How to Conquer Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Written by: Rebecca Sharp

Discover the Best of the Fringe

In 2014 there were 3,193 different shows on offer at the Edinburgh Fringe. That’s an overwhelming amount by anyone’s standards; even the lucky few who are spending their entire August in Edinburgh couldn’t dream of seeing half that amount, let alone over a long weekend. However, it is possible to make the most of your Fringe experience no matter how long you’ve got. Just observe these simple tips.

Budget

Knowing how long you’re going for and how much money you have to spend before you even get to Edinburgh will help massively with your itinerary. If you’re a bit strapped for cash, you could choose to go for one or two more pricier options and then hit up some free or discounted shows for the rest of your time. If you’ve managed to save a bit and don’t mind spending, you are guaranteed to see some great shows. Do keep in mind just because a show is free, that does not mean it’s bad, quite the contrary in many cases!

Make sure to download the Fringe app for Android or iPhone. It will not only help you navigate your way around the Fringe’s 279 venues, but it will also tell you which tickets are available at Virgin Money’s Half Price Hut (located in Princes Street Gardens) every day. Be sure to not plan every second of your time in Edinburgh before you get there as you’ll potentially miss some great deals.

Genre

Whether standup comedy is your thing, you want to sink your teeth into new writing, or you’re after some new music, all of it and more is available at the Fringe. As with budgeting, it will really help to think about what kind of shows you’re hoping to catch. Keep in mind the Fringe is a fantastic opportunity to see something you never would have normally given a second look. And hey, if it’s a free show you’ve got no excuse! Steer clear of the big stand-up comedians who tour often and try to seek out treasures you’ll only find at the Fringe.

Venues

There are countless different venues at the Fringe, from big theatres to pubs, to buildings that are pretty much empty the rest of the year. Some of these are independent venues, but it would help to know the main venue groups. Don’t forget that Edinburgh is quite a small city with most venues right in the centre so it is possible to run between certain venues in a matter of minutes, but it’s not always the case (utilize the Fringe app!)

Underbelly – Usually showcase more professional comedy acts, but still often performances you’ll only catch at the Fringe.

C Venues & Zoo – Head to either venue if you want new plays of both amateur and professional level.

Pleasance & Assembly – Quite a mixed bag of genres including music, children’s, established plays and comedy improv.

Others include The Space, Summerhall, Just The Tonic, and the BBC also cover the Fringe too. Whilst this is a good guide to navigating different genres around the Fringe, most venues will dabble into as many varieties as possible.

The Fringe Experience

There are several amazing shows at the Fringe and you will miss most of them. Part of the experience is that you don’t know what you’re getting and it’s all pure luck. Don’t feel like you wasted your time watching a show you didn’t like; it’s all part of the experience!

Outside of the theatre, you absolutely must take your time to soak up the atmosphere. Firstly there’s The Royal Mile, which stretches from St Giles Cathedral right down the High Street to the Scottish Parliament buildings. This is where most of the productions go to hand out flyers and perform mini-skits to entice you to watch their performance and has a great buzz. Walk down the entire stretch at least once and make sure you leave enough room in your schedule to be impulsive and open-minded and see a show based on one that catches your eye on the mile.

The other main hub of Fringe excitement is the Princes Street Gardens near Edinburgh Waverley station.  There are loads of street performers and entertainment to pass the time, and if it’s good weather (which it occasionally is) it’s the perfect place to spend a relaxing morning before show hopping for the rest of the day.


Rebecca Sharp is a cinephile and theatre lover from Manchester, England. After growing up in Cumbria she moved to Manchester to work in film and likes to travel as much as possible around a full time job. You can follow Rebecca on Twitter @beccaksharp_ and read her travel and film blog at www.almostginger.com.

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