Five Pound Fringe - Edinburgh Fringe Festival

This article is from 2009.

Mark Watson

Mark Watson

Gimme Five

The Five Pound Fringe is new for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2009, so Anna Docherty takes a look at the highlights of this innovative budget option

Five pounds. It’s a nice figure - neither too much nor too little. You’d smile sweetly if your granny slipped it into your hand, and likewise you wouldn’t begrudge paying it out for something. That’s the premise behind the Five Pound Fringe anyway, which is a new venture for 2009, offering an array of shows and events at a pocket-friendly five pounds each.

The ethos behind it is that a Fringe Festival experience should be about encouraging people to discover new artists. Festival co-ordinator Lisa Keddie hopes that ‘by offering tickets at a lower price audiences will be more willing to take a chance on an unknown show.’

Indeed, many of us are probably guilty of playing it too safe when it comes to our cultural choices - worried about wandering into unfamiliar waters in case it turns out to be some particularly awful brand of ‘interpretive’ entertainment: tight leotards and uncoordinated arms and legs - eh, no thanks.

But Keddie’s viewpoint is that ‘The Edinburgh Festival should be about taking a risk - you can go and see the big name shows when they’re on tour.’ However, she reassuringly adds: ‘I have personally seen all the acts I’ve scheduled, so I know they’re good.’

The programme will offer an array of live music and theatre, but the main focus will be stand-up comedy. There will be stints from hotly-tipped newcomers like Mark Allen and Elis James, as well as the more familiar face of Robin Ince - who has toured with Ricky Gervais and appeared on comedy panel show Mock The Week.

However, Keddie is perhaps most excited about Mark Watson’s live show - the details of which are being kept a bit of a surprise. But she does reveal that the whole idea for it stems from Watson’s ‘Crap at the Environment’ movement, which he set up in 2007 to unite individuals who openly cared about climate change but were fairly useless at doing anything pro-active about it.

His show will be ‘educational’ and will try to encourage people to do good deeds for the environment right there on the spot. ‘He trained as a climate change lecturer under Al Gore’s guidance and will be using this as the inspiration for his routine,’ Keddie explains. And it will be one of Watson’s now legendary 24-hour epics that there’s really no hope of second guessing anyway.

Previous shows have included web-links to other countries, world record attempts, Matthew Kelly hosting an impromptu Stars In Their Eyes competition, messages from Richard Dawkins, an audience member travelling to France and back, tree planting and mass exoduses to watch sunrises.

It looks like the Five Pound Fringe could turn out to be one of the most exciting budget ventures to hit the Fringe in some time. And with mammoth 24-hour shows for only £5, it means your pennies will go even further. By our calculations Watson’s show works out as less than 21 pence per hour. You probably couldn’t even get Ricky Gervais to scratch his bottom for less than that nowadays.

Mark Watson plays the Pleasance Dome from 1am on 18 Aug until 1am on 19 Aug. For a full timetable of Five Pound Fringe events visit

Thrifty Festival Tips

  1. During the first week of the festival there are often 2 for 1 ticket offers, so make the most of these and keep on the look-out for flyers with special discounts.
  2. Make sure you take advantage of the Free Fringe Festival events - over 150 shows all absolutely free, visit for more details.
  3. Remember to pack your own picnic lunch, as central cafes can be a little expensive and also get very busy at peak munching times.
  4. Save on bus fares by walking as much as you can. Most venues are centrally located and during the festival walking is often the quickest route anyway.
  5. Allow the festival brochure to become your holy bible. It’s free and comes with comprehensive venue information and a detailed map. Money couldn’t buy a better guide for navigating the festival.
  6. If funds run really low, you can always make your own free entertainment. Try playing The Midgie’s ‘Spot The Tourist’ game. RULES: 1 point for a camera round the neck; 2 points for a bumbag; 3 points for a thistle-printed pac-a-mac and a 5-point bonus for every overheard utterance of ‘Edinboro’ or ‘Edinburg’. The first to 20 points wins and has to be bought an ice-cream.

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