Edinburgh Festival's 75th anniversary: As someone who worked in city centre for years, I can't wait for joyful craziness to return – Susan Dalgety

People can be so contrary. In 2019, if you had surveyed Edinburgh residents about the Festival Fringe, chances are that the responses would have been a mixed bag.
Street artists perform during the Fringe Festival on the Royal Mile (Picture: Ian Stewart/AFP via Getty Images)Street artists perform during the Fringe Festival on the Royal Mile (Picture: Ian Stewart/AFP via Getty Images)
Street artists perform during the Fringe Festival on the Royal Mile (Picture: Ian Stewart/AFP via Getty Images)

City folk love moaning about the Fringe. How the streets are too crowded; restaurants and hotels overbooked and over-priced; the cost of tickets extortionate, with most of the shows not worth queueing for, let alone paying £20 a head.

But a survey out last week suggests three-quarters of us love the festival in all its glorious mayhem and believe it makes Edinburgh a better place to live. Not surprisingly, we value it much more now because of Covid.

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Edinburgh is not the same without its August carnivals of culture. The grown-up one – the International Festival – happens largely behind closed doors, in theatres and galleries.

But the Fringe spills out on to the streets. From early morning to late into the night, you are guaranteed a show round every city centre corner. Some better than others, it must be said, but most will bring a smile to even the most tight-lipped of Edinburgh folk.

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I spent a large part of my formal working life in offices at either end of the High Street, and while the Royal Mile in August is pretty hard to navigate if you are in a hurry – which I often was – it is one of the most exuberant places on earth. Joyful, colourful, crazy, alive – the Fringe is all of those things and more.

For the last two years, our lives have been largely conducted on screens. Our kids’ social life was played out on their PS4s, while the grown-ups tried – and usually failed – to recreate the buzz of a night out on Zoom.

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There was no Fringe in 2020, and the organisers did their very best last August, but uncertainty surrounding Covid restrictions meant they could only put on 528 shows and sell 400,000 tickets. In 2019, there were nearly 4,000 shows, with three million tickets sold.

This year sees both festivals celebrate their 75th anniversary, and I think they will break all box-office records as Edinburgh folk flock to the shows, whether it is to see highbrow opera or bad stand-up. The city will come alive again, and I for one cannot wait.

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