Leadership / 07.06.22
INTIX Pro Lyndsey Jackson at the Center of the Fringe
Lyndsey Jackson is currently the Deputy CEO of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. But she personally prefers the title “professional applauder.” And in her line of work, there is a lot to clap for.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe ranks as the world’s largest arts festival, and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society is the charitable organization that supports the infrastructure that underpins and develops this cultural landmark. As Deputy CEO, Jackson’s primary responsibility is making sure her team has the resources and capacity to deliver a broad array of services to the artists, venues, industry and media involved with the festival. “We also run a box office agency, all profits from which go into the charity to support the Fringe to succeed,” she says.
Prior to Fringe, Jackson had never held a job in the ticketing world. “But it’s at the heart of what we do, helping audiences and artists find each other,” she says. “My love is live performance — drama, comedy, circus, athletics. Anything where talented people showcase their skills for a live audience is where I am most happy. Given my lack of skills in any of those areas, I love being able to do my bit behind the scenes to make it all happen.”
That’s where her self-professed special skill of professional applauding comes in handy. She describes The Fringe as “magical in that everyone who participates can really do it how they choose. We don’t dictate how you operate your venue, sell your tickets, engage with your audiences. This creative freedom is the best thing about the Fringe in Edinburgh, and we love that it means everyone has a truly unique festival — each audience member curates their own fringe. And with over 3,000 shows, there really is something for everyone.
She says, “This is not without its challenges, but they’re fun and satisfying challenges. We aim to be as helpful as we can to support people to ‘fringe’ in their own way, despite only being a small charity underpinning it all.”
So what does she love most about her work? Jackson was quick to respond: “I love that my job is still surprising! I’m on my tenth Fringe in 2022 and each one — including the one that never was [due to the pandemic] — has provided new and different problems to solve and new things for me to learn. The me from 2013 [when she first came aboard as Head of Operations] would have no clue how to solve some of the things 2022 me does on a daily basis, and I love that my job lets me, and my staff, grow, learn and improve.”
And challenges certainly remain even after so long on the job. The biggest in 2022? “Being an annual event is also its biggest challenge at times. You only get one chance a year to try new or different things, which is as scary or frustrating as it is a license to just give it a go. COVID has changed how we approach risk and trying new things. We’re all much more adaptable than we used to be.”
And the Lyndsey Jackson of 2022 can still remember some of the first lessons she learned a decade earlier. She says, “The previous CEO of the Fringe, who appointed me to this role, always used to say, ‘It’s tickets, not kidneys.’ It was a way of saying that while this is important and we want to do the best we can, our work isn’t life or death. I take my work really seriously, but it’s also important to have perspective and be able to leave work at work. I think a sense of humor is essential to that, and I certainly find reminding people that nothing we do is worth an anxiety stomach ache has been helpful to me in my career and helpful to me as a leader.”
For any young women just starting out in the live events space and reading this latest article in our Women in Ticketing series, Jackson offered the following counsel: “Apply for the job! Too often women don’t apply for the big roles because we don’t have 100% of the skills and experience. Whereas guys will go for it if they reckon they can do it and upsell their existing skills. So, if you think you can do the job, then apply. Get someone else to review your application, and ensure you’re selling yourself using active language and all that super positive stuff, and we’ll get more excellent women in the big jobs.”
Looking ahead to the second half of 2022, Jackson was asked if she is generally optimistic, pessimistic or a mix of both regarding where live events are headed. Her response was typical of the thoughtful leader that she is: “I’m optimistic, mostly because being pessimistic doesn’t generally inspire people to get up every day and make a festival happen. But that optimism is only there because we’ve done lots of work to make 2022 happen and to see a return to Fringe in 2022. I think this year’s Fringe will melt away much of the pressure, anxiety and weariness that the last two years have given us. We know it’ll be hard work, but it’ll be worth it to see audiences in shows, artists telling their stories and people having an excellent time!”
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Tags: Leadership , Women in Ticketing