Sunday, 14 August 2016

5 Tips for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

August transforms my beautiful hometown of Edinburgh from 'business as usual' to a bustling hub of all things cultural. Almost every art is represented - such as comedy, dance, music, theatre and caberet to name a few - in the glittering showcase, which last year hosted over 50,000 performances of over 3,000 shows in over 300 venues. 2.2 million tickets were issued in 2015, with the performers travelling from 49 countries to get involved. In short, it is the world's largest arts festival, and it's fantastic.

However, if you've never been before it can be quite overwhelming. It really does span the entirety of the city centre, and there is a very different atmosphere in August - anything goes! It's not unusual (really nearly burst into some Tom Jones there) to see people wandering around in weird costumes at 10am, or have a nearby group of ordinary looking people burst into a spontaneous song and dance routine. Seeing as I'm now in the middle of my 27th year at the Fringe, I thought I'd pass on some tips to help you get through.

1. Don't be afraid to go see a completely random show.

So many people come to the Fringe purely to see the more well-known performers. There's nothing wrong with that, but you're missing out on some spectacular talent if you limit yourself to people you know! One of the best things about the Fringe is the Free Fringe - there are a whole host of shows that are free entry, with a bucket passed around at the end if you'd like to donate but no obligation to do so. This gives you the perfect opportunity to take a chance on an unknown and see what you think. This year, just like last year, I've booked one act I really want to see (James Acaster) and the rest I'm leaving up to fate. There are hundreds of flyers being handed out on the Royal Mile so I just see which ones interest me most; almost all of my random picks have turned out to be excellent shows. If you're really worried about handing over your hard earned cash to someone you've never heard of, there are always lots of reviews to help you pick - try and stick to things recommended by bigger publications like The Scotsman, Three Weeks, the Metro, The Guardian and Whats On Stage if you'd like a guaranteed hit.

2. Plan ahead, but don't overplan.

It's Scotland. I know you're aware of all the jokes about the rain, but it's actually all true. Dress appropriately! It may look like the sunniest day ever, there may be no clouds in the sky when you leave in the morning, but I can almost guarantee it'll be pissing down by lunchtime. I'd really like to recommend you DON'T take an umbrella - there are huge crowds around even when it's raining and you'll have an absolute 'mare trying not to blind people with the spokes. Just take a waterproof jacket. Also remember that the majority of the venues are in the Old Town, the medieval part of Edinburgh. The Old Town is basically a big hill so wear comfy shoes! You could be out and about for the majority of the day, and it's actually physically impossible to move faster than a sloth in some of the busier parts of town. Consider taking a few snacks with you too; while there are plenty of places to eat bear in mind that the population of Edinburgh doubles during August so you're likely to face a queue for a sit down meal.
Saying that, don't try and schedule your whole day with shows. Not only will you probably fall asleep in one (or more) of the shows, you'll enjoy yourself a lot more if you can be a bit flexible and be a bit spontaneous. Three shows is enough for most people and I'd say anything over five is just too much for one day.

3. Get a map of the venue locations, and double check your tickets!

This kind of ties in with the above. As previously mentioned, there are over 300 venues showing performances, but there are 4 main venue companies: Pleasance, Underbelly, Assembly and Gilded Balloon. The Pleasance Courtyard is a great little self-contained area with most of the Pleasance venues within, BUT be aware that the Pleasance Dome is NOT at the Courtyard! It's a 5-10 minute walk away so do factor that into your showtimes. 
Assembly is one of the biggest companies, and has loads of different venues, but they are really spread out all over the city. Make sure you know exactly where you're going, and also be aware that, just to confuse you, there is a venue called the Assembly Rooms, which is absolutely NOTHING to do with Assembly. Also confusing is that Assembly Rooms is on George Street, while Assembly have a venue on George Square - and they are nowhere near each other. Helpful. 
If you're planning on seeing multiple shows in a day, do make sure you know the start and end time of each show, and have a rough idea of how long it'll take to get between venues. Most places shouldn't take more than a 10-15 minute walk - don't bother trying to get a taxi. Traffic is at a standstill and you'll get absolutely ripped off as well.

4. Talk to people, and watch the mini-performances!

Word of mouth is the best way to get any hot tips during the Fringe. Everyone is there to have a good time, so take the opportunity to strike up a random conversation with someone at the Assembly Garden bar, or the person next to you in the queue. They might have a tip for the best undiscovered comedian in the city, or an excellent place to go for lunch. Personal recommendations are usually a lot more trustworthy than reviews.
It's also worth noting that there are lots of places where performers put on snippets of their show to give you a taster. Wander up and down the Royal Mile and see if anything catches your eye.

5. Take some time out.

There is so much going on during the Festival that it can honestly get a bit much. There's only so many times you want to be accosted by people promoting their shows, or caught up in a crowd of people moving at a glacial pace. It's always a good idea to give yourself a bit of space from the craziness of the city centre, and check out some of the other delights Edinburgh has to offer. 
Of course there's the classic, climbing Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano at the bottom of the Royal Mile. Maybe you'd prefer a wander round the National Museum? Or if you really want to get away from it how about getting a bus down to Leith, having a wander round the Royal Yacht Britannia followed by a nice meal at one of the many restaurants on the Shore? There's loads to do, so don't feel you have to spend all your time watching street performers juggle fire while on a unicycle...

So there you have it, my top tips for the Edinburgh Fringe. Have you ever been a part of the August madness? What tips would you give any newbies?

All of the above photographs were taken by my very talented brother - check out his Instagram here.



  1. Omg that is awesome! Those stats fascinate me ;0 Also I love those mini performances that aren't planned on the street that starts with a small crowd and end up into a big one. It is like you just pass by and you get to see a free show which is usually awesome. :D

    1. Yeah it's a lot of people ain't it!? Those mini-shows are the best, really make the whole atmosphere of the city change! xx

  2. This sounds fantastic. I've been to Edinburgh twice but usually only for a night or two, I've never heard of this! I love seeing culture and arts, it's one of the things we usually visit other cities for. Definitely one for the bucket list.

    Vee // ♥

    1. If you ever do make it up let me know m'love! Edinburgh is particularly good fun in August or also at Christmas... xx

  3. It looks so amazing, love the pictures! You seem so lovely and have a really amazing blog, I love making new blogger friends so let me know if you would like to keep in touch! x

    1. Oh this is so cute, thank you so much! I've followed you on Twitter & Bloglovin :) xx

  4. I would love to visit this city! If you have some tips, feel free to tell me! Nice blog by the way, really inspiring! keep going! I also have a blog if u wanna take a look :

    xx. Dani

    1. Thanks :) I hope you do get to visit Edinburgh at some point - let me know if there's any kind of information you'd like! Xx


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