Fringe bosses explore official expansion into key New Town areas

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The Edinburgh Festival Fringe wants to expand its official street theatre areas into George Street and St Andrew Square for the first time.

The move is being considered to accommodate demand from performers and ease pressure on the Royal Mile and The Mound precinct.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe could make an official expansion into George Street and St Andrew Square. 'Picture: Ian Rutherford

Edinburgh Festival Fringe could make an official expansion into George Street and St Andrew Square. 'Picture: Ian Rutherford

It would be the biggest expansion in its official street areas for around 20 years if it went ahead.

It is being planned in the wake of an overhaul of the long-running street theatre arena on the High Street section of the Royal Mile to create better stages, ease crowd congestion and accommodate large-scale performances for the first time.

The Fringe Society is exploring options for expansion at the same time as council chiefs are considering various “traffic free” experiments in parts of the city centre, including the New Town.

It may also face restrictions over the use of The Mound precinct in the next few years due to planned building work on an expansion of the Scottish National Gallery complex.

The Fringe’s plans have emerged a year after the organisers of the Edinburgh International Book Festival called for the whole of George Street to be made traffic-free in August. The event spilled out from Charlotte Square Garden on to part of the historic thoroughfare last year and this month has seen one of its biggest venues moved into George Street, alongside a cafe-bar and bookshop.

St Andrew Square Garden was previously home to Fringe shows, but these were controversially ousted last year amid concern over the impact of infrastructure on the grass.

Fringe chief executive, Ms McCarthy said: “We have 250 street performances a day at the moment but it is clearly an area that could expand.

“We’re really up for open conversations about any aspects of the public realm that we could be involved in animating or enhancing in any way. We’re really interested in the New Town area, particularly George Street and St Andrew Square.

“We’re keen to work with anyone to look at what kinds of performances would work in specific spaces, what would be in keeping with particular areas and what would work for local businesses around those spaces. One of things that is under-represented is some of the amazing circus acts and aerial performances that are at the Fringe.”

Ms McCarthy said the Fringe was hoping to take a “fresh view” of its use of The Mound precinct in the near future.

She added: “It feels to me like The Mound is a bit squeezed at the moment.”