Fringe audience set to top 3m as new figures reveal event has doubled in size in a decade

Whisky giant Johnnie Walker has been unveiled as a major new sponsor of the Fringe.
Whisky giant Johnnie Walker has been unveiled as a major new sponsor of the Fringe.
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The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is poised to break through the three million audience barrier for the first time in its history - as it emerged that the event has almost doubled in scale over the last decade.

A record 59,600 performances will be staged during the three-week event in August - compared to 31,320 performances in 2008.

Audiences are being encouraged to take more of a chance on Fringe shows this year.

Audiences are being encouraged to take more of a chance on Fringe shows this year.

The number of productions in the official programme, which was unveiled today, has also soared by nearly 85 per cent over the same period, with a record 63 countries involved in the overall tally of 3841.

Nearly 300 extra shows are being staged compared to 12 months ago, an increase of eight per cent, with the number of performances up five per cent on 2018. A record 323 venues will be in the Fringe this year, including several new locations in Leith.

The Fringe has revealed that 963 shows - roughly a quarter of the programme - will be Scottish productions, with 744 of these being made in Edinburgh.

This year's marketing campaign will encourage audiences to explore new venues and shows by playing a new arcade-style Inspiration Machine which will be installed on The Mound precinct or download a "FringeMaker" app on their mobile phone.

The Fringe programme was released as it emerged that the event had attracted a lucrative sponsorship deal with whisky giant Johnnie Walker, which will be creating a new venue for festivals and events at its multi-million pound attraction on Princes Street, which is expected to open in 2020.

Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said: "The Fringe is a remarkable feat of engineering and human endeavour, and this year we are celebrating all the artists, writers, crew, staff, venue operators, audience members and more who come together to make your Fringe.

"“This year’s festival will feature 744 shows from Edinburgh, 963 from Scotland and work from a record 63 countries, which collectively help make the Fringe the greatest celebration of arts and culture on the planet.

"From the growing threat of global warming to the personal stories of migrants making a new home in a strange land; the 50th anniversary of the moon landings to exploring sex and true crime stories, this year’s programme will challenge perceptions, stimulate conversation, entertain, make you laugh, make you cry and inspire you."

It is thought the value of the event to the national economy, which was measured at £173 million when the last official research was carried out in 2015, has soared above £200 million thanks to a 25 per cent increase in its audience since then.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said the event had grown to become an "economic powerhouse" for the economy.

She added: "This year, the programme demonstrates once again why it is one of the most important events in the international cultural calendar. Innovation and creativity will provide unforgettable moments for festival goers and will raise Scotland’s standing on the world stage."