The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the single biggest celebration of arts and culture on the planet. For three weeks in August the Edinburgh Festival Fringe opens the doors, streets and alleyways of an entire city to an explosion of creative energy from around the globe. With 50,266 performances of 3,269 shows in 294 venues in 2016 there are quite literally thousands of reasons to visit the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Every year thousands of performers take to hundreds of stages all over Edinburgh to present shows for every taste. From big names in the world of entertainment to unknown artists looking to build their careers, the festival caters for everyone and includes theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events.
The Fringe story dates back to 1947, when eight theatre groups turned up uninvited to perform at the (then newly formed) Edinburgh International Festival, an initiative created to celebrate and enrich European cultural life in the wake of the Second World War. Not being part of the official programme of the International Festival didn’t stop these performers, they just went ahead and staged their shows on the fringe of the Festival anyway, coining the phrase and the name – the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Since the dawn of this spontaneous artistic movement, millions have flocked to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to produce, and to enjoy art of every genre.
Year on year more and more performers followed their example and in 1958 the Festival Fringe Society was created in response to the success of this growing trend. The Society formalised the existence of this collective of performances, provided information to artists, published the Fringe programme and created a central box office. Its constitution was written in line with the ethos that brought these theatre companies to Edinburgh back in 1947; that: the Society was to take no part in vetting the festival’s programme.
To this day that policy remains at the core of the festival and proudly it includes in the programme anyone with a story to tell and a venue willing to host them.
Fringe is also, of course, still about the fringe. While there’s frequently a number of high-profile performances to attract big numbers, there are always up-and-coming young performers and companies that you can catch before they break big.
Although, you’ll be rubbing elbows with a cultured crowd inside venues, you’ll be sweating it out with the huddled masses in between, as Edinburgh turns into a massive outdoor party for most of the month. Stay as long as you can and soak it up. If the show you’re trying to see sells out of tickets, you can always grab a pint and watch one of the many street performers; you’ll see bands, jugglers, clowns, magic and practically anything wandering the streets.
You can’t go wrong seeking entertainment at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It’s a festival chock full of creativity, color, sights and sounds, and has achieved the goal set more than 60 years ago of “providing a platform for the flowering of the human spirit.”