A writer's guide to Fringe journalism – A view from the other side
Behind the scenes at the Edinburgh festivals
This article is from 2011.
Walking around Edinburgh during the month of August is an experience that will stay with you long after the festival crowds have abandoned the capital's streets and returned to whence they came. Areas of the city normally quiet and empty are transformed into a hubbub of activity as tourists assemble en masse, rewarding with monetary contributions performers whom they believe merit the reward while engaging with one and all. If you were to study the scrum that has descended on the streets of the city very carefully however, you may notice something out of the ordinary. Scrambling about within the midst of this joyous group is a different beast, one that casts a face of stone, fully hooded while heinously hurling eager flyering teams out of their way. These creatures are known as Crabbita Grumpiass or locally, The Fringe Journalist.
The Edinburgh Fringe provides a venture into the unknown for any writer attempting to cover it for the first time, and no amount of past endeavour or familiarity with the host city can qualify as full preparation.
The city streets are saturated with pedestrians to such a degree that an overflow regularly occurs, pushing the outermost unlucky soul into the path of traffic. Fear not though, as during festival time there is round-the clock rush-hour every day, the resulting gridlock meaning there is little chance of collision.
For the Fringe journalist, such congestion spells only more heartache. You are due to be at The Stand at York Place in seven minutes. Having dismissed the possibility of fabricating an entire review you exit Pleasance Courtyard and realise that not only do you have no clue of the desired direction but that any attempts to concentrate and rectify the situation are being hampered by the latest happy-go-lucky scamp with an endless supply of flyers, eagerly persuading you to go and see their show. You cannot.
Those who come from far and wide to visit Edinburgh are of course what make the Festival as wonderful and successful as it is, and to single them out would be unfair. This leads us on to the nocturnal bunch, known as The Editors. Residing all the way up in Fringe HQ, The Editors will leave no stone unturned in their quest to dissect your review. As the clock passes 4am, you might breathe a sigh of relief that the day's deadlines have been met, hands shaking with exhaustion you slowly close the laptop and place it out of sight. Know though that ten minutes later – when the beep on your phone alerts you to an email from your editor, clearly wired on their umpteenth cup of coffee and requesting an entire re-draft along with clarification of the star-rating – that you are not the only one. You cry.
There is, of course, so much more to a writer's experience during the Edinburgh Festival than the aforementioned points. For thrill-seekers, try going for a post-show evening stroll around the castle while remaining oblivious to the ongoing Tattoo performance. Making the 1 o'clock gun seem like a party popper, the firework show will have you requiring fresh underpants.
Finally, there is the biggest cliché of all; The Weather. There is a natural inevitability about the Scottish summer rain. So much so that the defining factor in identifying the tourist from the native is an individuals choice of outdoor wear. As a local writer, you have accepted that there is no real answer to the elements, and that sitting through an hour-long show with water streaming from your hair is simply part of the experience.
In truth however, each little gripe that you may have upon leaving the Festival will be overshadowed by something unforgettable. All things considered, The Edinburgh Fringe is the greatest of its kind and to be given the opportunity to spread the word regarding such an eruption of art is something that any writer should grab with both hands, and an experience that will truly last a lifetime.