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Thinking about heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival? Our advice – do it!
Every August Edinburgh comes alive with the sound of laughter, and not just because we get our pasty white legs out. That’s right, it’s the biggest month in the comedy calendar – the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
We’ve condensed our years of what some would describe as ‘unrivalled comedy know-how’, into this nifty guide, with the aim of helping you make the most of the festival.
So settle in, and take a gander at what we’ll be covering:
- What’s the Edinburgh fringe festival all about?
- What do I need to plan for ahead of the Edinburgh Fringe?
- What do I do when I get to the fringe festival?
- Who to see at the Edinburgh fringe: Our top picks
1. What’s the Edinburgh fringe festival all about?
Sure you can just go to wikipedia and read a copy-pasted version of the Edfringe website, but that doesn’t capture everything you need to know about the fringe…its charm, its eccentricity, its heart.
The world’s biggest arts festival is a cocktail of rain, alcohol, entertainment, more alcohol and good vibes. Everyone is there to have a good time and enjoy themselves, and the result is an amazing atmosphere that is truly unique to the festival.
Whilst the plaudits generally go to comedy, and that’s certainly what we’ll focus on, the fringe is so much more varied than you might think. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of entertainment, with dance, theatre, music and kids shows also on the program, so you can choose whatever matches your mood.
When it comes to comedy, which is of course close to our heart, you can expect the fringe to showcase a healthy mix of big names delivering polished acts to the rapturous applause of adoring fans, and new comedians nervously test their material (and their mettle) in the desperate hope of getting that big break.
It’s a real treat for the punter, and if you do a little planning and pack your ‘go with the flow’ mindset, you’ll not be disappointed.
2. What do I need to plan for ahead of the Edinburgh Fringe?
Book the ‘headliners’ in advance
If you haven’t booked already, stop reading this and get booked up. Seriously. Do it now!
You’d be right in thinking the fringe is all about being spontaneous, but we’d still recommend booking those key acts that you know you’ll enjoy. There’s nothing worse than arriving full of anticipation to be greeted by the two most frustrating words in the english language: SOLD OUT.
You can find shows and book tickets here.
Prepare for a Scottish summer
Edinburgh has it all, and the weather is no different. Expect glorious sunshine interspersed with Scottish rain. A unique variant of the rain you’re familiar with, Scottish rain is famed for falling horizontally, artfully evading your umbrella and ensuring you get a good, even soaking from head to toe.
Dressing appropriately, and escaping the rain by diving into the nearest makeshift venue is advisable. But, be warned those venues can be, quite figuratively, hotter than the sun.
The wall of heat that greets you when you leave the soggy street to enter that cozy looking venue has been known to instantly transform precipitation to perspiration.Said every Edinburgh audience member
The smartest clothing choices are layers and waterproofs that can be stripped back to summer-wear and stowed away in an instant. You’ll also want some comfy shoes – which we’ll cover in ‘Get to grips with the city’.
How long do you need to spend at the fringe festival?
Wouldn’t we all love to take August off and enjoy a full month soaking up the atmosphere? Well, this isn’t France, and unless you’ve found that magic money tree, it’s probably not practical.
A packed out weekend is really the sweet spot for getting a good feel for the festival, without breaking the bank. With so many shows going on you have no choice but to leave your FOMO at home, go with the flow and not worry about the shows you didn’t see.
We can guarantee you’ll have missed something. No matter how long you spend at the festival.
3. What do I do when I get to the fringe festival?
Get to grips with the city
This could easily turn into a guide to the beautiful city of Edinburgh, as the festival sprawls across it like a more poetic version of that annoying bloke’s rush hour manspread. But rest assured it won’t. Suffice to say that Edinburgh is a remarkable and varied city, that has something for everyone, and wandering around festival venues will certainly give you a feel for the city and its rich history.
So pick up a map and get yourself out there – the Edfringe guys have put together a pretty comprehensive map of the venues, which you can view online here, or grab yourself a paper copy when you arrive. So you’ll only get lost when it suits you.
Just bear in mind that whilst the city is definitely walkable, it is rather hilly, so make sure you wear your comfortable shoes, and plan plenty of time to get from A to B. And if you fancy a break from the Fringe, unwind with a trip down to Leith – bonus points if you take a dip in the sea (that’ll wake you up!).
Go with the flow…
Going with the flow is probably the most valuable tip we can give you. The festival operates with completely different set of rules to the norm. People are friendly, and opportunities to discover something great are aplenty, but only if you are willing to go with it.
The festival atmosphere embraces some incredibly un-British behaviours, like being direct and almost pushy – you will encounter many a well-intentioned assailant clutching a fistful of flyers. It won’t be what you’re used to – but be nice to them – the shifts are long and they’re integral to the whole festival.
These characters with flyers have the ability to lead you to some of your best festival experiences (and possible some not-so-good shows too) – nowhere else will you find yourself being ushered into a basement by a complete stranger to discover something completely unexpected, and quite incredible.
Late-night shows, 5am licensing and the early morning emotional rollercoaster
The festival’s shows run from the break of dawn until the wee hours and, with 5am licensing, the alcohol is flowing for most of that time. This makes for a couple of really great opportunities to experience the fringe.
The late-night shows are a treasure trove, making it possible for you to catch big names and discover some great new acts, all in one show. The line-ups vary every day, so you’ll never be quite sure who, or what you’re going to get.
After your late-night comedy, the mornings are for heavy dramas. Especially if you take advantage of the 5am licensing hours, make your first show is some hard-hitting emotional theatre. There are some great shows on offer, and let’s be honest, nothing beats a good gut-wrenching when you’re at your most fragile.
4. Who to see at the Edinburgh fringe: Our top picks
There are so many great acts to see at the festival, which made narrowing it down to our top picks a really tough task. But, for what it’s worth, here are 3 very different comedians that we think will make you laugh at the 2018 fringe:
1. Rachel Parris
Rachel is an incredible comic who shot to fame with BBC 2’s ‘The Mash Report’. She boasts an award-winning brand of musical comedy, and is equally renowned for her improv as a founder of the critically acclaimed ‘Austentatious’. She showcases both these talents on stage with her solo show ‘Rachel Parris’ Musical Comedy Club’ and in the improv show ‘There Will Be Cake’.
Watch her full show Best Laid Plans on Next Up
2. Jordan Brookes
Jordan is a uniquely unconventional performer, absurd and hilarious. His 2017 fringe show was nominated for the ‘Best Show Comedy Award’, and he was lauded by critics as a ‘wildly entertaining standup’ who ‘demolishes conventions of comedy’. His 2019 show I’ve Got Nothing finally earned him the well deserved Best Comedy Show Award.
Watch his 2017 show Body Of Work on Next Up
3. Brennan Reece
Brennan is a storyteller extraordinaire, infuriatingly likeable, and incredible at crafting tales that can somehow leave you in stitches, whilst also warming your heart.
He came to the 2018 fringe off the back of two stellar years with a Fringe 2016 Best Newcomer nomination, and a 2017 follow up show that received huge plaudits. Taking his show Evermore on tour, his 2019 has been pretty busy.
Watch his full show Everglow on Next Up
Well, thanks for sticking with us, while we waffled on about how we love the festival. We hope it was helpful, and you enjoy your trip. If you’d like to stay up to date with the latest goings-on in the world of comedy, keep an eye on our news page here. If you want to know more about us check out what we’re all about here.