Karen Koren: My Fringe just keeps on growing

The Fringe celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Picture: Jon Savage
The Fringe celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Picture: Jon Savage
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There are already more than 60 shows on sale for this year’s Fringe and in the next months this will multiply hugely. It is the 70th anniversary of this very unique festival that is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

I started the Gilded Balloon in the Cowgate 32 years ago, which is under half of the Fringe’s lifetime. Over the time I have been involved, the Fringe has changed beyond all recognition. I started with only seven shows a day in a 150-seater studio. Now I have 150 shows a day in more than 14 venues presenting over 2000 shows during the Fringe.

And I am only a small proportion – in 2016 there were 50,266 performances of 3269 shows in 294 venues, making the Edinburgh Festival Fringe the largest arts festival in the world.

Every August, thousands of performers take to hundreds of stages all over Edinburgh to present shows for every taste. From big names in the world of entertainment to unknown artists looking to build their careers, the festival caters for everyone and includes theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events.

The Fringe story dates back to 1947, when eight theatre groups turned up in the city, uninvited, to perform at the newly-formed Edinburgh International Festival, an initiative created to celebrate and enrich European cultural life in the wake of the Second World War.

These theatre companies were not part of the official programme but it didn’t stop them – they just went ahead and staged their shows anyway, coining the name Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Year-on-year more performers followed their example and, in 1958, the Festival Fringe Society was created in response to its growing success.

By the late 1950s it managed a box office, produced a programme and provided various services to performers coming to the Fringe.

What the Fringe will have in store for this, the 70th year, will be exciting to see.

I only know that I will ensure that we at the Gilded Balloon will do our utmost to present our best programme yet.