The Rigged “Election” or Why the Queens of Fringe Censorship must step down (A salty, Irish-Montreal theatre “rant”!)


[TRIGGER WARNING! Sharp Irish-Montreal humour may offend corporate “Fringe” Managers!]

As an Irish-Montrealer and Fringe theatre artist with both critical thinking skills and a serious trans-generational mental disability (Major Depressive Disorder, a.k.a. “the common cold of mental illness”), I have the proud honuor of being the most censored and excluded Fringe practitioner on the planet! This is no small cultural accomplishment, so please allow me explain how it all happened!

[BTW, if you discriminate against the Irish, LGBTQ, disabled or Other communities, go feck yourself and go read the latest issue of Cosmo instead of this salty, Irish-Montreal Fringe “rant”, you fecker! Major Depressive Disorder transforms you into a “half-living ghost” and is triggered by excessive stress and/or by arseh*oles who discriminate against Others. ;o) ]

Let’s begin with some backstory, shall we?

In 1991, I helped establish the pre-trademarked Montreal Fringe Festival, a grassroots event intended to empower local artists, promote independent and D.I.Y. approaches to the arts, and, of course, to provide more interesting, zany and activist performances for Montreal audiences.

At the time, there were only two regional playhouses in Montreal that offered English-language traditional theatre which was, to be frank, often as boring as shite. With 5 English theatre schools pumping out graduates every year, most actors left for the greener theatrical fields of Toronto, New York, London and L.A.

Knowing that Montreal is in many, many ways more exceptional than these cities, I decided to promote independent approaches to culture and the dramatic arts in Montreal to stem the Anglo brain drain. I even wrote a free guidebook called Doing Theatre in Montreal in association with the Quebec Drama Federation (QDF), a beloved minority-language theatre organization I have belonged to since the early 1990s.

Today, however, I am “banned for life” from the awkwardly named “St. Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival (TM)” and don’t feel safe enough to attend events at the QDF any more.

This unfortunate and bizarre situation all started when I spoke out against the 1998 trademarking of the Fringe, a grassroots arts festival I had helped create to empower artists, not exploit them. This trademark was introduced by the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals without any discussion among stakeholders, democratic debate, or adherence to cultural standards in place at the time. It was widely interpreted as an insidious corporate takeover of a grassroots, populist festival – the once rebellious, inclusive, activist and diverse Fringe.

This 21st Century cultural war between capitalist and anti-capitalist ideologies and forces began in 2001, when my experimental theatre performance, Car Stories, was unceremoniously ejected from the St. Ambroise Montreal Fringe (TM) on orders of a corporate media sponsor.

In 2004, we created the Montreal Infringement Festival in response to the exclusion and corporate manipulation at the trademarked Fringe, and the cultural war has been unfolding ever since all across the planet!

As the trademarked Fringe in Montreal did cultural battle with the infringement, in Buffalo, N.Y., the infringement went on to become the city’s largest, most diverse, and activist festival, featuring marginalized artists from Black, First Nations, LGBTQ, disabled and critical educator (e.g. feminist, postcolonial, anti-capitalist, queer, etc.) and Other communities.

According to cultural expert, LGBTQ ally, and Buffalo News journalist Colin Dabkowski, the infringement is “one of the most important cultural movements to emerge in the City of Buffalo in the past 50 years. If you doubt it you haven’t been paying attention.”

Meanwhile, behind the scenes in the United Kingdom, an entrepreneurial woman named Holly Payton-Lombardo was plotting the ultimate corporate co-opting of the world-wide Fringe movement on a massive scale for personal profit along with her ultra-loyal assistant Cath Mattos. The best way to describe the late capitalist scam is as an international “Pyramid Scheme”, with Payton-Lombardo and Mattos at its very summit, raking in large fees from hundreds of corporate and trademarked Fringe festivals across the planet (on the backs of Fringe artists, who must pay-to-play at these unethical corporate events).

Together, the two late capitalists created the World Fringe Congress (WFC), an event organized by their World Festival Network. This organization “acts as a liaison between festivals and implements cross-festival ideas and relations, such as award schemes, tours and funding opportunities.” They also offer “consultancy, start up and advice to new festivals” for hefty fees. Both organizations were officially founded by Holly Payton-Lombardo, as a “professional” arts administrator with plenty of corporate experience at UK Fringes. Indeed, according to her profile:

“Holly has worked in the festival business since 2001, rebranding the ‘Brighton Festival Umbrella’ and founding the Brighton Fringe, which she then managed for 7 years. She has worked as a Festival Venue Director and in the Senior Management Team of Edinburgh Fringe Society as well as for many UK international Festivals.”

When originally questioned whether the World Fringe Congress would be a good place to debate questions about corporate influence on the Fringe Festivals, especially in Canada, and to discuss the future direction of the Fringe, Payton-Lombardo replied with a dubious lie:

“…the Congress will recognise that there are many models of Fringe and many different ideas within it, without recognising any one model, concept or Fringe as more valid than another.”

Payton-Lombardo invited me to the original Edinburgh World Fringe Congress in 2012 and again in 2014 in an attempt to indoctrinate me with corporate ideology and to co-opt the infringement festivals I had initiated, in addition to over 100 Fringe Festivals from around the planet. Because I have critical thinking skills, I was able to protect myself from Payton-Lombardo’s attempt to magically transform me into one among a flock of corporate “Fringe” sheep while simultaneously challenging her capitalist discourse and sales pitch with anti-capitalist analysis and education.

The New York Times reported at the time:

“Between sips of wine Donovan King begged to differ. “The Fringe has become mainstream junior,” he said in an interview. Mr. King was referring not only to Edinburgh, he pointed out, but to most Fringe festivals, which he feels are too dependent on sponsorships. “I think it’s a corporate sellout and it needs to be reformed,” he said. Mr. King runs the anti-establishment Infringement Festival in Montreal as a reaction against the Montreal Fringe, a sign that the Fringe festival movement has already spawned an opposition party.”

Payton-Lombardo evidently did not appreciate the democratic opposition, as was made obvious in 2016 when the corporate World Fringe Congress was relocated to Montreal, my home city, and placed in the “care” of the trademarked Fringe festivals, held in a capitalist lock by the the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF).

The CAFF World Fringe Congress rejected all infringement festival delegates who applied, including members from marginalized communities (Black, Irish, disabled, LGBTQ, etc.), prompting an official letter of complaint to Shona McCarthy, CEO of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, the ironically anti-democratic organization charged with managing the World “Fringe” Congress.

An alternative, anti-capitalist World Infringement Congress was also offered, which was very 21st Century: diverse, inclusive and involved lots of critical thinking (see links below, if you don’t believe me)! It did not discriminate against marginalized cultures and even invited corporate “Fringe” managers to attend to explain their position in a proposed friendly democratic debate, which in a very cowardly and un-Canadian way they absolutely refused to even consider.

I also had an awkward conversation via video-link with Payton-Lombardo and Mattos on their invention of “World Fringe Day”, a day to cheer-lead the growth of the Fringe (and more potential profits for the top of the Pyramid Scheme).

More recently, our team also asked the WFC to implement a Safe Space Policy to prevent future exclusion of marginalized communities.

The WFC, as represented by CEO Shona McCarthy, refused, despite the fact some of our disabled members cannot participate without a Safe Space Policy for health, safety and medical reasons.

Infringement artists were therefore unable to attend the WFC in Edinburgh in 2018, because the unsafe, toxic and poisonous environment created by CAFF in 2016 in Montreal would have had detrimental effects on the health and safety of our disabled members.

The sick fact is that the CAFF destroyed our intellectual and cultural bonds with our Fringe colleagues by spreading false rumours, such as the bizarre idea that the Montreal Police Force had instructed CAFF to exclude and censor infringement members, including accredited teachers, educators and professors in addition to marginalized artists. Indeed, I received an email on October 4, 2016 from fellow Fringe academic Dr. Xela Batchedler (a.k.a. “Dr. Fringe”), who informed me that marginalized infringement organizers were being excluded by CAFF “because someone at the Montreal Fringe was advised by police…” According to CAFF, infringement artists were suddenly “too dangerous” to attend a corporate event like the WFC, despite previous inclusion in 2012 and 2014 without incident.

Now, just a few short months later, a hotly-contested election campaign was recently held between four Fringe Festivals who were all battling it out for the right to host the next two WFCs in 2020 and 2022. The contenders included Grahamstown (South Africa), Roma (Europe), Adelaide (Australia) and the much-despised CAFF “Fringe” (TM) in Disney-homeland, Orlando, Florida (U.S.A.). The election was held on November 23, with all Fringe Festivals worldwide being granted one vote each.

During the election campaign, when I publicly expressed concern to Holly Payton-Lombardo (on the “Fringe – the Social Managers” secret Facebook page) that if the trademarked Orlando CAFF Fringe were to win, they would likely exclude all artists from marginalized infringement communities again, she started to get angrier and angrier.

In fact, as a licensed English and History teacher and Master theatrician, I would characterize Payton-Lombardo’s reaction as a full and dramatic Chernobyl-like meltdown. In what could be described as “the best Fringe drama of the 21st Century”, critics would surely give the “performance” a 5 star rating!

To thicken the Fringe plot, when Trumpesque Orlando “Fringe” Manager Michael Marinaccio objected to legitimate criticism during the election debates, Holly Payton-Lombardo responded by refusing to allow several other infringement festival managers to be included on the secret Facebook page for political debate during the democratic election.

The Orlando “Fringe” manager, who was demanding the exclusion of all infringement festivals, then began to discriminate against me personally due to my disability, apparently with “absolutely no irony”.  I found these statements to be particularly ignorant and abhorrent, especially because pro-Fringe trademark Marinaccio was actually calling for me to be censored because I am disabled. In doing so, he simultaneously made a mockery of the disabled Fringe community, much like Donald Trump frequently does of the entire disabled community across the U.S.A. and planet.

I wish could say that I was surprised, but the CAFF’s trademarked Fringe Festivals have a disgusting history of discrimination against the disabled who cannot or refuse to accept the hidden myriad of late capitalist strategies designed to feed Payton-Lombardo’s deranged and international “Fringe Pyramid Scheme”.

Shortly thereafter, as I was trying to educate the Orlando Fringe Manager about mental health in the 21st Century Arts & Culture industry (I am a mental health advocate), Holly Payton-Lombardo actually blocked my ability to communicate with my peers, including Marinaccio, during the election debates until November 24 – one day after the election was officially over!

Next, Payton-Lombardo began to use disturbing Orwellian language on the Facebook page I and other infringement managers were banned from:

The term Orwellian connotes official deception, secret surveillance, brazenly misleading terminology and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian ruler. In Payton-Lombardo’s message to “Fringe” managers, which excluded all infringement managers, she embodies the character of “Big Brother” in George Orwell’s literary masterpiece 1984. As in the book,  she rules the “Party”, employs the “Thought Police” to persecute individualism and independent thinking and enjoys an intense cult of personality.

George Orwell himself refers to the bizarre administrative concept of “Doublethink” (the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts). Payton-Lombardo employed this dubious technique by expressing many, many clear hypocrisies to her corporate “Fringe” peers while simultaneously excluding activist infringement managers from responding.

For example, Payton-Lombardo claims that every Fringe Director she has ever met believes artists are the most important people, but the media links below demonstrate the opposite – artists and students being excluded from trademarked Fringe Festivals. She also states that “infringement festivals and artists have a valued place in all society and World Fringe”, despite excluding all infringement festivals in the democratic debates. In another piece of “Doublethink”, Payton-Lombardo claims nobody in the corporate Fringe network has ever excluded people based on “nationality, health, sexuality or socioeconomic status” (she conveniently forgot to mention political convictions, another enshhrined human right prohibited from discrimination), and yet she just excluded infringement organizers who identify with Black, Irish (post-nationality races), disabled (health) , LGBTQ (sexuality), and impoverished (socioeconomic status).

Payton-Lombardo then actually contacted other infringement festivals behind my back in an attempt to label me as “mentally ill” and discourage their association with me in order to join the corporate “Fringe” flock.

Unfortunately for Payton-Lombardo, infringement festival organizers all have sharp critical thinking skills and show solidarity in the face of exclusion, discrimination or oppression as a matter of basic principle. This piece of exclusion and cyber-bullying was, of course, forwarded to me by alert infringement managers.

Things got nastier and nastier when Fringe actually tried to hack my personal Facebook page, which my cyber-security experts repaired and tracked the cyber-hacker to Orlando, Florida.

Once the Fringe’s cultural assault was completed, it appears that Holly Payton-Lombardo finally banned every infringement manager from membership in the WFC, from voting, using the political platform of the Facebook page or attending future WFCs ever again.

This deplorable act of exclusion, racism and censorship essentially rigged the WFC election by eliminating legitimate cultural criticism during the campaign debates. Meanwhile, appeals to Fringe CEO Shona McCarthy to restore democracy and decorum went unheeded.

I decided, as a professional educator, that I had had enough of this oppressive nonsense and so sent Payton-Lombardo a CEASE & DESIST order:

The unethical rigging of the WFC election gave the trademarked CAFF Orlando “Fringe” an enormous advantage over their opponents because all criticism against them had been silenced, forbidden and eliminated, furthering Payton-Lombardo’s deranged “Pyramid Scheme” goal of a pro-capitalist network of trademarked Fringe Festivals that pay her annual fees to be included.

Perhaps not surprisingly, on November 30, 2018 the WFC’s predictable election results were announced by the Head of Participant Services (Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society), Rachel Sanger:

Due to the vote-rigging demanded by the CAFF Orlando Fringe, they actually won the WFC election to host the Congress in 2022. This is very unfortunate because both Adelaide and Orlando Fringes have been criticized as being hyper-corporate, derivative of white colonizer culture, and reeking of white privilege, like most Fringe Festivals in North America, Europe and the Antipodes.

Sadly, the Black and Indigenous Fringe of Grahamstown, South Africa, won’t be hosting the Congress due to the discriminatory, hyper-capitalist and racist vote-rigging, which put them at a major disadvantage over Orlando during the election. The Roma Fringe of Europe, which frequently represents marginalized and persecuted communities, is also excluded due to the vote-rigging.

The racist behaviour and exclusion of marginalized artists from the WFC election, including Black and disabled artists, by corporate “Fringe” managers is extremely disturbing. It can perhaps be best described as an obvious case of White Fragility. According to race scholar and sociologist Robin DiAngelo:

“White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes
intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include
the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such
as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors,
in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.”

This theory corresponds with the racist actions of Payton-Lombardo along with the silence and lack of solidarity towards marginalized and excluded Fringe artists by other corporate “Fringe” managers, almost all of whom are white.

DiAngelo describes this alienating dynamic as such:

“Whites have not had to build tolerance for racial discomfort and thus when racial discomfort arises, whites typically respond as if something is “wrong,” and blame the person or event that triggered the discomfort… This blame results in a socially-sanctioned array of counter-moves against the perceived source of the discomfort, including: penalization; retaliation; isolation; ostracization; and refusal to continue engagement. White insistence on racial comfort ensures that racism will not be faced. This insistence also functions to punish those who break white codes of comfort. Whites often confuse comfort with safety and state that we don’t feel safe when what we really mean is that we don’t feel comfortable.”

In addition, it would appear the corporate “Fringe” Festivals want to encourage more diverse audiences to supplement profits, but certainly do not want more diverse management of the festivals.

In response to the cultural scandal, a Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) spokesperson released the following statement:

“You are chasing an empty story. That UNESCO link look impressive until you actually click on it and read it thru, you will see that it is just a statement on Donovans blog saying he wants to ask UNESCO to do something about something. UNESCO has nothing to do with this conversation and knows nothing about this matter. Putting their name in your article when they have never made a statement or even gotten a request to make a statement would be very dishonest of you as a journalist. It is to be expected from Donovan who is much more concerned with attacking Fringe than he is with running a theater festival, but for a journalist to lead with that pointless link displays a lack of journalistic rigor. If you can’t read past that click bait you have no business calling yourself a journalist.

Try googling Infringement festival and you will find that Montreal Infringement does not come up anywhere in the first or second page, only Buffalo. Also on the first page is this site I urge you to do your due diligence and look at that site, specifically the Brooklyn section, my hometown. you will quickly see that there is no Brooklyn Infringement festival only lifestyle ads. this clearly shows that Donovan has no interest in actually running a Fringe festival as he does zero to market this festival for that participating artists. On the actual Montreal Infringement site details are “still coming” about the 2017 festival, so there is that.

The member (not currently running a festival so not a member) requesting a safe space, is only requesting a space safe for himself, he has no real interest or understanding of the concept of safe spaces, and he also has no interest in running a Fringe festival, only in infringing on other peoples time and energy. Donovan has personal issues that I hope he can deal with, I do wish him the best. But now that this “controversy” has hit my inbox I feel I must respond to say how much of a non issue this matter is outside of Donovan’s own mind.

– CAFF Spokesperson Erez Ziv, FRIGID New York”

* Please note that according to excluded infringement managers, 13/15 infringement festivals run underground for Health and Safety reasons (e.g. Campus Policies, active Conflict Zones, post-Conflict Zones, fear of retaliation by “Fringe” trademark holders, medical reasons, etc.) At this time, only the Buffalo, New York and King’s College, Nova Scotia Infringement festivals operate in public and they did not apply to vote in the WFC election because managers consider the WFC “illegitimate”.

Due to these numerous problems caused by corporate and trademarked “Fringe Festivals, there is a much needed call to action for immediate change.

As such, Holly Payton-Lombardo (Corporate Founder, World Fringe Congress) and Shona McCarthy (CEO, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society) must resign immediately from their official Fringe positions due to anti-Fringe and anti-democratic Election-Rigging, among a host of other unethical practices (e.g. cyber-bullying, discrimination against the disabled, use of Orwellian language, the continual creation and maintenance of unsafe and Kafkaesque spaces, homophobia, racism, human rights violations  – Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Assembly – exploitation of “white privilege”, etc.)

The rigged election results must also be cancelled due to racist, ablest and homophobic exclusion of legitimate Fringe managers, resulting in white colonizer culture “Fringe” Festivals (including one with a trademark) winning in the most unfair and unjust of ways.

Thirdly, the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) must abandon its “Fringe” trademark, implement Safe Space Policies, stop excluding artists and students from doing populist Fringe Arts, and apologize to the infringement festivals and global Culture community for being a bunch of discriminatory and late capitalist arseh*oles.

And last, but certainly not least, to protect the Fringe for future generations of artists and spectators, it is high time for the official Queens of Fringe Censorship to immediately step down – and hopefully go find meaningful employment at their local McDonald’s fast food “restaurant”.

That way instead of bullying, harassing and excluding legitimate Fringe artists with critical thinking skills and destroying the Fringe in the name of late capitalist profits, they will be relegated to making french fries for hungry McCustomers.

It would be poetic justice at its very finest!


Infringefully Yours,

Donovan King, MFA, B.Ed, BFA, ACS, DEC

(* Also proudly mentally disabled, but still able to pay actors union wages and taxes to the government, unlike the able-minded CAFF members who charge artists to play while vacuuming up tax dollars and unethical corporate sponsorship money. Break the stigma against mental health discrimination! As a Mad Pride member, I am very proud to join the ranks of other artists with mental illnesses, including, but not limited to: Georgia O’Keeffe, Ludwig van Beethoven,  Sylvia Plath, Edvard Munch, Vincent van Gogh, and many other influential thinkers. These especially include Irish artists traditionally labelled as “crazy”, such as ghost storyteller Sheridan Le Fanu,  Tarrantinoesque playwright Martin McDonagh, Dracula author Bram Stoker and, of course, Irish punk-folk musician Shane MacGowan!)

(In my humble opinion, if you are not at least a little bit “crazy”, you have no business being at any real Fringe festival.)

(Just an Irish-Montreal giggle! I know these chuckles bite hard, but please don’t take offense if you are a corporate “Fringe” manager!)

p.s. Please consider forwarding this post to your local journalist, blogger or advocate for anti-racism, anti-capitalism, mental health advocacy and pro-LGBTQ inclusion in the culture, plus members of the planetary Fringe community, of course!

If you would like to dialogue about these issues, please shoot me an email at Unlike tone deaf corporate “Fringe” managers, I am open to dialogue, inclusion, diversity and academic analysis about the multiple problems caused by a corporate “Fringe” in the 21st Century that is designed to exclude marginalized and disabled voices in the name of late capitalist profits.

Do you want to help update the corporate “Fringe” to 2.0 (the real Fringe, based on the original 1947 mandate in Edinburgh)?

If so, please complain to the organizations listed below. Tell them:

  1. To cancel the WFC vote due to election irregularities.
  2. To cancel all Fringe trademarks world-wide.
  3. To include infringement artists in the WFC and on its Facebook page.
  4. To stop raping populist events like the Fringe in the name of late capitalist profits.


Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society:

World Fringe Congress CEO:

Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) Executive Directors and Fringe trademark holders:,,,

CAFF Orlando Fringe Festival Senior Management:,,,,,,,,,,





UNESCO proposal to protect the Fringe:




Newspaper article about legal threats against students in Nova Scotia, Canada:


Article and video example of exclusion at Montreal Fringe:


Media example of exclusion at World Fringe Congress (Montreal, 2016):


Media example of an artist being “banned for life” from a now-trademarked “Fringe” that he had originally helped establish:


WORLD FRINGE CONGRESS – Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012 & 2014


Blog (long read) about 2012 WFC and anti-capitalist analysis:


Blog about 2014 WFC and anti-capitalist analysis:




Letter of Complaint about exclusion to Edinburgh Fringe CEO Shona McCarthy


Keynote Speech by Der Kosmonaut (Kasai Dear):


WTF? (What the Fr*nge?!) Presentation by Donovan King



Cultural criticism of trademarked “Fringe” as Uber of the Arts in media article:


Infringement Testimony and Media:


Example of a University describing an excluded Fringe artist as an “innovator”, “thought leader” and “expert in the field”:



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