This weekend, we spent a rainy day at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For the three week long event, the spirit of the city is magnetic; a hub of creativity with something to watch on every corner. How could the grey skies and downpours bother you when you’re watching a man in a kilt scale a ladder backwards whilst juggling three knives?
In 1947, eight brave theatre groups turned up uninvited to showcase their work at the Edinburgh International Festival. Despite not being part of the official programme, the groups staged their shows proudly on the fringes of the festival, coining the festival’s name today. These small groups went on to build a world-famous festival that attracts millions of people from every walk of life. However, the festival stills stays true to its roots, and continues to welcome all theatre groups from anywhere; there is no vetting the programme by the society. The Fringe proudly includes anyone with a story to tell and a venue willing to host them. And there are stories in abundance. Whether you go for street performers, famous comedians, choirs, student drama shows, Trump parodies, feminist speakers, improv comedy groups, or anything else that’s on, you’re certain to get a spectacular show. Partly because the buzz of the city is so infectious, it’s difficult not to feel your mood lift at any performance.
This Sunday, we ventured to Edinburgh for the day in the dreary drizzle. It’s not a surprise to be greeted by relentless rain in Scotland, plus it’s pretty funny watching everyone walking around in bright blue flag ponchos. The shows went on unfazed, even a street performer scaling a ladder in his underpants seemed undeterred by the slippery stage below. As well as his comic knife juggling act, there are hundreds of other street performances to enjoy for free. There’s buskers dotted around the event arenas, and other performers lining the Royal Mile. Vibrant costumes, dancing, confident audience interaction, and plenty of comedy to entertain you as you walk through Edinburgh’s Old Town.
Next to the performers are lines of Festival Vendors selling anything and everything. Pick up a caricature, get your hair braided, have your fortune told, or pick up some handmade crafts from any of these diverse stalls. For food and drinks though, we walked along to George Square, where there’s a huge number of vans selling international goodies. The area is decorated beautifully, with an enchanted forest vibe, and people lazing on the benches or in the deck chairs sipping pints or pimms. Sample some local grub, like haggis, neeps and tatties, or opt for a pizza, burger, or Thai noodles. There’s so much to choose from and it’s a great place to have some rest from wandering the hilly city.
In the afternoon, we headed to the Assembly Rooms to watch a performance by the Soweto Gospel Choir. The choir are two-time Grammy Award-winning and this tour celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, the Father of the rainbow nation. At moments, the stillness of the audience is unbreakable as the voices of the choir drift around the room enchanting. The songs are a blend of African gospel, freedom songs and international classics, with an extra special tribute to Aretha Franklin, who sadly passed away last week. The bright colours of the costumes match the powerful voice of every member of the choir. The dancing was magnetic and playful, and the final rendition of Hallelujah had half of the audience in tears. Although Soweto aren’t an obvious choice at the Fringe, we would wholeheartedly recommend watching their show. Plus, do as we did and go to the half price hut, by the National Gallery, at the start of the day for bargain tickets. A same-day ticket to see the Soweto Gospel Choir only cost us £9!
The day was over in a flash and we wished we could stay longer and see more shows. Other highlights on the programme this year include: Jonny Woo’s All-Star Brexit Cabaret; Limmy’s Vines; The Guilty Feminist; Lost Voice Guy (Britain’s Got Talent winner); Underground Railroad Game; Woke; and loads of big comedians. Again, always go to the half price hut on the day because you could pick up some really cheap tickets and see a brilliant show you wouldn’t have otherwise gone to see. However, book ahead for shows on your must-see list because thousands of people flock to Edinburgh for the Fringe and tickets vanish quickly.
Fit into the quirky Fringe crowd in these vintage round Ray-Ban glasses…
Have you visited the Fringe this year? Tell us all about the shows you watched and the street acts you enjoyed in the comments below.