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10 reasons to visit the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
This article is from 2017.
Virgin Money Fireworks / Credit: Dave Stewart
As the greatest show on earth gears up for its 70th anniversary, we look at just some of the reasons there's no place better to be in August than the Festival City
August in Edinburgh; it's the most wonderful time of the year. The sun is shining (mostly), the good vibes are flowing and the circus is in town. Literally. At List Towers we're braced for the carnival to arrive and chomping at the bit to start seeing shows. If you're thinking of visiting Festival City this summer, we thought it'd be fun to share some of the many reasons that should nudge you in the right direction. If you've already booked your flights and hooked up a sweet AirBnB, then congratulations, time to get thoroughly excited about the greatest arts festival in the world.
1. It's the 70th anniversary
Happy Birthday Fringe! Seventy years ago, eight theatre groups turned up uninvited to perform at the first Edinburgh International Festival and staged their own 'Fringe of the Festival'. Just like that the Fringe was born and 70 years later those eight have become 3000. Seventy is a big milestone for the Fringe, so expect some serious celebrations.
2. Something for all appetites
Festivals love to bandy about the tag line 'something for everyone'. Edinburgh Fringe can actually lay claim to it. Whether you want improv, breakdancing, puppets, clubs, musicals, sketch shows, classical drama, a capella singers, modern dance, circus, new writing, children's theatre, cabaret, burlesque, boylesque, clowning or live music, it's in the programme, and in many combinations. Improvised puppet musical anyone?
3. It's a celebration of international arts and culture
In August the Edinburgh Fringe welcomes the world: with comedians, theatre companies, dance troupes and musicians travelling from all corners of the globe. These are shows that will never play London, or tour the UK but they are all in Edinburgh for a three week period. See theatre from Egypt, followed by an Aussie comic and a Korean drum band, think of the airfare you're saving seeing all this in one city.
4. Weird and wonderful venues
Traditional theatre spaces are definitely in the minority at Edinburgh Fringe, with pubs, clubs, churches and university buildings welcoming in audiences, as well as masses of pop-up venues and funky adapted spaces. Take in performances inside trucks, lavish circus tents, massive debating chambers, moving buses, tunnels under the city and an upside down purple cow.
5. See famous faces and soon-to-be famous faces
Alan Cumming (@alancummingsnaps) on Instagram: “My old friend Horse, @NicolaSturgeon, Lala and moi last Thursday!
Edinburgh is where performers come to showcase their talents to the world. You might see a comedian killing it in a pokey basement at 1am one year and she's headlining Live at the Apollo the next. Plus, most Fringe performers are here for three weeks, so they're actually living in the city. So you might be enjoying a drink beside FAMOUS PERSON or spot FAMOUS PERSON cutting about the town. Think of the selfie potential.
6. Edinburgh is pretty darn stunning
It's a city nestled under a castle, do you need more? You do? Well there's also an Old Town of medieval closes, the iconic Royal Mile, towering Arthur's seat, wide expanses of greenery, ancient monuments. Oh and it's by the sea. We're spoilt, we know.
7. You can do it on a budget
Cash poor need not mean culture poor, there are tons of ways to enjoy the Fringe on a budget. Catch acts at their very freshest by going to discounted preview shows, or take advantage of the 2-4-1 offers that run Fringe-wide on Mon 7 & Tue 8 Aug, you just need a pal. Everyday the Virgin Money Half Price Hut has a selections of tickets that are, you guessed it, half price. Pick one at random and see what you get, it might be the best show you see. The stages on the Royal Mile showcase acts for free every day, and be friendly to flyer-ers, they often have discounts for shows starting soon.
8. You can find something to fill literally every hour of your day
Move over New York, come August Edinburgh is the city that doesn't sleep. Perky culture vultures can enjoy a performance with their coffee and croissants at a variety of breakfast shows across the capital. By mid morning children's shows and theatre programmes are in full swing, with dance, circus, music and comedy running throughout the day and into the evening. Midnight strikes and some comedians and cabaret stars are only just warming up, ready to take on the stage at one of the more risque early morning shows. Edinburgh's August license means there are bars open until 4am and assorted Fringe club nights until 5am. Giving you just an hour or two to source a strong coffee before you head for a breakfast show.
9. Street food & pop-up bars
With performers and audiences rolling into town, so does the street food. Between shows there's a plethora of foodie wonders to visit, with vans and stalls dishing out Scottish favourites and world cuisine. Want a shack selling o-so-cheesy mac, creme brulee burnt to order or a South African vegan curry? You're sorted. Now fringing is thirsty work, you'll be wanting a beverage or two. Luckily in August every patch of grass or disused car park is suddenly sporting a decadent gin bar or dishing out pints, while venues go to town setting up bars to slack the thirsts of the crowds, with hunners of outdoor seating for the sunny days.
10. The atmosphere is like nowhere else
Yes plenty of shows will tour, and true, Edinburgh is here all year but there is just nothing like Edinburgh in August. The world's biggest arts festival (yes, world's biggest) descends on the city for three carnivalesque weeks of magic, mayhem and memories. Be here.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 4–28 August. Tickets available now.