The Edinburgh Festival Fringe started life in 1947 as an accessible alternative to the more highbrow Edinburgh International Festival. Over the years the Fringe has grown to become larger and better known than its more formal cousin: and it has also served as the launch-pad of most of the great names in British comedy.
What is the Fringe? Anything and everything you could possibly imagine. You get a snapshot of what's on offer simply by strolling along the High Street, the upper part of the Royal Mile, while the Fringe is on. Here you find a wide variety of street entertainers including contortionists; acrobats; sword swallowers; fire jugglers; statue-impersonators; musicians; and others. You are also likely to find what must be the largest concentration of unicycles anywhere: you are just left wondering how performers from around the world manage to persuade their airlines to carry them...
Here, too, you start to get an impression of the off-street activity across a huge number of venues from the throng of performers promoting their shows, whether by handing out leaflets, posting them on the advertising poles (which end the festival much wider than they begin it) or through extemporised street theatre designed to attract attention and customers.
A stroll along the High Street is also all you need to begin to appreciate the wonderful atmosphere that pervades Edinburgh through the festival period, much of it down to the activities of those involved in the Fringe. In addition to the images on this page, there is a separate page of Fringe images on view here. (Continues below image...)
Fringe 2020 will take place from 7 August to 31 August. More information is available from the official Fringe website. A few statistics from recent years give an impression of what the event has now become:
... Fringe 2019 saw performances of over 3,800 shows in more than 300 venues across the city.
... More than 30,000 performers took part in Fringe 2019.
... Fringe 2019 welcomed performers from 63 different countries.
... 706 shows at Fringe 2019 were absolutely free, with a further 404 'Pay What You Want' shows.
... In 2019 an estimated 3 million tickets were sold, with almost 250,000 people attending at least one show.
... The Fringe has a 75% market share of all attendances at Edinburgh's year-round festivals.
Possibly the most sobering of the statistics is that at Fringe 2020 you will have just 25 days to enjoy shows that would take over five years to view in their entirety. You cannot possibly hope to see more than a tiny fraction of what is on offer in the time available, even if you avoid sleeping, eating, drinking or taking in any of the attractions of the other festivals on in the city at the same time.
There are two ways to tackle this. The first is to plan everything rigorously, working your way through programmes and booking tickets well in advance. The second is simply to play it by ear, seeing whatever takes your fancy as you wander the streets of Edinburgh.
The approach you choose is a matter of personality and taste: though you are strongly advised to make sure you book your accommodation as early as possible. Beds in and around Edinburgh can be hard to come by over the Festival period...