Wednesday 18 July 2012

How to: do the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

It's almost here. In just over two weeks the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will launch and summer will properly begin. I am a huge fringe fan. I've lived in or very, very close to Edinburgh my whole life & grew up going to shows. Now I am lucky enough to work for an events magazine, which means that life in August pretty much revolves around the festivals.

So I thought it would be fun to make up a list of twenty dos and don'ts - which will hopefully be helpful!

Pleasance: home of hotdogs (and comedy)

DO make the most of previews. In the first week loads of shows (including pretty big names) will offer 2 for 1 tickets. This is brilliant as August is a VERY expensive month - save money where you can!  

DON'T expect to sleep (much). Late nights and fuzzy heads are all part of the true fringe experience.

DO try the other festivals. Also on in August is the Art Festival, Book Festival, International Festival, Festival of Politics, the Tattoo and many more. I absolutely adore the Book Festival and try to go to as many events as possible each year - it's a lovely peaceful moment in a manic month.

DON'T bother with an umbrella. It will rain. It will be ridiculously windy. Your umbrella will soon be destroyed. Just head to your nearest venue or pub and hope it passes quickly.

DO wander down the Royal Mile and watch the street performers. Always have some cash with you though - they take donations at the end and it's bad form to enjoy a show and not give them something!

Explore the city: The National Gallery of Modern Art by Ed O'Keeffe Photography

DON'T forget to eat vegetables. There are LOADS of lovely places to eat in Edinburgh, so don't get lured in by the burger vans (too many days in a row, at least). Ace places to pick up a quick meal include the veggie Baked Potato Shop, the Edinburgh Larder (lovely soup!), Spoon, Kampong Ah Lee (the roti cenai is AMAZING), the Mosque Kitchen (wonderful curry) & Oink. If you are going to eat food from vans go for the infamous Pleasance hotdogs or posh burgers from the Gilded Garden. 

DO read reviews. The List's festival site is really good and every show listing includes star ratings from other publications (so you can see reviews from the Scotsman, Fest, and the like all at once!).

DON'T make your decisions based solely on them. Reviews are subjective - one man's treasure is another man's trash (etc etc). Also there's no set rule on star rating - some press will be quite strict and mark down, others will mark up. Take them all with a pinch of salt! 

DO explore the non-festival parts of the city. The areas around the main venues (George Street, Royal Mile, Bristo Square & Pleasance) will be mobbed all day every day, so give yourself a breather and escape to a quieter part of town.

DON'T forget to pace yourself! Opening hours are extended in August and you'll easily find a place that's open til 5am. 

Pals: helping you stay awake until 5am (this was taken at sunrise!)

DO buy a roller derby ticket! Auld Reekie Roller Girls are running two bouts this year - the first on August 4th vs Tiger Bay Brawlers, and the second on August 18th vs Dublin Roller Girls. Roller derby is the best sport you'll see at the fringe (guaranteed!) and you get to watch fast-skating, hard-hitting roller girls in action. How could you say no?

DON'T get confused between Assembly Rooms and Assembly Festival. The former is an Edinburgh venue that is programmed by the same company that run The Stand comedy club all year round. The latter is a promoter that used to be based there (hence the name), but moved across town when the council closed the Assembly Rooms for renovating two years ago. Make sense? Both have a lovely mix of comedy, theatre, music & cabaret and are equally worth visiting.

DO keep your eyes out for famous people - they are everywhere. Last year I saw Paul Daniels buy malteasers. I know, I know. Amazing.

DON'T ignore the smaller shows. You should try and see at least one show you've never heard of. If it's brilliant that's great! If it's rubbish then it will make a great anecdote. If it's mediocre... well, the ticket was probably cheap.

DO attend Late n Live at least once. It's a festival institution and is absolutely worth how shattered you will feel the following day! It runs in Gilded Balloon from 1am - 5am, the line up changes daily and people will heckle. It's brilliant.

Assembly: bringing (much needed!) sunshine to Edinburgh

DON'T forget about the free shows! You can see every free show here - it's a great way of trying something new without spending loads of money on tickets.

DO download the official Fringe app. It's free & you can buy tickets on your phone (which is super handy!).

DON'T annoy the locals! This involves: STOPPING SUDDENLY in the middle of a busy street; weaving side to side across the pavement as you walk; enthusiastically flyering/hassling people on route to work.

DO cross your fingers, make ritual sacrifices and pray that the weather will improve. It has consistently been raining for what feels like a hundred years. Every day is grey and wet. With a little luck the sun will come out in August.

DON'T ignore the festival if you live here. It is the biggest arts festival IN THE WORLD and it is here on our doorstep! How amazing is that?


  1. I took a show to the Fringe a couple of years ago, and it was certainly an awesome but hectic experience!

  2. I love the Festivals... Cant wait!!! x

  3. Love this! My flat this year is right in the centre of it all so I'm even more excited than usual. I walked past bristo square this afternoon and they were setting up the udderbelly! EEEEKKK.
    Definitely agree with the don't annoy the locals though! Bloody tourists :P

  4. Great post...will definitely be looking up roller derby tickets. Sounds awesome! Thanks.

  5. Fab tips Juliet!! So excited for the Fringe! Love this time of year! Xx

  6. Great post, thanks! Heading to Edinburgh from Ireland for the first time and working for it to keep me in tickets and drinks money! Can't wait!


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