Festival Focus – Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Festival Focus – Edinburgh Fringe Festival

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I love Fringe Festivals (or at least I’ve enjoyed the two I’ve been to). One of my travel goals is to attend the biggest Fringe Festival in the world in Edinburgh, Scotland (Edit: I did this myself in August 2017). Today Gemma, one-half of Two Scots Abroad, is sharing her experience with visiting The Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Every year (since 1947), for three weeks in August, Edinburgh becomes awash with colour, energy and performers, dahling. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival (‘The Fringe’) is now the largest arts festival in the world and caters for lovers of art, music, theatre, comedy and dance. The three-week programme is housed in 299 different venues, and by day the performers are out on the streets, bidding for your attention and attendance.

Credit Fiona Donald. Performers advertise their show on the Royal Mile.

I’ve been attending The Fringe for at least a decade now, and not making the transition from attendee to participant has always been one of my life regrets. However, I’ve mostly lived in Scotland’s best city (controversial), Glasgow, only living in Edinburgh as an ‘adult’ with more inhibitions to protect and less time to offer for free. So tip one: work for The Fringe or a company/entertainer, that’s where the real party is at.

I am a repeat offender for all things theatre. The best show I witnessed was a cheeky take on the Independence Referendum, The Pure, The Dead and The Brilliant by the brilliant Alan Bissett.

Alan Bissett takes on the Independence Referendum Debate with bogles, banshees, demons and selkies.

For years now I have paid to see the improv group Baby Wants Candy for two reasons; firstly – their talent! And secondly, there is an element of audience participation (although not forced). The team of artists asks the audience for a title for their show, they select the best one, create a game plan in whispers and perform for one hour – magical! If you want to know the tricks of the trade they also offer a ‘how to’ workshop – that’s the beauty of The Fringe, it’s not all voyeurism.

Although, some of it is exactly that; voyeuristic. The strangest experience I’ve had was viewing four actors perform short scenes about sex through a glass window. The pop-up peep show project was called PEEP. If there are shows you are not 100% sure about, you have the option to pay half price – tip two: in the first few days of the programme, many shows offer a 2-4-1 promotion. Bearing in mind, this is warm up time, and some comedians may be measuring the quality of their material on you (a 2-4-1 ticket hut is also set up for the duration of the festival, it’s your luck on the day which shows are featured).

There are also ‘free shows.’ I say free in inverted commas because traditionally a bucket is passed around at the end and you can pay the artist this way (or not). There are lots of free performances dotted along The Royal Mile, while others are housed in venues. The free show artists work just as hard as the paid ones with the hope that the following year they will be invited back, moving up the bill to a paid show. I’ve seen excellent free shows such as What Would Beyoncé Do? by Luisa Omielan, a twenty-something who discusses her life story through Queen B’s back catalogue. Everyone was dancing in their seats, and I was happy to see Luisa return and sell out the following year. On the flipside, there have been many, many shows where I have cursed myself for sitting near the front with no escape route.

From the free to the rising stars to the big hitters, The Fringe has it all. I saw Jim Jefferies (not for the faint-hearted) for the first time in The Assembly Rooms. It is not unusual to see so and so from the telly having a pint in the Underbelly (a massive upside-down cow inflatable building). In fact, I saw the ultimate in Scottish comedy – The Big Yin, Billy Connolly flaunting through the PRs and the crowds near the Spiegeltent.

The Festival is a big deal in Scotland. The BBC sets up camp for the three weeks and broadcasts its radio shows live (ticketed but free for some). As well a travel blogger, I’m a teacher. As part of the BBC School News Report project, we (the Press Pack Gang) were invited over to attend a media workshop working with the BBC at The Fringe. The Gang was assigned producers; two groups worked with cameras and another, radio. The students were trained on how to use the equipment and plan a programme. They then took to the streets, interviewing comedians and ‘vox popping.’ This sums up The Fringe for me; the wall between celebrity and public is broken down – everyone just becomes a festivalgoer.

Crowds credited to The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. Street entertainers encourage festivalgoer participation.

About the Authors

Gemma and Craig from the blog Two Scots Abroad

Two Scots Abroad (Gemma and Craig) are downing tools as teacher and tradesman to take a sabbatical and travel The Americas, beginning at SXSW Music Festival. Hop aboard for the ride at Two Scots Abroad and never miss a tweet through Twitter.

Things To Know
Note from Alouise: I went to Edinburgh for the Fringe in August 2017 (two years after this post was published). While I was there, I stayed at the Castle Rock Hostel. It was in a central location, with friendly staff, and affordable prices. Of course, there are other great accommodation options in Edinburgh you can book here.

Have you been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?

9 thoughts on “Festival Focus – Edinburgh Fringe Festival”

  1. That sounds like an amazing experience. I love going to Fringe Festivals so I’d want to spend as much time at the Edinburgh Fringe as possible.

  2. I love the Fringe! I spent the month of August in Edinburgh last year and so I had the pleasure to attend a lot of the shows. What an amazing experience! Although I didn’t see anything quite like PEEP. I also loved the way Edinburgh felt during the festival – it was, so well, festive! Although I wonder how I would feel if I lived there full time?

  3. Grace | The Beauty of Everywhere

    You’ve made me want to go to the Fringe this year, Gemma! I’ve only been once but it was brilliant, there’s an insane amount to choose from. Love the sound of Baby Wants Candy!

  4. I guess this will date me, but I’ve never heard of a Fringe Festival before reading your blog. Sounds like there’s a great variety of things to do and see and hear!

  5. Edinburgh’s Fringe is the largest in the world (haven’t been myself), but lots of cities and towns have them. The one in my home city of Edmonton is the 2nd largest in the world and is one of my favourite summer festivals.

  6. Tami, you’ll need to head over to Scotland in 2016 to experience it! Currently writing a ‘how to by a local’ article on our site which will aid you. Such a fun time to be in Scotland.

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