Edinburgh: on the fringes of the fringe
The “Edinburgh festival” doesn’t exist. The multi-faceted cultural mass that splurges over the city during August is formed of, amongst others, the Edinburgh International Festival (the “official” bit, founded back in 1947), the Fringe festival which sprung up around the EIF (and, to some extent, ate it) plus the book festival, art festival, The Edge music festival, the television festival – even the military tattoo.
But it gets more complicated. The fringe, people say, is no longer all that “fringey”. There are all those big names off the telly; the perceived domination of the big four venues for comedy (the Gilded Balloon, the Pleasance, Assembly and Underbelly, who together hold “the comedy festival”); the huge cost of taking a show to the fringe, not to mention the ever-rising cost of tickets.
Over the years, micro-festivals and free programmes have sprung up and this year offers a bumper crop of fringe-of-the-fringe events. The Forest Fringe (till 21st) is now an Edinburgh staple and probably the most well-known and well-loved micro-festival. Expect experimental, arty output and great late night performance parties. It’s run on a not-for-profit basis, mirroring its venue: the Forest Cafe is a real Edinburgh institution, and the cities’ coolest cafe/nighttime haunt is also run by volunteers. Other venues will also be running late night shows, parties, scratch nights, and – crucially – bars; check out Belt Up theatre’s The House Above space in C Soco (till 30th), where things get surreal after-hours.
The Five Pound Fringe (till 30th), the Free Fringe (till 28th) and the Free Festival (till 29th) might be a bit patchy, but they also offer opportunities to catch up-and-coming performers. They tend towards comedy – and you’ve never known the true meaning of awkward till you’ve sat in a damp pub at midday with one other punter, a foot away from a truly dire wannabe comedian telling you all about erectile dysfunction. But these events are free, or at least cheap, and while there’s an hour of your life to lose, there’s also a lot of free giggles to gain (and boastability – I caught an unknown Abandoman, now a hotly-tipped type at the Pleasance, at another of those “audience of two” gigs a few years ago, and most promising it was too).
The book festival has its own mini-fest: Unbound (till 30th) offers a great selection of free, unticketed, extra-curricula events which are definitely worth a look in. Look out for even tinier micro-fringes – The Living Room (till 20th) sees a series of small-scale shows in, you’ve guessed it, an Edinburgh resident’s actual living room. Expect live music, film, theatre, workshops – as well as a cafe in the kitchen. But this is Edinburgh: everywhere is a venue, from soggy cellars to phonebooths, Masonic lodges to tenement buildings. Edinburgh’s fringey fringes get creative with their spaces and with their costs, and these events will be intimate for sure – as well as delivering a high dose of that much talked about “festival spirit”.
(Photo: Getty Images)Tagged in: Belt Up, comedy, edinburgh festival, Five Pound Fringe, Forest Fringe, Free Festival, Free Fringe, The Living Room, theatre, Unbound
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