Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Eddie Izzard unveiled as an official ambassador

Comedy favourite Eddie Izzard has agree to become a new high-profile ambassador for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – decades after appearing as an unknown street performer at the event.

Izzard has become the first “alumni patron” of the festival ahead of its 75th anniversary season.

The stage and screen star has been unveiled as an official champion a year after Fleabag’s creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge was announced as the Fringe Society’s honorary president.

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The two stars helped stage a 75th anniversary for the Fringe at the House of Commons last week.

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    Izzard, who has been openly transgender since the mid-1980s, shot to fame at the Fringe after being nominated for its main comedy award in 1991, alongside Jack Dee, Frank Sinner and Lily Savage, after a decade of appearances at the festival, including as a street performer in the Old Town and on The Mound precinct, as well as in sketch and stand-up shows.

    Izzard was still studying drama at Sheffield University when she made her Fringe debut, inspired by a love of Monty Python, the group of surrreal comics who performed at the Fringe in the 1960s and landed their own TV show by the end of the decade.

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    Izzard has continued to make regular appearances at the festival, despite forging a hugely successful acting career, appearing a solo performance of the Charles Dickens classic Great Expectations during the last full-scale Fringe in 2019.

    Film and TV roles since the 1990s have included the Whisky Galore remake, Ocean’s Twelve and Oceans Thirteen, The Avengers, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lego Batman Movie, Victoria and Abdul, The Day of the Triffids and Stay Close.

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    Eddie Izzard has been uneviled as an official ambassador for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Picture: Luciana Guerra/Press Association

    Izzard is the first new appointment made by the Fringe Society since it revealed plans to recruit at least five “high profile advocates” of the festival to help champion the event and help it recover from the impact of two years of Covid lockdowns and restrictions.

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    Izzard said: “The Fringe gives people from all around the world a wonderful, open-door opportunity to perform and be seen.

    "But it is also physically and mentally as tough as hell. It took me eight Fringe festivals to start breaking through, and 10 festivals to finally arrive.

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    “But the Fringe taking place in the dramatic and historic capital city of Edinburgh gives it something else. It gives it grandeur. It is this grandeur, coupled with young people’s intense creative struggle, that has made the Fringe what it is today. A legend.”

    Eddie Izzard has been unveiled as the first 'alumni patron' of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.
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    Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Fringe Society, said: “Eddie’s enthusiasm and passion for what the Fringe represents is inspiring, and she speaks from the heart and personal experience of its challenges.

    “We are delighted to welcome her as a patron of the Fringe Society.

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    “As someone who has performed at the Fringe since the 1980s, she has experienced the festival as an emerging artist, as a street performer, and as a returning performer at the top of her game.

    “As an organisation created to support artists in navigating, and maximising their time at the festival, Eddie’s involvement, through her role as patron, will resonate with many looking to develop their careers.

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    “It is a privilege to have Eddie on board, supporting the work of the society and working with us to achieve our development goals and commitments.”