Observations: When sheep were used to sell tickets on the Fringe

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The Independent Culture

Every August, the Royal Mile, which cuts to the heart of Fringe madness in Edinburgh, is bursting with expectant performers hustling for punters and trying to outdo each other's promotional activities.

Some Fringe stunts are so audacious that they have gone down in Festival history. These include the late inveterate prankster Malcolm Hardee and Arthur Smith colluding on a five-star review of Hardee's show in 1989 and passing it off for publication in The Scotsman.

Hardee also once drove a tractor into the tented venue of American spoken- word artist Eric Bogosian because the noise was disturbing his own show.

PR expert Mark Borkowski , who is a veteran of the Fringe, has a record as colourful as Hardee's, having been responsible for launching the extreme, chainsaw-juggling, circus group Archaos on an unsuspecting Edinburgh public in 1991.

In order to promote their show, the troupe were pictured sawing a car in half on the Royal Mile and leaping over parked cars on motorbikes on the mound.

Later in the Nineties, Borkowski took on the Jim Rose Circus, which provided the PR another opportunity to wind up the press and the authorities.

Among numerous well-documented occurrences, Rose discovered a forgotten by-law that allowed sheep herding up the Royal Mile before 6am and duly obliged.

Some of his flock entered the council offices before being herded out again, a not-so-sheepish gesture of anti-authoritarianism.

Other stunts of note in recent years include a cardboard cutout of Nicholas Parsons stolen from the Pleasance press office.

Photos were subsequently taken of it in various Edinburgh locations including atop an open-roofed sight-seeing bus. Pictures of it were duly distributed and column inches filled.

Inevitably, there are stunts that backfire and some that do damage even at the planning stage.

So it was for Asian comedian Paul Chowdhry's PR, Dion Clements, who was sacked for apparently suggesting that his client dress as a suicide bomber, and get himself arrested.

This year, it's a craft that will be celebrated by a new award called the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. Already being considered for this award is Shed Simove, the Ideas Man, whose publicity material will over the next three weeks be printed on lavatory paper and put in toilets all around Edinburgh.

"Pooblicity", as he calls it.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival runs until 31 August

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