As the biggest arts festival in the world limbers up for its 71st year, find out what makes the Fringe truly open to all
There's nothing quite like Edinburgh in August. Every year the city plays host to the largest celebration of the arts in the world, with hundreds of thousands of artists, performers and tourists pouring through the streets, setting up makeshift venues and pop-up bars in every nook and cranny of this historic place. But as the programme swells, so too has the festival itself grown and developed alongside their mandate: to remain as open and accessible to as many as possible. From a single act of defiance to its enduring roots in this most magical of cities, find out how the Fringe remains the greatest show on earth – for everyone.
Police Cops / credit: David Monteith-Hodge
It's been a platform to all artists and performers for over 70 years
Many moons ago in 1947, eight theatre groups rocked up to the then-newly formed Edinburgh International Festival without an invite. Since they didn't meet the EIF's exacting standards, they were summarily shown the door; however, undaunted, they decided to stage their shows anyway at the 'fringe' of the International Festival. These intrepid few were joined by more performers year on year – and that upward trend continues to this day, with 3,548 shows to be held in 2018. A completely uncurated festival, any performer with a story to tell can come and be a part of the Fringe.
As the world's largest arts festival, there's actually something for everyone
You'll have heard it from other festivals before, but no one does it quite like the Fringe. From the highest of high art to the truly DIY, the Fringe has it all and then some. For one month only, classical dramas rub shoulders with puppet cabaret; comedy headliners with the sketchiest of sketch shows. Not to mention the wealth of children's shows, dance, circus, opera, spoken word, exhibitions, music, clowning, opera . . . we could go on and on.
credit: David Monteith-Hodge
The Fringe is also accessible to more people than ever
No one should have to miss out on the Fringe for any reason. The Festival Fringe Society strives to make the festival as inclusive as possible, from providing a Changing Place Toilet in the George Square area to creating sensory backpacks with tools to help people on the autism spectrum make the most of their time in Edinburgh. They also provide an Access tickets service at their main Fringe box office for wheelchair users, people who need extra assistance at a venue or anyone who requires accessibility services, such as a hearing loop, captioning units or a seat with a clear view of the BSL interpreter.
Check out world-class acts, no matter what your budget
There's plenty of ways to do the Fringe without breaking the bank. Hundreds of free shows will be performing throughout August, or you can plan to arrive in Edinburgh before the official start of the Fringe and take advantage of the half-off preview shows, or the two-for-one deals on the first Monday and Tuesday of the festival. There's also the Virgin Half-Price Hut on the Mound that sells thousands of tickets for performances on the day or the next at half the price, which is the perfect way to take a chance on something you might not have heard of before. Who knows – you might very well stumble upon the next overnight Fringe sensation.
credit: David Monteith-Hodge
Take a walk on the wild side with the Virgin Money street events
Want to just soak it all in? Go for a stroll (or rather a slow shuffle) down the Royal Mile and the Mound, which will be transformed into a carnivalesque extravaganza of free street shows, buskers and entertainers, as well as arts and crafts markets hawking all kinds of trinkets and trophies. With over 250 shows a day, as well as four stages of artists performing previews of their Fringe shows, if you're ever at a loss of where to start your Fringe experience, this is the place to be.
It's a truly international festival…
Not only do people come from all over the world to experience the Fringe, the shows and events are also staggeringly global, with over 50 countries represented amongst the thousands of shows taking place this year.
credit: David Monteith-Hodge
… But it's for locals too
The Fringe has been indelibly shaped by the topography and the people of Edinburgh, and vice versa. Not only are 900 Scottish companies bringing work to the festival this year, but over a third of the Fringe audience last year were from Scotland, with over 600,000 tickets issued to Edinburgh residents alone. As testament to how vital the relationship between the festival and the city is to the Fringe, the Fringe Society has gifted £50,000 in vouchers and bus tickets to 29 charities and community groups in Edinburgh, so that residents who have never experienced the festival before will have a chance to do so.
You can get involved!
When they say everyone, they mean everyone - and that includes you. The Fringe Society are hosting an event on 25 August at Fringe Central to answer any and all questions you might have about bringing work to the festival. The world deserves to see your one-woman show, your comedy sketch about your pet cat, or your rockabilly musical about the life and times of Bob Ross. So the only question that remains is – what are you waiting for?
Each year, thousands of performers take to a multitude of stages all over Edinburgh to present shows for each and every taste. From big names to unknown artists looking to build their careers, the festival caters for everyone and includes theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, musicals, operas, children's shows, music…