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Student Blog: Getting the Most Out of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Four tips on how to enjoy and remember your time at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Student Blog: Getting the Most Out of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe During the month of August, thousands flock to Edinburgh, Scotland to take part in the world's largest performing arts festival, the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe or "The Fringe." Taking place during a three-week period, the festival transforms Edinburgh into one of the most active cities in Europe with local, national and International Artists performing throughout the city all day, every day. The festival has been taking place in Edinburgh for seventy-five years, starting when eight theatre companies arrived uninvited to the Edinburgh International Festival, an elite theatre festival, and were not allowed to perform. Determined to showcase their work, these eight companies took up residence in local venues, such as pubs, hotels, basements and restaurants, performing their shows on the fringe of the Edinburgh International Festival. From that moment the Edinburgh Festival Fringe was born!

Taking part in the same spirit as the eight theatre companies, everyone from high school and college performers to famous stage and film actors put on performances every August as part of The Fringe. Needless to say, the continued spotlight on The Fringe has pushed the Edinburgh International Festival into the shadows. The incredible explosion of life that is The Fringe can be overwhelming; the festival totals over fifty-five thousand performances occurring across more than three-hundred venues in just a three week period.

Based on my ten day experience enjoying and performing as part of the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, my top four tips for getting the most out of your experience are summarized below.

1. Plan Your Days

  • Buy Tickets to Popular Shows in Advance: Several stars of both stage and screen come to The Fringe to showcase a new piece of theatre while enjoying this cultural phenomenon. However, their popularity means that tickets to their shows will run out fast, so make sure to purchase tickets in advance through the Edinburgh Festival Fringe website.
  • Track the Distance Between Shows: Although Edinburgh is considered a smaller European city, the venues can be deceptively far apart from each other. Make sure you have ample time to get from one performance to another to check in and get the best seats possible. One of the mistakes that first-time Fringe participants make is buying tickets for multiple shows in a day that are too close together in regards to time.
  • Secure Lunch and Dinner Reservations: The Fringe is a large festival and many theatergoers are seeing as many shows as possible. However, many take breaks to enjoy lunch or dinner at major restaurants, causing space to be extremely limited. The best way around this dilemma is to make reservations in advance, even for larger chain restaurants, to secure a guaranteed spot instead of running around Edinburgh looking for a place to eat.

2. Be Ready for Whatever Occurs

  • Bring a Day Bag: One of the most important tips for surviving The Fringe is to bring a bag that will last all day. Walking around for hours while seeing shows and collecting flyers can be exhausting. When I went, I would use a small backpack so I could carry around snacks, water, flyers, and a journal (we will get to that later).
  • Pack for All Kinds of Weather: Although the summer weather in Scotland is generally ideal with temperatures reaching seventy to eighty degrees Fahrenheit on most days, there are certain days when the weather is rainy and much colder than expected. Therefore, the best thing to do is to pack layers - bring a rain jacket, a warmer coat, pants, and shorts. Don't be surprised if while walking to a show, the sun hides behind a summer storm and it pours for hours or if the temperatures drop to forty to fifty degrees Fahrenheit in the evening.

3. Enjoy the Whole Experience

  • Take Some Time on the Royal Mile: The central road that runs from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace is called the Royal Mile. As the heart of the city, the Royal Mile beats with activity from opera singers performing arias to theatre companies passing out flyers to children performing puppet shows to trapeze artists walking above your head. Thousands of performers and vendors are stationed on the road to advertise their shows or sell their merchandise. The Royal Mile is a great way to start your time at The Fringe as you gauge what shows you might want to see as well as partake in the splendor of the vivacious festival.
  • Go Sightseeing: Many Fringe shows take Mondays off. In order to fill the time, go explore the city of Edinburgh! There are several phenomenal activities within the city, such as climbing Arthur's Seat or rubbing the nose of the statue of Greyfriars Bobby.
  • Take Advantage of Free Fringe: The prices of Fringe performances can add up. Luckily, there is an organization called "Free Fringe" that notes the free performances while also offering half-price or sale tickets for specific performances. Besides visiting their website, you can visit the half-price hut in-person to obtain your desired tickets.
  • See The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo: Taking place at the Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a world-famous event where a pipe band, Scottish highland dancers, and UK and international military regiment musicians perform in front of the castle daily. The performance concludes with astounding fireworks that erupt over the castle, reflecting onto the sea. Make sure to visit their website or secure tickets in-person for this must-see cultural event.

4. Remember the Experience

  • Take Notes of All the Shows: Whether you are a theatre practitioner or a fan, a fun way to remember the festival is to take a journal with you. After each show, record your thoughts and memories from the performance. Looking back on these notes will, in the case of a practitioner, allow you to remember what you liked about each performance and what you can implement into your own work. In regards to fans, your notes on these shows will allow you to remember your trip for years to come.
  • Display Your Memories: Once the festival is over and you have safely returned home, make sure to organize a physical or digital scrapbook with your pictures, notes, flyers and other memorabilia. Accomplishing this task shortly after you arrive home, instead of months later, will allow you to fully remember each event and document everything accurately.
  • Proudly Wear Your Fringe Merchandise: Going to The Fringe is a remarkable experience! Besides displaying your scrapbooks or collages, you can showcase your recent trip by wearing the famous Fringe t-shirt, a Scottish wool sweater or your pins and stickers from various shows. This is a great way to open up conversations with people who may want to go to The Fringe or are already experienced members, resulting in you furthering your Fringe experience even at home.

With August and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe coming to a close, I hope these tips will be helpful for those experiencing the last days of the festival or planning their trip for next year. No matter when you use these tips, best wishes for a wonderful time at The Fringe!



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From This Author - Student Blogger: Emily Pugh

Emily is a current sophomore studying Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University. 

... (read more about this author)

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