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Mrs Moneypenny: SuperScrimping at the Fringe

By | Published on Thursday 25 July 2013

Mrs Moneypenny

Mrs Moneypenny from the Financial Times and Channel 4 show ‘SuperScrimpers’ investigates how to ‘do the Fringe’ on a tight budget.

Despite Edinburgh’s reputation as a great student city, Fringe visitors can often be heard complaining about the prices of most things during the festival month. Ticket and beer prices seem to get mentioned the most, though the cost of accommodation is what can really break the bank. On my TV show ‘SuperScrimpers’ we research ways to live life more cheaply, so as I get ready to bring my shows to Edinburgh this year, I thought I would look at how to do the Fringe on a budget. My conclusion? It is easier to do than you might think.

First of all, there are all the free shows. There are some great productions on in the Free Fringe this year, and while originally founded by Peter Buckley Hill with comedians in mind, it now offers everything from children’s shows to drama. Meanwhile its competitor, Laughing Horse’s Free Festival (and there is nothing like a bit of competition to keep the prices down – or to put the focus on value), this year offers 350 shows free of charge in over 20 venues. I should note performers do like contributions at the end, so if you enjoy the performance it’s not entirely free. But these strands reduce the risk, and when you find a great show, you can pay according to your means.

These aren’t the only free options available during the Festival of course, for example the visual art strand also offers many free treats. For starters there are the National Galleries Of Scotland, the name given to Edinburgh’s three world-class art museums, and which all offer free exhibitions. This year Rodin’s Kiss is on loan to the National Gallery at the bottom of the Mound, the Portrait Gallery has an exhibition of paintings of Scottish comedy greats (very apt for Fringe time), and the Modern has a plethora of works from the D Daskalopoulos Collection. Plus if you take a look at the Edinburgh Art Festival website, you’ll actually find a whole host of other free exhibitions. And aside from what you can see on the walls, many of these galleries are also very pleasant places to roam; which is especially handy if the weather is inclement.

Though if this heatwave we are in the midst of (as I write) continues, then you’ll want to soak up the atmosphere of the festival’s open-air hubs – George Square, George Street and, of course, the Royal Mile, where Fringe performers and street theatre stars battle for your attention. Here you’ll meet a sea of flyerers – amongst them my three Cost Centres (sorry, my three children) – who will be telling the world about my two shows. Lots of people moan about the Fringe’s flood of flyers, but take time to talk to the people on the other end of the piece of paper and you’ll find the experience a whole lot more enjoyable. Plus this is your opportunity to really find out what a show is like – interrogate that flyerer! Again, it reduces the risk of paying for a ticket for the wrong kind of show.

Talking of trying before you buy, don’t forget all the ‘clips’ shows that take place during the Festival, with acts offering snippets of their performances. Many of these will require you buying a ticket to get inside, though some are free. I know the ThreeWeeks team recommend the ‘Ukulele Cabaret’ in the Free Festival, and while browsing the free strand websites I noticed that Fringe institution the Ladyboys Of Bangkok are doing some free taster shows in the Free Festival as well this year.

Beyond the freebies, Fringe SuperScrimpers should also keep their eye out for the bargains. This is where the Virgin Money Fringe Half Price Hut on the Mound comes in very handy, with different ticket offers each day. Can’t be bothered walking to the Mound on the off chance there’s a show you like on offer? Well, the Fringe Society’s app, which is free of course, will tell you what shows are available on any one day.

On-the-day discounts are also available for the under 26s on selected shows at the Edinburgh International Festival. And while we are talking of Edinburgh’s other summer events, if the sun does shine, it’s hard to beat the Book Festival’s Charlotte Square Gardens base, where entry is free. And each night from 9pm until 11pm there’s a strand called Unbound at which, the organisers say, you can expect a mix of literature, music, a bar and ‘a few surprises’.

So while cheap accommodation remains scarce, and the beer prices are likely to always remain a discussion point (superscrimp? buy your own cans?), there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the world’s biggest cultural festival without spending too much money. Welcome to the Fringe!

‘Mrs Moneypenny Returns’ was performed at AGA Showroom  and ‘Mrs Moneypenny’s Money Clinic Live’ at The Assembly Rooms at Edinburgh Festival 2013.