The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a blowback against the Edinburgh International Festival (an invitation only performing arts fest) in Edinburgh, Scotland is the planet’s largest arts festival. Commonly called simply “The Fringe”, it runs the last three weeks of August each year. Unlike its more stuffy counterpart, The Fringe is open access meaning anyone with a free spirit and a desire to perform is welcome to come and show off their stuff. And this means that year to year (and even venue to venue) you’ll never know what to expect next. Some of the different expositions in the past have included comedy troupes, musical performances, unique recreations of classic plays, and children’s shows. But turn the corner and you are just as likely to see a wacky performance artist dancing an off the wall jig as you are to see a disjointed theatre act from a public toilet (one of the 2003 festival’s highlights). In fact, with over 250 venues as diverse as school yards, pubs, and cathedrals each event is as unique and entertaining as the last.
Started in 1947, The Fringe was embroiled in some very public battles with the Edinburgh International Festival as the extreme performances were considered somewhat low brow and provocative. Despite the enmity, The Fringe grew by leaps and bounds quickly establishing a governing society and administrative board. With these additions, a significantly greater number of performers and events could be scheduled. As of the 2009 festival, more than 1.8 million tickets were sold for the 34,000 plus performances. These included nearly 19,000 artists engaging in about 1,300 shows a day. Despite the fact that the festival is uncensored and unvetted, it is still quite family friendly. Provided the kids are old enough to be able to handle large crowds, there is plenty for them to see and do such as exceptional workshops, puppet shows, kids comedy, music, and much more. There is ample entertainment for adults as well; most notably the comedy shows which take up better than a third of the different shows. Many past shows (from comedies, to dramas, to musicals) have seen big name celebrities like Gabriel Byrne, Ricky Gervais, Christian Slater, and Craig Ferguson. You would be hard pressed to not find at least 10 different things a day to fall in love with.
Tickets to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are usually quite reasonably priced with many exhibitions being offered for free. Check early or late for special deals including 2 for 1 tickets and other special deals. Although not a always critical favorite, fans from across the world will loudly cheer and praise the great artistic merit and all out good time The Fringe has to offer year after year. Experimental, vivid, exciting, vibrant, and without boundaries, there is never a dull moment in Edinburgh the last three weeks of August. Due to the vast numbers of international performers and visitors, check at least a few months in advance for accommodations in Scotland’s capital city. After booking your hotel, pack your smile, sense of wonder, and a good pair of walking shoes and get ready for one of the most fun times the world has to offer.