Over the month of August from 3rd – 27th August, Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, transforms its city into one big artistic vision bubbling with creative energy, an artistic phenomenon that is known as ‘The Edinburgh Fringe Festival’ (today often referred to as ‘The Fringe’), the world’s biggest arts festival. For 3 weeks, this internationally renowned festival draws crowds from all over the world, bringing in both an international and national audience of at least 4 million people, all clambering to see what new artistic expressions have emerged onto the festival scene that year. Last year the festival celebrated the phenomenal milestone of 70 years, and continues to be a time for global arts-enthusiasts, either as a performer or spectator, to bask in the joy of continuing a steadfast tradition in entertaining and being entertained.
“We look forward to another 70 years of championing the world’s largest platform for creative freedom… in the current climate of global uncertainty, we will continue to work to support global engagement and international participation in the Fringe over the coming years”. Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society
So when did it all begin? It started one August in 1947 when the Edinburgh International Festival refused to allow eight uninvited groups of artists to perform at this event. Rather than feel the rejection, this cold shoulder led the artists to act out their defiance and passion for entertaining by performing in one form or another to audiences on the fringe of the festival, in streets and alleyways, thus bringing to life the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Not only does this festival come to light with millions of spectators from across the globe, but it also attracts a host of international artists who are welcomed with open arms by the festival organisers. In order to make life a little easier for these artists, they offer a selection of translated handbooks that provide glossaries of Fringe terminology. So far the handbook comes in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Portuguese and Mandarin. And it doesn’t stop there. International performers are also given a helping hand with information regarding visas and entry into the UK, foreign entertainer’s tax and freight, as well as an international delegate welcome letter, for a smoother transition into working at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. There is also a guide for artists to help them adapt their shows to engage with audiences with hearing or visual impairments such as offering the likes of BSL (British Sign Language) interpreting, captioning and touch tours.
Over the course of the Fringe, audiences will be graced for almost every hour of the day with more than 3,000 shows, of which there will be more than 50,000 performances in over 250 weird and wonderful venues, from moving buses, to tunnels under the city, to pubs, to clubs, to university buildings and even churches. The colourful rainbow of spectacles that will bedeck the stages of Edinburgh will reveal all manner of intriguing and innovative performances, through the expression of poetry, music, theatre, acrobatics, dance, comedy, circus, cabaret, opera, exhibitions and so on; performances that will never grace the stages of London or tour around the UK. If you want to see them, you have to go to Edinburgh, plain and simple. Visitors and locals also get to sample a plethora of international street food, as well as quench their thirst at a variety of pop up bars and local establishments, where they can enjoy everything from gin to local ales to bubbles.
At the end of the day, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is where international performers from all over the world get to showcase their creativity under one roof, in one city, in front of one global audience, who ultimately come together for one reason, to enjoy what the international world of arts has to offer. Edinburgh becomes a city that doesn’t sleep for those three weeks (it turns into another New York!), in which ‘The Fringe’ allows people to create magical memories, discover the dazzling charm of all kinds of arts and celebrates their passion for artistry. Above all, it allows boundaries to be crossed, cultures to be blended, a myriad of nationalities to mingle and people from all walks of life to be united. That is ‘The Fringe’ in a nutshell!
By Madeline Prusmann, Project Manager, July/August 2018
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