As the dust settled in Europe at the end of the Second World War, a new initiative was announced. There would be a new International Festival held in Edinburgh, to promote and enrich European cultural life.
In 1947, eight theatre groups arrived at this new festival, unannounced, and decided to stage their own productions on the ‘fringe’ of the main festival. The following year, more unofficial performers turned up, establishing a trend that continued to grow until 1958, when the Festival Fringe Society was created, making the event official. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe continued to grow and expand, as news of this unique event spread across the globe, until eventually, it grew bigger than the original festival. Today, it’s the biggest arts festival in the world, with performers from 47 countries.
For three weeks every August, the whole of Scotland’s capital city is turned into a whirlwind of colour and sound, each act attempting to outdo the others in loudness, brightness, weirdness or wonder. Because of its history, performances are not vetted by any kind of management structure. Anyone with enough money or organisation skills is able to come to Edinburgh and put on any kind of arts production. They pay for a space in the programme, find a venue and start selling tickets.
The entire festival depends entirely on the entrepreneurship of its participants, and the hard work of festival staff and volunteers, who put together the programme and offer support to people putting on shows. Along with the theatre performances, there are now comedians, musicians, exhibitions, dancers, drag queens, jugglers, tightrope walkers, burlesque dancers, circus performers, children’s shows, talks, musicals and street performances, as well as many acts which simply defy definition.
Last year, my partner and I arrived in Edinburgh a week after the festival began. Edinburgh’s Royal Mile was packed full of people, their attention competed for by stilt walkers, street musicians and theatrical performers acting out parts of their show on the high street, touting for business. Every available surface was plastered with posters and flyers advertising shows. Every few seconds, someone would run past, screaming the name of their show, or a brass band or clown army would march down the street.
This year, the Festival Fringe Society have announced the biggest ever line-up. An unbelievable 49,497 performances of 3,193 shows will be performed at 299 venues across Edinburgh – from bars and ballrooms, to churches, tents, barns, pubs and clubs. The festival will be held from 1st-15th August, 2014. The line-up includes 825 free events.
Chief Executive of The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, Kath M Mainland, said: “This programme is the culmination of the creativity and hard work of thousands of people.
“With our eclectic range of shows and uniquely diverse range of voices the Fringe will, as always, be at the centre of things and promises to keep residents and visitors unbored.”
For more details about performances, venues, and how to put on your own show next year, see https://www.edfringe.com