Battle of the Fringe: George Street Vs George Square

Fringe entertainers on George Street. Picture: Neil Hanna

Fringe entertainers on George Street. Picture: Neil Hanna

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Festival stalwarts Karen Koren and Tommy Sheppard are at odds over the best place to hang out at this year’s Fringe. George Square or George Street? You decide.

GEORGE STREET

George Square during the Fringe

George Square during the Fringe

By Tommy Sheppard

Just 24 hours to go till we can unveil the newest and most exciting development of the Festival season. With the newly refurbished Assembly Rooms in George Street now open and being transformed into four Fringe theatres, our attention has shifted to the road outside.

We’re busy building an oasis in the city centre. Already, the Famous Spiegeltent stands like a beacon astride this Georgian boulevard. And if you’ve been there you’ll have noticed the iconic shape of the

saddlespan tent, too, which will give cover from the elements for those partaking in the delights of the terrace bar.

We’re taking delivery of more than 200 metres of living yew hedge which has been growing in planters for the last couple of months.

If, like me, you despair at the despoliation of our historic city centre by garish posters haphazardly attached to building site fences, you’ll be delighted at what we are doing with the Famous Spiegelterrace. We’ve set ourselves the challenge

of building a friendly, comfortable and (why not) classy outdoorarea in which it will be a joy to spend time.

As well as a perimeter hedge, a range of trees and shrubs will create a garden in the middle of the city. You’ll be able to enjoy a fresh espresso in a china cup whilst you soak up the Festival atmosphere. And we’re just waiting to hear from the council if it will allow us to serve wine in glasses on the terrace (let’s hope so, it just doesn’t taste the same in plastic). As well as a full programme of entertainment in the Spiegeltent itself – including the world- renowned la Clique – there will be free entertainment throughout the day on the Aperol Free Stage. A range of performers will provide low-key, acoustic entertainment on the hour every hour.

This is a new city centre hub for the Festival. Not only can you enjoy a stunning programme of music, comedy and theatre in the Assembly Rooms but there’s room to relax al fresco, catch up with friends, and take some refreshment before and after the show. The stage is almost set – all we need now is the sunshine.

• Tommy Sheppard is director of Salt ‘n’ Sauce Promotions, which runs the Stand and Assembly Rooms at the Fringe

GEORGE SQUARE

By Karen Koren

Around George Square and Bristo Square is the most exciting place to be during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It is the arena where the best and the most bizarre of what is happening at the Festival happens.

It has evolved over the last ten years and is now the place to be during August and where the best entertainment lives over the Festival. There is the Pleasance Dome, Assembly George Square, Underbelly, Gilded Balloon and the BBC Comedy Tent. That’s a lot of venues, all of which have various theatres within their venues – so there are approximately 30 theatres altogether, all of which put on around eight shows per day throughout the whole Festival. That works out at more than 6000 shows and all in the George Square and Bristo Square area. Also there is a plethora of bars, cafes, food and coffee franchises, with the most amazing array of food from all over the world.

As you can imagine, there are always a lot of people milling around, looking for the best show to go and see or eating, drinking or meeting up with friends.

There can be performers handing out flyers for their show, or teams of professional flyerers trying to get the public to come to shows. This creates an amazing atmosphere and also gives the opportunity for people to get cheaper tickets or even the odd free ticket.

It is very difficult to compete with all the shows that are on and for the audience member to choose what to go and see. Therefore that flyerer, or performer, might just be the one to make you decide to go and see an obscure or amazing play or comic.

The Gilded Garden has an open-air stage which will give the listener an idea of some of the musical shows that are on in and around the area. There will be music performed every day from midday until around 8pm which will add to the atmosphere and hopefully to the decision-making process. At the BBC Comedy Tent most of the shows are free, which is very attractive, however there is a high demand.

There is no doubt that this is the best and most entertaining part of town to be in during the Festival. I mean, that is where I will be!

• Karen Koren is director of the Gilded Balloon