ED2012 News

Here we go again – the ThreeWeeks mini-guide to the Edinburgh Festival

By | Published on Wednesday 1 August 2012

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Welcome one and all to the world’s biggest cultural festival, the biggest ever staged, taking over the whole of Edinburgh once again this August.

Festival of festivals
The Edinburgh Festival actually consists of a number of different festivals that all take place in the Scottish capital during August, including the Edinburgh International Festival (9 Aug – 2 Sep), the Edinburgh International Book Festival (11 – 27 Aug), the Edinburgh Art Festival (2 Aug – 2 Sep), the Festival Of Politics, the Military Tattoo (3-25 Aug), the Mela (31 Aug – 2 Sep) and the flippin massive Edinburgh Festival Fringe (3 – 27 Aug, with previews from 1 Aug).

Biggest Fringe ever
The Edinburgh Fringe is, just on its own, the biggest cultural festival in the world, and its comedy strand is the biggest comedy festival on the planet. And this year it’s bigger than ever, with 2695 shows listed in the official programme. There will be something like 22,457 performers involved, from 47 countries, with 1418 world premieres and 814 free shows. The Fringe alone dwarfs that sporty thing happening down South this month. And in Edinburgh, no sponsorship director will tell you what chips you can eat and what credit cards to use.

Fringe strands
The Fringe programme is split into genre strands, including cabaret, children’s shows, comedy, dance and physical theatre, exhibitions, music, musicals and opera, and theatre, plus, for the first time this year, spoken word. Yes, the ever increasing number of great shows that have appeared at the Fringe in recent years featuring poetry, stories, rapping or other similar art forms will no longer have to decide whether to file themselves under comedy, theatre or cabaret. There’s a particularly fine selection of spoken word shows within the Free Fringe.

Venues old and new
The Fringe is based around a network of independently run venues, and every year new venues appear, old favourites disappear, and some buildings end up being run by a totally new set of people. The Assembly Rooms on George Street are back as a Fringe venue this year, though run by a new team, the people behind Edinburgh’s year round comedy hub The Stand. The original Assembly team are still here, though, at Assembly Hall, in Edinburgh University’s George Square Gardens and, for the first time, at the Roxburgh Place church.

Also new this year, Northern Stage are running St Stephens, once the Fringe-time home of Aurora Nova, and talking of ‘nova’, that’s the name of the newest C venue, taking over the building at the top of Victoria Street. A new year-round comedy club in Edinburgh, The Shack, is hosting its first Fringe season.  And if you didn’t check out the new Summerhall venue on the corner of the Meadows last Festival, make sure you do this year.

The International Festival is also having fun with its venue spaces this year, staging shows at the Royal Highland Centre in Ingliston, and one event on Arthur’s Seat.

Festivals within the Fringe
Some of the strands within the Fringe are sort of mini-festivals in their own right. Once again five of the bigger venues – Pleasance, Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Underbelly and Just The Tonic – have combined their respective comedy programmes under the banner Edinburgh Comedy Festival. But don’t be thinking that’s all the comedy. Many more Fringe venues have great comedy line-ups, and don’t forget the huge amount of free comedy shows on offer in PBH’s Free Fringe and the Laughing Horse Free Festival.

The Edinburgh music festival
The Fringe’s traditional pop and rock strand, the Edge Festival, may not be along for the ride this year, but there is still a huge music programme in the city during August. Both the Fringe and the International Festival boast fabulous classical programmes, plus do make time to browse the Fringe’s wider music section, with pretty much every genre you can think of represented. And if in doubt, the Acoustic Music Centre at St Brides is always a great place to start when looking for the music Fringe. And for those of you who make music, do check out the exciting new StageTime event.

Awards galore
There’s no shortage of awards at the Edinburgh Festival. The Scotsman champions new plays with its Fringe First prizes every Friday, and other media celebrate excellence too, The Herald with the Angel Awards, Broadway Baby with the The Bobby Award, Fringe Review the Outstanding Theatre Awards, and The Stage with their annual awards for acting talent.

In comedy there is the all important Edinburgh Comedy Awards (the one what was once called the Perriers), plus look out for The Malcolm Hardee Award too, a personal favourite of ours. There’s also a number of competitions for new talent in the comedy space, not least Gilded Balloon’s So You Think You’re Funny and the Amused Moose Laughter Awards.

The Total Theatre Awards celebrate ‘total theatre experiences’, the MTM:UK Awards musical theatre, and new for 2012, look out for Time Out and Soho Theatre’s new cabaret awards TO&ST.

And, of course, there’s the ThreeWeeks Editors’ Awards, celebrating the ten things we reckon made the festival extra special, to be presented this year at theSpace @ Symposium Hall  on Saturday 25 Aug at 10.30am. And this section hasn’t even mentioned all of the Edinburgh Festival awards. Keep an eye on www.ThreeWeeks.co.uk/news for all the latest awards news.

Tickets on sale now!
Tickets for most Fringe shows can be bought via www.edfringe.com or by calling the Fringe Society Box Office on 0131 226 0000. The Fringe Society also runs a walk-in box office on the Royal Mile (180 High Street), and this year, for the first time, in Glasgow at Queen Street Station too. Most venues can also sell you tickets direct, by phone, via their websites, or at their box offices, and sometimes when the Fringe Society has no tickets left for a show, there will still be tickets available at the venue.

Most other festivals sell tickets direct via their own websites; meanwhile at the Edinburgh International Festival Hub building at the top of the Royal Mile, you can buy walk-up tickets for the EIF, the Mela and, before its own venue opens at Charlotte Square Gardens, the Book Festival. After 11 Aug Book Festival tickets are on sale on site. The Tattoo box office is in Market Street by Waverley Station.

If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of ticket offers available, especially in the Fringe. Many shows participate in a Fringe-wide 2 for 1 ticket offer party on 6 and 7 Aug, and from 8 Aug other ticket offers are available at the Half Price Hut on The Mound. Many venues also run ticket offers via their websites, and if the budget is extra tight, don’t forget the plethora of free shows on offer, in PBH’s Free Fringe and Laughing Horse’s Free Festival, but also elsewhere across the Festival.

Have an appy Festival
For those of you navigating the Fringe with a smart phone in hand, there are a number of Festival apps available. Our favourite is iFringe, which will expertly guide you around the Fringe Festival. Not only that, but it will also deliver ThreeWeeks reviews direct to your phone. Download iFringe for free from your app store of choice, or check www.ifringe.co.uk.

Let ThreeWeeks guide you
ThreeWeeks is the complete guide to the Edinburgh Festival, seeing more, saying more, and delivering it all for free, in print, online, and via podcast, Facebook and Twitter. Every year we have a brand new review team – participants in the acclaimed ThreeWeeks Media-Skills Programme – who are supported by our experienced editorial team, led by two editors with no less than 17 years experience covering Edinburgh’s festival month.

Look out for the ThreeWeeks Weekly Edition, free at venues and cafes across the city; the Daily Edition, a daily helping of reviews at central Fringe venues; plus logon to www.ThreeWeeks.co.uk, and follow us at Facebook.com/ThreeWeeks and Twitter.com/ThreeWeeks, and at Twitter.com/twittique for the latest reviews.