The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with over 3,000 shows. This year, Playbill will be going to Edinburgh in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along with us this spring and summer as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
There are only a few short months left until the beginning of the 2023 Edinburgh Festival Fringe! As Playbill prepares to hop the pond, we're diving deep into all of the things that make the Fringe unique, including its distinctive support structure.
As the name suggests, the Fringe began as outsider offerings to the Edinburgh International Festival. While the Festival was highly selective, and curated from the start, the Fringe has no equivalent approach to programming: anyone and everyone is welcome at the Fringe! Instead, there is the Fringe Society, which exists to support the Fringe and its artists to ensure the experience goes as smoothly as possible.
The earliest version of the Fringe Society began when a group of university students began providing inexpensive lodging and food options to Fringe participants several years after the first endeavor. By 1958, the society was formally established by a group of Fringe artists, and has remained involved in the Fringe ever since. This grassroots movement has grown to connect the disparate producers, venue operators, and artists to their audience, serving as the primary ticketing platform with an official program that makes it possible for a consumer to look for something to see without having to directly sort through programming from every individual venue.
Think of the Fringe Society like an organizational directory. They collect information on everything within their purview and put it into a digestible package, making the Fringe much less daunting to a newcomer, while also allocating funds and assistance to the artists that make the Fringe possible.
As the closest thing the Fringe has to a guiding force, the Fringe Society is also involved in promoting the festival around the world, and making it accessible to all. Currently, the Fringe Society is working toward making the Fringe carbon neutral by 2030 by aiding venues in the process of eliminating emissions, as well as helping to reforest areas to offset the carbon produced from people travelling to and from the festival.
Additionally, the Fringe Society is hard at work developing ways to make the medieval city of Edinburgh accessible to disabled arts lovers; while the cobblestone streets and misty stairways may be picturesque, they can pose a problem to anyone with mobility problems, ranging from anyone who struggles with stairs to people who utilize wheelchairs. The Fringe Society works directly with venues to improve their accessibility, and has even organized "magic carpet" areas that make it easier for wheelchair users to experience live street performance on the Royal Mile without having to be jostled along cobblestones.
The Fringe Society also provides British Sign Language interpreters, and fosters the Deaf Festival within the Fringe, that is specifically designed to provide artistic experiences for deaf audience members. The Fringe Society lends captioning machines to different shows to increase accessibility at productions outside of the Deaf Festival, and even provides Sensory Backpacks to anyone in need during the Fringe, with everything from sound dampeners to stress relievers to make the Fringe a less stressful experience for those prone to sensory overload.
As a registered charity, the Fringe Society is supported through donations, sponsorships, commercial partnerships, registration fees, and their small commission on ticket sales through their platform. Every year they hold fundraising efforts to support the Fringe, including their Fringe Friends donation program, which allows individuals to directly support the Fringe in exchange for certain perks, depending on tier level.
This year, Playbill is headed to the Edinburgh Fringe once more! To join in the fun, be sure to follow along the Fringe coverage on Playbill.com.