At 70 years old next year, I think I am right in saying that the Edinburgh Fringe is one of the most long-lasting festivals in the UK.
As we meandered through the busy and bustling streets of Scotland’s capital, it was difficult to imagine that the Fringe of 1947 may well have included only a hand-full of events, which perhaps took place in perhaps a dozen venues (or less). This is a far cry from the number of venues that host the festival’s events today; a total that I think comes very close to the 200 mark.
The bit of the Fringe we saw most of, was that which happened around the Royal Mile. This is a street that is located towards the south of Edinburgh, and runs horizontally to that prestigious piece of architecture that is known as Edinburgh Castle.
Try ambling and navigating through the Royal Mile (and surrounding areas) during August, and you’ll find it easier to ride a frighteningly tall unicycle backwards. To put it simply, at this time of year the Royal Mile is “choca-blocked”. If people aren’t watching a piece of entertainment outside, they are attracting passers-by to their show, travelling between venues, or possibly taking a moment to enjoy the weather.
My visit to the Fringe this year was the first time I had been, and before I went I was used to hearing “well we came out of the Fringe but we’re going in again”. I tell you, I now fully appreciate what people had meant by that. When you are at the Fringe you are inevitably part of the festival. However upon leaving there is the sound of night crickets, the view of stars, and the feeling of a kind of instant numbness.
We didn’t go “back in” again, but during the time we spent there I for one got a sense of the buzz and momentous cultural significance that the Fringe has come to symbolise.
The first event of the day we were there, was a book tour. This runs on most days of the year, however we booked our places through the Fringe. The tour took us on a journey through the Edinburghs of different decades, right up to the present day. Amongst the things we learnt on this tour were that some of Alexander McCall Smith’s Number one Ladies Detective Agency series was published by the Edinburgh University Press, and that the Waverley area of Edinburgh was named after a series of books written by Sir Walter Scott.
The next thing we saw was an acrobatics performance. This show featured two break dancers, a drummer, a keyboard player, a basket ball player, a cyclist, and a hoop user. It is difficult to say in writing how spectacular this act was, and the incredible and captivating effect that was achieved by blending acrobatics and beat-boxing. The dance music was impressively, mostly all created with the synthesiser player’s voice, and many outstanding special effects switches.
The final event we saw was named Fast Fringe. This comedy show lasted for one short hour, but in alot of ways it had all the substance and material of 12 separate stand-up shows. 60 minutes, 12 acts, 5 minute slots for each of them. This event really was an inspired way to see some of the many comedians that the Fringe offered, within a short space of time. It also gave the new audiences an opportunity to experience more of what the Fringe is all about. It came to mind that the skill of the featured comedians in making full use of the snippets of time they were allocated, had to be admired.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival then, is the perfect festival for anyone who feels that they have the opportunity to take a few days away during the summer season. With so much on all at once, the Edinburgh Fringe truly allows viewers to have a tailor-made cultural experience.