A guide to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The key things you need to know

Fancy getting out and about this summer? You don’t have to go far to discover something unique and to be entertained. There’s so much to explore in the UK, and throughout the month of August, Edinburgh is the place to be! Home to several festivals – The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, The Edinburgh International Festival, The Edinburgh Art Festival, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and The Edinburgh International Book Festival – this is a fabulous city steeped in history, arts and culture.

Marvel at the stunning architecture, visit the museums and galleries, and dive into all the Edinburgh Festivals have to offer – from theatre, comedy, circus acts and cabaret to magic, music and street performers – you’ll be spoilt for choice.

So, if you’re thinking about exploring Edinburgh during August, here’s what you need to know about getting involved and making the most of your visit to Scotland’s bonnie capital.

What are the Edinburgh Festivals?

Edinburgh is known around the world for the Edinburgh International Festival, an annual performing arts festival inaugurated in 1947, and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, was established in the same year when eight theatre companies turned up uninvited to the first Edinburgh Festival and took over the smaller venues in the city, while the Edinburgh Festival was held in the larger more prestigious venues. 

So, from humble beginnings, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – now often simply known as ‘the Edinburgh Fringe’ or ‘the Fringe’ – alongside Edinburgh’s other festivals, results in tens of thousands of people flocking to Edinburgh during the summer months.

The Fringe

The Edinburgh Fringe is the single biggest celebration of arts and culture on the planet – with over 3,500 shows on offer. Every year thousands of performers, from big names to unknown artists, take to hundreds of stages all over Edinburgh to present anything and everything from theatre and cabaret, to comedy and opera. 

In 2020, the Fringe takes place from 7 to 31 August and sees Virgin Money sponsor the Fringe on the High Street and the Fringe on the Mound for the ninth year running. Not only does the High Street place you at the centre of this historical city, it also places visitors right at the heart of the Fringe where they can expect to see the following: 

  • Fringe stages: stages previewing Fringe shows (short 20-minute spots) throughout the day on the High Street and Royal Mile, so visitors can get a free taste of some of the thousands of shows on offer.
  • Buskers: you’ll see music, magic, circus acts and sideshows (from over 500 buskers!) in the busker pitches dotted around the event arenas, so there’s always something new to see.
  • Street performers: pulling the biggest crowds at the High Street events, these professional performers come from around the world to entertain through their comedy, theatre and circus skills.
  • Living statues: all the living statues make their own costumes and create their own micro-theatre scenes, so visitors should prepare to be wowed by strange characters, wonderful costumes and surprises should a coin be dropped into a living statue’s hat.
  • Arts and craft markets: the festival market proudly supports genuine craft makers, from around the world, who design and sell their own products – including genuine and unique gifts from Scotland too.
  • Festival vendors: among the performance areas, in every nook and cranny, visitors will find someone exchanging a skill for a donation – think portrait artists, caricaturists, hair braiders, face painters, palmists and more.

The Fringe street events run daily, from 11am to 9pm, and it’s free for performers to participate and free for the public to view.

Planning your time at the Fringe

Whether you’re a long-time visitor, a seasoned performer, or this is your first experience of the Fringe, there are lots of things you can do to feel in-the-know, organised and ready to have fun. Simply follow our top tips below to ensure your Fringe experience goes smoothly:

Early on-sale tickets

Before the official programme is launched, several batches of tickets are released early on the official Fringe website so you can get a head start on planning your Fringe visit. 

Booking online

To get the best out of Fringe book your tickets online. By creating an online Fringe account you will have access to several tools to help you plan your visit, including your own personalised Fringe planning calendar and an advanced search tool to help you to narrow down your show selection by genre, date, time and several other options.

Fringe programme

If you prefer to thumb through a printed programme, rather than viewing content online, then you can order an official Fringe programme or pick one up in the city to help plan your visit.

Fringe app

With so much going on at the Fringe, most people like to view the Fringe programme on the free Virgin Money sponsored iPhone or Android Fringe app. It comes loaded with all the information that can be found on the printed programme, plus lots of useful features such as the ‘Nearby now’ feature and syncing your favourites from your online Fringe account.

Virgin Money Half Price Hut

We all love a bargain, and at the Fringe everyone has the opportunity to save a bit of cash by buying half price tickets at the Virgin Money Half Price Hut. The Virgin Money Half Price Hut offers discounted tickets for performances happening on that day (and for the following morning) only, and so be sure to check it out to grab a bargain.  

The Virgin Money Half Price Hut is open from 7 August to 26 August 2019, and visitors can either buy tickets from the Virgin Money Half Price Hut itself (located on The Mound outside of the Royal Scottish Academy, adjacent to Princes Street) or via the official Fringe app.

Can everyone get involved?

Yes, of course. Shows and events are suitable for both adults and children, and the Fringe Society (the registered charity who supports the performers and the public) will ensure that this year's Fringe is as accessible as possible to everyone who wants to attend. For example, many shows will offer captioning, audio description, signed and relaxed performances, whilst some ticket collection points and street-level viewing areas will be wheelchair accessible. The Virgin Money Fringe street events are also open access, meaning that as many barriers as possible have been removed from the High Street so that performers and audiences can enjoy the space.

Image © Andrew Downie

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