe

A guest blog from Sarah Anderson of the Beltane Public Engagement Network.




Members of the Global Justice Academy are invited to stage their very own Edinburgh Fringe show in 2014.


It’s only a few months since the big purple cow in Edinburgh’s Bristo Square was dismantled, but planning for the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe is already well underway. The Beltane Public Engagement Network is one of the groups intending to stage shows when the crowds descend next August. With luck, members of the Global Justice Academy will be among Beltane’s star performers!

The Beltane Public Engagement Network supports researchers who wish to share their work with a variety of audiences. While based at the University of Edinburgh, Beltane’s core team of two also support public engagement at Heriot-Watt , Edinburgh Napier and Queen Margaret universities. Beltane started life as the Edinburgh Beltane Beacon for Public Engagement in 2008, when its partner universities won a large grant from Research Councils UK. In 2012, when its external grant came to an end, the Edinburgh-based universities continued to fund Beltane.


Beltane supports researchers by providing them with opportunities to develop their public engagement skills. Training is one way to develop skills, but Beltane is keen that people get to put what they learn into practice, too. This is where the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe comes in!


The Beltane-curated Fringe shows will be somewhere that researchers – including postgraduate students – can discuss their more controversial research with a public audience. The shows will be short (50 minutes) and low-key; this isn’t somewhere to hone your inaugural lecture. In fact, we’ve made it a requirement that you spend at least half your show having a conversation with your audience.


Beltane has done the Fringe once before, in August 2013, when it curated 22 shows for the Assembly Rooms Fringe. These shows were very similar to the ones we want to stage in 2014, and covered everything from death (a lot of death) to theatre for foetuses. “Demolish Morningside!” and “Send the Deaf to Orkney!” were the biggest crowd-pullers and, yup, the speakers convincingly argued for exactly what the titles say. Global Justice Academy member Lynne Copson performed “When Harm is Legal” in 2013, and describes the best parts of her experience as:

Hearing what non-academic audiences thought of, and engaged with, my research (partly because that’s part of what I’m interested in in my own research) and also getting to feel like I was part of the Fringe!


The 2013 shows took place at The Famous Spiegeltent, which spends August outsidethe Assembly Rooms on Edinburgh’s George Street. The Spiegeltent is a beautiful Victorian tent which travels from Australia especially for the Fringe, and comes complete with a mirror-ball, a trapeze, and a round-shaped floorspace that encourages genuine conversation. The hope is that Beltane will get to use the Spiegeltent again in 2014.


Beltane is now inviting brief expressions of interest from anyone who would like to have a show as part of the 2014 Beltane programme. The official deadline to send ideas in is very close – 6th December – but we will happily accept ideas until early January 2014. If you plan to send in an idea after the deadline, though, do drop us an email soon to let us know.


Doing a Beltane Fringe show is for you if:

  • You want a fresh perspective on your research.
  • You want to listen as well as talk.
  • You are happy to get your hands dirty when it comes to promotion (or you know someone who is).
  • You are happy to contribute £200 towards your advertising costs.


This probably isn’t the opportunity for you if:

  • You lack a sense of humour – the Fringe is humblingly chaotic at times.
  • You are looking to speak in a formal setting.


We won’t throw you to the wolves – training will be provided. All we ask is that you’re willing.


We’ll see you in the spangly tent!


Further Information


Call for expressions of interest


If you’d like to discuss anything further, please contact Sarah Anderson at the Beltane Public Engagement Network on or 0131 650 4874.

Return to the Global Justice Academy page.