The Edinburgh Fringe
HistoryThe Edinburgh Fringe began in 1947. It got its name from the fact that it was initially an add-on extra to the prestigious Edinburgh International Arts Festival. Whereas the Festival concentrated on well-known, respected artists the independent Fringe exists to give newcomers a chance to be seen. It also allows those who can't afford the prices at the main Edinburgh Festival to enjoy the performing arts. The Fringe today is far larger than the Festival and one of the biggest tourist attractions in Scotland.
During August, central Edinburgh becomes one huge Fringe venue. Almost every space available is taken over by performers. I've seen events at everything from church halls to squash courts. There is also a huge amount of street theatre - from living statues to magicians and fire jugglers - especially on the High Street section of the Royal Mile which includes the Fringe Box Office.
The atmosphere is wonderful - so long as you don't want to get anywhere quickly! The city gets very crowded.
Visiting the FringeThe popularity of the Fringe also means that finding accomodation in the city during festival season can be tricky. Just about every hotel room and flat is occupied, either by tourists or performers. So book early to be on the safe side.
There is far, far too much going on at the Fringe for anyone to see more than a fraction of it. Everything from broad farce to experimental theatre, music to metalism - and any combination of genres you can think of! Fringe shows vary greatly in style, quality and content. Many are traditional entertainment, others push the boundaries of both art and taste - some break through completely.
Many visitors like to plan their Fringe experience in great detail, getting the programme and booking tickets weeks in advance. Others prefer just to wander around and see what takes their fancy. An approach between these two extremes is to pick up a copy of the daily fringe programme every morning or just wander along the High Street and see which acts take your fancy.
Recently some of the Fringe has gone more up-market, with well-known performers and ticket prices to match. Fortunately there are still enough unknowns performing in basements for the Edinburgh Fringe to remain a very affordable experience.
If you can book a hotel room - the city sells out early.