In 1947 the organizers of the Edinburgh International Festival planted a seed in Edinburgh that grew into something artistically ground breaking and unique – The Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
The International Festival was a programmed festival (meaning acts appeared by invitation only), but in its inaugural year eight groups arrived uninvited, booked their own venues and started what became recognized as an entirely new festival. With no artistic selection or vetting, everyone was invited. The Fringe was by everybody for everybody, no one was excluded. The mantra still stands today and the Fringe is a truly open-access arts festival. The initial eight companies, who began what came to be known as the Fringe, spawned something that this year offers a platform for 2,453 different shows encompassing virtually every art form.
Churches became theatres, schools used for stand-up slots, doorways became stages. Edinburgh’s streets, alleys and parklands all became Fringe Friendly.
The overwhelming spirit of the Fringe captured the hearts of Edinburgh’s people and this infectious buzz spread throughout the world. Indeed there are now over 40 Fringes worldwide. Each August, Edinburgh’s population doubles in size and the city swells to accommodate more than 21,000 performers and around 850,000 arts enthusiasts.
Complete with an audience eager to be impressed, the potential reward for performers in Edinburgh is massive. Everyone wants to play his or her part: street artists, dancers, poets, playwrights, comedians and musicians all make the necessary pilgrimage to this performer paradise. Amongst the bold, brave and ambitious have been: Emma Thompson, Jude Law, Graham Norton, Johnny Vegas, Robin Williams, Eddie Izzard and Billy Connolly. The Fringe has become every worthwhile performers benchmark. If you can succeed at the Fringe you can succeed anywhere. That belief remains today. In 2010 there will be approximately 40,254 performances of 2,453 shows in 259 venues.
The performances don’t end there. For every day of the Fringe the Royal Mile is converted into one massive Street Stage hosting every type of Fringe performance. Street artists doing everything from tightrope walking, juggling and fire eating enrapture the ever-present crowds. Furthermore, on the first Sunday of the Fringe, the Festival Cavalcade parades down Princes St., featuring floats of Fringe acts, street performers and members of other festivals.
To help facilitate this growth the Festival Fringe Society was organized in 1958. A constitution was drawn up, a programme listing all Fringe shows published and a central box office to sell tickets for all shows given a home. As the Fringe develops the Society is set up as a limited company and the Fringe Office is given a home at 180 High St. The Festival has now become the largest arts festival in the world by a large margin and still maintains the spirit that started the Fringe adventure 60 years ago.
For full details about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, please visit their web site, or read why Kath Mainland, CEO, calls The Fringe "The Greatest Show on Earth".
“The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is widely regarding as a defining point in an artist’s career. The chance of being discovered, and having the opportunity to develop your work internationally is incredibly seductive to young emerging actors, writers and directors. The Carol Tambor Award annually provides one such brilliant opportunity.”
Kath M. Mainland, Chief Executive, Fringe Society.