Imagine being transported to a medieval cobblestone street full of performers at every turn. Players with or without a stage. Venues in basements, in tents, and in the middle of the street. Some of the world’s most incredible acts vying for your attention all at once. Endless shows at your fingertips - improv, Shakespeare, comedy, drama, musicals, the list goes on and on. Now, if you can believe it - that’s a mere snapshot of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that takes place annually in Edinburgh, Scotland.
I had the pleasure of attending the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017 - and I still treasure the stack of ticket stubs from all the shows I saw. To say the festival is a sight to see is an understatement. It’s an experience in and of itself - one you’ll never forget. Artists worldwide gather here for three weeks in August for what has become the world’s largest arts festival.
If you’re an artist or performer of any kind, I urge you to take your creative juices to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and experience it first hand. You could find yourself in the thick of it, acting, directing, or producing a show for the innumerable patrons from the world over.
If that doesn’t suit your fancy, I urge you to plan a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, for the Fringe Festival as a patron - and take it all in. Even to do this only once in your life is worth adding to the bucket list.
A Festival for the Underdogs
The fringe festival started in 1947 when 8 theatre troupes weren’t invited to the invite-only Edinburgh International Festival. Their response? They set up and performed their own shows during the three week run of the official festival. Their efforts brought even more performers the following year. The alternative festival grew each year - which became known as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
As the festival grew, it became more structured and organized throughout the years. Still, one thing remains - it is NOT an invite-only festival. Any performer or troupe that’s willing to raise the money to secure a venue and do the marketing for their own show - can perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The Fringe has been the starting place of up and coming talent and landing longer runs in Central London and even TV deals. The 2019 four-time Emmy winner Fleabag started from a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
In Light of Covid-19 + Planning Ahead
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is provisionally set to take place from August 06 - 30th, 2021. As the world slowly pulls out of the pandemic, I’d reckon the Fringe Festival might be a challenge to visit this year. However, if you’re already planning a trip abroad this summer - it is highly recommended to attend the festival.
While in the beautiful medieval old town of Edinburgh, Scotland, you can explore some of its highlights and history with walks and tours or a pub crawl. The new side of the city offers plenty of shopping and atmospheric lounges to enjoy a cocktail.
My personal favorite was the famous Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery - where J.K. Rowling found inspiration for characters in Harry Potter. A beautiful serene cemetery by day - and a haunted graveyard by night.
For those who enjoy a bit of the dark side - you can find ghost walk tours through the graveyard led by a single small light after sundown. For a bit of luck, you might spot the ghost of Greyfriars Bobby, the treasured and loyal Skye Terrier who spent fourteen years guarding the grave of his beloved owner.
If you’d love to know the history and legends of Greyfriars Kirkyard, check out my article Friends of the Dead | Greyfriars Kirkyard.
Edinburgh, Scotland is also home to the famous Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat - all worthwhile sights in addition to the fringe festival. Here is a glimpse into the festival and the lively Royal Mile from the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Artists and performers - if you’ve not been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, consider this the sign you’ve been waiting for! Plan a visit, put on a show, or simply show up and be inspired. You won’t regret it.