Assembly Festival shares secrets of attracting and retaining staff after successful Edinburgh Fringe

The Edinburgh Assembly Festival team of 2022

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DESCRIBED as the ‘powerhouse of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’, Assembly Festival celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2022 by participating in the largest scale event on the planet post-pandemic.

Last month, the Edinburgh based multi-venue operator delivered 240 gigs, a welcome return to the numbers seen in 2019 when Assembly presented 246 shows and welcomed over a million visitors to its 26 performance spaces, bars and concession stalls.

After the cancellation of events in 2020 and a mini festival in 2021, when just 100 gigs took place at its venues, Assembly has worked hard to build an outstanding team.

Dani Rae, Assembly Festival General Manager, shares some of the secrets of attracting and retaining the best staff: “The team on the ground play a vital role. They are the face of all the hard work we put in throughout the year, and we need them to deliver the best possible customer experience. By doing that well, we attract amazing crowds and that helps us to ensure that the most creative and diverse acts keep coming back to us every year.”

This year’s programme included shows from David O’Doherty, Al Murray, Jinkx Monsoon (RuPaul’s Drag Race), Jon Culshaw as comedy icon Les Dawson, and Fringe favourite Reuben Kaye, amongst many more.

Behind the scenes, the Assembly Festival operation is three times the size of the Edinburgh International Festival and plays to an audience the equivalent size of the BBC Proms. As such, it requires immense organisation and employs more than 500 staff every summer.

In addition to the pull of the festival itself, one of the Assembly Festival’s keys to attracting workers each year is the fact that it offers longer contracts across three different festivals.

Dani Rae said: “When it comes to offering a positive employee experience, we’re in the best industry. Working with Assembly offers the chance to see the best work across the largest arts festival in the world. Hosting the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival and producing the Edinburgh Food Festival also means our temporary contracts are longer than others in the season – this helps us give a more rounded experience to our teams and gives a chunky season for folks to return to year on year.”

In recent years, the team has also embraced digital transformation to help remove some of the administrative burden that comes with such a large seasonal workforce.

Dani Rae said: “Making the way we recruit and pay our employees as smooth as possible makes us a more attractive employer. We use Deputy, the workforce management app, to allow everyone to do their jobs better.”

“We also use a recruitment and onboarding system called Team Details, which has streamlined our interview and contracting processes including onboarding to payroll. This and Deputy have been invaluable in keeping the focus on the jobs in hand rather than being bogged down in the admin of it all.”

Another key element for seasonal workers is offering them flexibility and giving them advanced notice and clarity of the shifts that they will be working.

Aïsha, who works front of house with Assembly Festival, explains: “My job is to usher people into the venues for the shows. Having Deputy has made life easier because it means I can still fit things in around my shifts – because I know what my week’s going to look like to a tee, time-wise.”

If you are interested in working with Assembly Festival, please visit the Work with Us page on its website. Winter and summer opportunities coming soon.

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