Why I hate this bunch of fizzy-water, arty-farty folk who run Edinburgh

First Person; The promoter Gerry Cottle (right) is a very angry man. His latest show, The Circus of Horrors, is a veritable hit - but the Fringe's haughty habitues disagree
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The Independent Culture
According to the developing critical consensus, conceived in the comfort of favoured media hang-outs such as the Assembly Rooms and Pleasance Theatre bars, there is nothing innovative, interesting or original on the Fringe this year.

Everybody is entitled to an opinion, of course, but as a promoter with long years in the business I sometimes wonder whether there are three parallel Fringe festivals - one attended by critics, one occupied by an elite circle of performers, glitterati, cognoscenti and their camp followers, and the other attended by punters.

The critics have written Edinburgh '96 off. The elitists, on the other hand, are busy polishing up their solo acts with the aim of netting that coveted Perrier Award, whilst throwing up impenetrable barbed-wire barricades to ensure that success - in the shape of critical plaudits and transition from stage to television - is something shared unequally amongst their own self-selecting membership.

The idea of success being measured by popular acclaim ... the thought of success coming in the shape of some kind of ensemble show ... or the concept of success being generated outside the environs of the made-for- television Edinburgh comedy spectacle

But, this year, the punters are flocking to see The Circus of Horrors - which we're staging on Leith Links.

As a company, we've invested a considerable amount of money and more than a year of creative effort in developing this project. We've brought on board some of the best acts in Britain, and allied them to the inventive genius of Pierrot Bidon, the man who conceived and directed the ground- breaking French chainsaw circus Archaos.

We've created something new, energetic, entertaining, exciting and dynamic; we've brought it 400 miles to Edinburgh to showcase it, and, as a result, we're now turning away over 100 people per night.

The Circus of Horrors scored a top-rating of 9 out of 10 and was voted "the show to see" in a public poll presented on television last weekend. America's CNN crew came for 10 minutes, stayed for two hours and described it as "the only really exciting and eccentric show" that they had covered.

And, following visits by agents from around the world, we're now actively negotiating to present the circus at Arts Festivals in Germany, Holland, France, New Zealand and Australia.

So you could say all's well with The Circus of Horrors, and Gerry Cottle has every reason to be a very happy man.

But what is so galling is that the UK media has virtually nothing to say about a show which has attracted such international and popular acclaim. Instead, they talk of a Festival without life, invention or novelty.

Meanwhile, the bar-room hang-outs of the Edinburgh habitues resound to the sound of bitchily dismissive critiques of a "scuzzy" circus which markets itself with an aggressive sense of street-suss, and which wins popular support by the barrel-load, but scores "nil points" in Edinburgh's teaming enclaves of fay, androgynous arty-farty folk.

Perhaps circus is only sexy if it's foreign? Perhaps it's less effort to file that "Fringe is boring" story instead of searching out excitement? Perhaps expense accounts have been cut back this year and the press can't afford the taxi fare to Leith Links?

Or, perhaps, the folk who hand out awards on behalf of a French carbonated- water company haven't the strength of character to take a look at some of the more interesting artistic endeavours which this festival is able to offer.

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