The city streets of Scotland’s capital is preparing for the mother of all festivals next month.
Edinburgh Fringe is back and this year it is celebrating 70 years of artistic excellence in the heart of this beautiful city.
Talented artists from across the globe will be making their way to the festival that strives to be open and accessible to all.
The story of Edinburgh Fringe is one of defiance and inclusivity - a characteristic that still runs deep in its identity to this day.
The festival began in 1947 when eight theatre companies arrived to perform uninvited at the first ever Edinburgh International Festival.
The companies were not granted permission to perform, but decided to set up camp on the fringe of the festival and perform there anyway.
This sense of defiance remains at the heart of the festival, which is dedicated to opening its doors to any act with a story to tell and a venue to perform in.
Seventy years later and the festival is a worldwide hit. Artists from across the world travel to Edinburgh to perform at the festival, which is open to anyone from novice performers to seasoned stars.
From opera, to comedy, to theatrical drama, and cabaret performances, this year’s Fringe is presenting more than 3,000 shows across a wide range of genres, all presented with one common aim: to entertain.
Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said: “This is a very special year for the Fringe as we celebrate 70 years of defying the norm, of championing artistic freedom and providing a platform for artists around the world to come and present their work in a truly unique environment that is inclusive, inspiring, and often life-affirming.”
However, this principle of inclusivity is not just limited to performers, but to audiences as well, as festival bosses strive to improve accessibility year on year.
New Initiatives for 2017
Edinburgh Fringe is committed to retaining is mantra of inclusivity and has developed new ways to improve accessibility for 2017.
This year, the Fringe will be piloting a Venue Access Award, which has been developed in partnership with the charity Attitude is Everything.
The idea of the award is to provide venue managers across the festival with a minimum standard of accessibility to aim for where possible.
From there, there are different levels of achievement venues can strive to meet.
During this summer’s event, audience members should start to see venues displaying their Venue Access Award certificates.
The festival has also developed a number of other improvements, which includes a mobile changing place for Fringe audiences, from disability charity PAMIS.
Dubbed the Mobiloo, this is the world’s first attended, mobile toilet and changing facility for disabled people who are unable to use a standard accessible loo. Details on its exact location will be announced shortly before the start of the festival.
Access at the Fringe
The open access nature of the Fringe means participants and venues have complete control over their own performances and venue spaces.
However, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society works to support participants in making their venues and performances as accessible as possible.
This could include assisting venues to achieve the new Venues Access Award, or by providing support through offering audio description, sign language interpretation, captioning or relaxed performances.
The historic city of Edinburgh is undoubtedly one of the festival’s biggest assets, but also one of its biggest challenges.
Its beautiful mix of medieval and Georgian architecture creates a number of physical barriers, which in many cases cannot be avoided.
However, the festival is committed to being as accessible as possible, for audience members and participants alike, and strives to find a solution wherever possible.
The Fringe Society works with venues across the city, in addition to the City of Edinburgh Council to support audiences and artists with accessibility needs.
In 2011, festival organisers introduced an access bookings team to provide a one-to-one booking service for disabled audience members. Our access bookings team maintains a database with access information on venues and spaces at the Fringe, enabling audience members to make informed choices.
The festival also supports free personal assistant tickets through the Box Office and is working to allow audiences with access requirements to make bookings online over the next few years. All customer service staff at the Fringe Box Office are trained by the access bookings team, meaning audiences don’t have to seek a specialist to help them book shows.
How to find out more about access at the Fringe
More information about accessibility at the Fringe can be found online. Head to edfringe.com/accessibility to find out more about accessible performances and their locations.
You can book tickets online, or if you need a wheelchair seat or personal assistant tickets, contact the access bookings team in the box office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or ringing 0131 226 0002.
Accessible places to stay
1) ibis Edinburgh Centre South Bridge - Royal Mile Hotel: reduced mobility rooms, wheelchair access, accessible bathroom, reduced mobility facilities
2) Radisson Blu Hotel - Royal Mile - wheelchair accessible rooms are available.
Edinburgh Fringe 2017 highlights
1) Macbeth: Fringe of Cantonese Opera
Known simply as The Scottish Play, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a staple of British theatre but will be appearing at this year’s Fringe with an oriental twist. An iconic play from the nation’s most celebrated playwright meets traditional Cantonese opera in a spellbinding production.
2) Djuki Mala
Take a trip down under for a feel-good performance of Aboriginal dancing and storytelling. This entertaining fusion of traditional Yolngu and 21st-century culture is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
3) The Toxic Avenger
This new rock musical from Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan won acclaim at its sell-out London debut last year.
With plans to return to London this autumn, this hilarious love story is first set to rock the Fringe this summer.
Fun Fringe Facts
Total shows: 3,398 (up 3.9% from last year)
Total venues: 300 (up 2%)
Performances: 53,232 (up 5.9%)
Countries represented: 62 (up 29%)
International countries: 58 (up 32%)
Comedy makes up 35% of the acts performing at this year’s Fringe, which is up from 34% last year
The second largest genre is theatre, which makes up 28% of the performances, compared to 27% last year.
Music makes up 14%
This is the 70th year the festival has been running.
Famous acts over the history of the festival include Maria Callas, Rudolf Nureyev, Marlene Dietrich, and Richard Burton.
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