Edinburgh Festival Fringe organisers confident shows can 'pop up across the city' this year

Organisers of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe say they are now "confident" venues will be up and running again this August – with shows expected to “pop up across the city.”

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 6:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 7:51 pm

The Fringe Society, which oversees the running of the 74-year-old event, said it expected elements of the festival to "pop up across the city" this summer.

Bookings for shows and venues are finally up and running amid ongoing uncertainty over what social distancing restrictions will be in place in Edinburgh in August.

Under Scotland’s current route map for easing restrictions, audiences of up to 400 are envisaged at indoor events by the end of June.

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Fringe venues have been told to plan ahead on the basis of two metre social distancing still being place in Scotland later in the summer, despite warnings it will make their plans financially unviable.

However a Scottish Government review of proposed social distancing and capacity guidelines for live events later in the summer is expected to be carried out over the next few weeks.

Fringe Society deputy chief executive Lyndsey Jackson said that, although the festival was likely to be smaller in scale than normal, a mix of outdoor public spaces and large indoor venues were likely to host shows.

She said audiences drawn from Edinburgh and around Scotland were expected to make up the bulk of ticket-buyers.

The Pleasance is normally one of the most popular Fringe venues. Picture: Neil Hanna

The last Fringe in 2019 saw 3841 different shows, 706 of them free of charge, staged across 323 venues.

Ms Jackson told BBC Scotland: “Increasingly, we are cautiously optimistic about live work.

"There’s still a lot of work to do about making that safe and possible for artist and audiences, so that everybody can come and have a good time in the most safe way possible.

"We have to work with the local authority and public authorities to do that in the best way.

Edinburgh's Old Town is normally thronged with festival-goers in August. Picture: Jon Savage

“But we are confident that there will be some semblance of the Fringe in the city this year.

“The joy of the Fringe being uncurated and unprogrammed by us is that we don’t really know who wants to bring their work.

“But the venues have been working really hard with us and the council to understand what might be possible, both outdoors in public spaces, but also potentially indoors with social distancing in some of those larger rooms.

“It’s all still being worked through and the guidance is changing quite regularly, but we’re quite pleased to see that there are test events happening in England and to understand how they might help inform policy decisions in Scotland.

“It certainly won’t be of the scale, with tiny little spaces, that the Fringe normally is, but there will be elements of the Fringe that will pop up across the city.

"The best thing about Edinburgh and the Fringe is that our largest audience are Edinburgh residents.

"Internationally audiences in person will obviously go down but I think that that local audience will be keen to get out and do something. Obviously we’ve all been locked in our houses for a very long time, so there’s going to be an energy to that.

"Our local residents and the wider Scotland audience will be able to come and enjoy the festival all to themselves.”

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