The Edinburgh Fringe (officially the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, commonly just The Fringe) is the world’s largest arts festival. Established in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, it takes place in Scotland’s capital during three weeks every August alongside several other arts and cultural festivals, collectively known as the Edinburgh Festival.
The Fringe mostly attracts events from the performing arts, particularly drama and (the big growth area in recent years) comedy, although dance and music also figure significantly. Theatre events can range from the classics of ancient Greece, Shakespeare and Samuel Beckett, through to new works. However, there is no selection committee to approve the entries, so any type of event is possible: the Fringe often showcases experimental works which might not be admitted to a more formal festival. The organisers are the Festival Fringe Society: they publish the programme, sell tickets and offer advice to performers from the Fringe office on the Royal Mile.
The Fringe has grown dramatically over the 60 years of its existence. Statistics for the 2007 festival which are published on the official website concluded that it was the largest festival on record: there were 31,000 performances of 2,050 different shows in 250 venues. Ticket sales amount to around £1.5 million.
Of the 2000+ shows, theatre continues to be the largest genre. Comedy, the major growth area over the last 20 years, is only marginally behind and may well overtake theatre soon if recent trends are maintained. Other genres include: Dance & Physical Theatre, Music and Children’s shows.
It is possible to sample some shows before committing to seeing them. The best opportunity is afforded by “Fringe Sunday”, which is held on the first Sunday of the festival when many companies, 200 estimated for 2006, perform all or part of their show for free on The Meadows. Alternatively, on any day during the festival the pedestrianised area of the High Street around St. Giles Cathedral and the Fringe Office becomes the focal point for theatre companies to hand out flyers, perform scenes from their shows, and attempt to sell tickets. Many shows are “2 for 1” on the opening weekend of the Festival.
Details of shows, venues and tickets can be be viewed on the Edinburgh Fringe website.