The Fringe started life when eight theatre companies turned up uninvited to the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival in 1947. With the International Festival using the city’s major venues, these companies took over smaller, alternative venues for their productions.
This meant that two defining features of the future Fringe were established at the very beginning – the lack of official invitations to perform and the use of unconventional venues.
The word “fringe” had in fact been used in a review of Everyman in 1947, when a critic remarked it was a shame the show was so far out “on the fringe of the Festival”. In 1950, it was still being referred to in similar terms, with a small ‘f’.
Since it was not yet fully developed, much of the early years of the Fringe has gone unrecorded, except through anecdote. It did not benefit from any official organisation until 1951, when students of the University of Edinburgh set up a drop-in centre in the YMCA, where cheap food and a bed for the night were made available to participating groups.
In the 60s and 70s, the Fringe began to establish its reputation for size and variety and the tension between it and the more formal International Festival became of mutual benefit.
The early 1980s saw the arrival of the “super-venue” – locations that contained multiple performing spaces.
The comedy section has grown over recent decades to become the biggest section of the programme. The 2008 Fringe marked the first time that comedy has made up the largest category of entertainment.
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland. Old volcanoes ensure a dramatic natural setting, with the imposing castle atop one. Beneath its guard, the city combines medieval relics, Georgian grandeur and a powerful layer of modern life with contemporary avant-garde.
The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (map) were listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1995.
Walking should always be your first choice within central Edinburgh. The centre is compact – most of the sights and major tourist attractions are within the Old Town (mainly around the Castle and Royal Mile) and New Town, and are at most 15 min walk apart.