Remember When: Edinburgh Fringe smaller but perfectly formed

The cast of The Great Northern Welly Boot Show held a motorcade (with giant Ted Heath and Harold Wilson heads) to promote their Edinburgh Festival Fringe show at the Waverley Market in August 1972. Picture: Hamish Cambell

The cast of The Great Northern Welly Boot Show held a motorcade (with giant Ted Heath and Harold Wilson heads) to promote their Edinburgh Festival Fringe show at the Waverley Market in August 1972. Picture: Hamish Cambell

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IT has long been billed as the greatest show on the planet – as well as the biggest.

When the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is staged for the 70th time in August, a staggering 50,000 performances will unfold.

A two-headed creature from The Tickling Machine theatre workshop waits at a Stockbridge bus stop during Edinburgh Festival 1988. Picture: Derek McNaughton

A two-headed creature from The Tickling Machine theatre workshop waits at a Stockbridge bus stop during Edinburgh Festival 1988. Picture: Derek McNaughton

True to the post-war origins of the “open access” event, most of those taking to the stage will be unknowns. But the thrill of taking part in the Fringe is also luring a host of big-name stars.

However, the seemingly unstoppable growth of the Fringe has been halted for the first time – 12 months after the city was warned about a growing challenge from rival events.

Organisers revealed a surprise drop in the number of shows, performances and venues in the official programme – though the event will still boast more than 3000 shows for only the third time.

The number of performances will breach the 50,000 mark for only the second time after last year’s record-breaking event, which saw ticket sales soar to nearly 2.3 million.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe performer Bill Schoppert dressed as fairy with two traffic wardens in August 1977. Picture: Alan Ledgerwood

Edinburgh Festival Fringe performer Bill Schoppert dressed as fairy with two traffic wardens in August 1977. Picture: Alan Ledgerwood

However, there will be around 200 fewer performances and 45 fewer productions in August’s line-up, despite the event – which is still officially the world’s biggest arts festival – reaching the landmark.

The decline is mirrored in a six per cent slide in the number of Fringe venues in the official programme, which have dropped from 313 to 294 after several years of steady growth.

But, as our pictures show, the Fringe will always be hugely popular with performers, visitors and residents of Edinburgh alike.

And there are sure to be plenty more scenes like these captured in years to come.

L to R Nigel Rees, Simon Brett, Mick Sadler and Political commentator John Sergeant (extreme right) rehearse marching over Diana Quick from the Oxford Revue for Edinburgh Festival Fringe 1966. Picture: Denis Straughan

L to R Nigel Rees, Simon Brett, Mick Sadler and Political commentator John Sergeant (extreme right) rehearse marching over Diana Quick from the Oxford Revue for Edinburgh Festival Fringe 1966. Picture: Denis Straughan