Edinburgh Fringe 2017: A practical guide to the biggest arts festival in the world
Edinburgh is well-known as a festival city, with exciting events happening throughout the year.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the biggest arts event of its kind in the world and it takes some organisational skills to tackle in order to do it justice.
Edinburgh is well-known as a festival city, with exciting events happening throughout the year. When it comes to August, however, nothing comes close to the Fringe in terms of size, variety and spirit. What first started out as a few uninvited performers putting on shows in unconventional venues during the 1947 Edinburgh International Festival, has now grown into a highlight of the year in the Scottish capital.
Despite having grown exponentially over the past 70 years, the ethos of the Fringe has remained true. Shows are put on in the most unusual of places – from a barge to a campervan and even a shed – and a lot of up-and-coming talent gets its big break in Edinburgh. So here are a few things to know if you’re planning to head to the Fringe this year, because you’ll really want to make the most of it.
Pick a strategy for choosing shows
The Fringe programme is a bit of a beast, which isn’t surprising when you consider that last year there were more than 50,000 performances staged. You can order a physical copy of the tome online (https://www.edfringe.com/experience/programme-order), download it or pick a copy up at numerous locations across the city. Then you just have to work out how to condense so much information into a select few shows to attend.
Alternatively, you can read online reviews and round-ups from people who really know what they’re talking about. Reviewers who keep up-to-date with this stuff all year round are a good place to start. You can often see snippets of their comments on posters plastered everywhere in Edinburgh during the Fringe, so keep your eyes peeled.
Top tip: If you haven’t got your heart set on seeing anything in particular, make your way along to the Half Price Hut. Situated on a mound near Princes Street Gardens, this is where you can buy same-day tickets for shows at half the price and often get some great bargains.
Book somewhere to stay in advance
During the Fringe, the population of Edinburgh doubles. After all, it’s not just the audiences, but also the performers that need somewhere to stay. That means you need to get organised to find some great accommodation. Luckily, Eden Locke has opened its doors just in time and offers stunning apartments right in the heart of Edinburgh. From its George Street location, you can walk to many of the Fringe venues or take advantage of the public transport options close by.
Don’t overpack your schedule
One of the biggest mistakes that first-timers to the Fringe make is packing too much into their schedule. It’s not surprising due to the huge array of entertainment on offer, but resist this temptation in order to have the best time. The first thing to bear in mind is that shows are held in venues right across the city, so booking them back-to-back is only possible if they’re nearby. Factor in travelling distances so as not to be dashing everywhere.
Another thing to consider is that a lot of the magic of the Fringe occurs in the streets or as you stumble across something unexpectedly. Don’t plan so much that you obliterate the opportunity for chance encounters. A great place to go and have a little bit of downtime during the Fringe is the Edinburgh Book Festival, which runs from August 12th to 28th this year. It has a lovely bookshop, café and deck chairs out on Charlotte Square, making it perfect for a relaxing stop.
Make sure you refuel
There is no shortage of places to refuel throughout the Fringe, as Edinburgh is home to some fantastic bars and restaurants, so do your research in advance. Mama India’s Café on Infirmary Street is always popular during the festival and its Indian tapas makes for the perfect meal to keep you going. It doesn’t accept reservations, so be prepared to queue, but it’s well worth the wait. The iconic Bow Bar and its array of single malts and real ales is also a must-visit stop during the Fringe. Alternatively, stop by George Square, where you’ll find a large selection of food stalls, offering up dishes from all over the world.
Pack a survival kit
Before leaving for a day at the Fringe, make sure you’ve got everything you need. This includes comfortable shoes for trekking between venues, as well as a raincoat or umbrella and sunscreen. It’s worth having a list of the shows you’ve got tickets for and a bottle of water and a cereal bar to keep you going if you have a packed schedule. Be aware that Edinburgh buses don't give change, so it’s a good idea to have coins ready if you’re planning on taking public transport.