Comment: Many never engage with the festivals

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the Fringe this year is going to be another record-breaker.

A total of 3314 shows, crammed into 313 venues, will make it the biggest ever. The hype is under way, and there is already a buzz about it.

Within hours of the mammoth programme being announced, the New York Times was blogging enthusiastically about what’s in store for visitors to the Capital. Any city would give their eye teeth for an event with that kind of global profile and appeal.

The end result is clear. Vast ticket sales and enormous visitor numbers will tot up throughout August. Whether you look forward to the excitement, or moan about the crowds, there is no disputing the huge economic value to Edinburgh. The Fringe, and the city’s other summer festivals, generate an estimated £260 million a year, with the benefits being felt across the country.

The Fringe is certainly one of Edinburgh’s – and Scotland’s – greatest success stories. But it remains curiously disconnected from large parts of the city. And that seems unlikely to change this year either.

Yes, a huge proportion of ticket sales come from Edinburgh and the Lothians, but there are still many who never engage with the festivals. It is quite possible to spend the entire summer outside the city centre oblivious to the joyous mayhem there. Many people do. Some by active choice – which is fine – others because they’ve not really sure about what’s on offer, beyond comedians and student Shakespeare productions, or even a vague feeling “that it’s not for the likes of me”.

The International Festival may enjoy a hoity-toity reputation, but it is making big efforts to break down barriers with the rest of the city, forging, for example, a groundbreaking partnership with Castlebrae High School. Perhaps the “popular” Fringe could learn something from its “highbrow” counterpart when it comes to being a good neighbour.