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. 2022 marked the 75th anniversary of the Fringe and saw it return after a two year break due to Covid restrictions.
The scale of the Fringe was somewhat more limited in 2022 than 2019 and ticket sales were down by about a quarter. The main visual difference was that the extensive "dressing" of the High Street with celebratory square arches, broad columns on which participants could advertise their shows and small stages for organised live performances were absent, giving an odd feel of "festival-lite". And a bin strike didn't help either. But other areas were much as before, so perhaps we should simply be thankful that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe recovered so well in 2022 from its enforced break and seems well placed to recover further in future years.
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, 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, in normal years posting them on the advertising columns (which end the festival much wider than they begin it) or through extemporised street theatre designed to attract attention and customers.
In addition to the images on this page, there is a separate page of Fringe images on view here. Some of the images on these pages are from 2022, while others are from 2019 and earlier. (Continues below images...)
Fringe 2023 will take place from 4 August to 28 August. More information is available from the official Fringe website. A few statistics from Fringe 2022 give an impression of what it has become:
... Fringe 2022 was the 75th anniversary of the single greatest celebration of arts and culture on the planet.
... Fringe 2022 saw performances of 3,334 shows in venues across the city.
... 3,284 street performers took to the stages and spaces across the Street Events programme in Fringe 2022.
... In 2022 an estimated 2.2 million tickets were sold.
... Fringe 2022 welcomed performers from 63 different countries.
... Over 1,800 tickets were issued to local schools, charities and community groups who took part in the Fringe Days Out scheme.
... Fringe 2022 involved a number of key initiatives, including loaning out 150 sensory backpacks for autistic children and adults and BSL screenings.
... 1,354 accredited arts industry members from 45 countries attended Fringe 2022 to support artists beyond the Fringe, including Screen Fringe.
... Fringe 2022 welcomed 777 professional media accredited from 21 countries.
Possibly the most sobering of the statistics is that at Fringe 2023 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...