Where can The Fringe go next as it grows and grows? - Liam Rudden

St James Quarter
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WITH the launch of the programme, the Fringe is once again building up steam.

Yet again, this year’s event is heralded as the biggest yet and, no doubt, yet again there will be the annual outcry as the city grinds to a standstill come August.

Yet for all the disruption it brings, the annual arts festival - still the biggest in the world - also has its benefits.

The word is that the Fringe will spread out across more of the city this year - not a new initiative by any means, but one that needs looked at.

The Royal Mile is often too congested these days outwith the Festival, let alone when there are a myriad of street entertainers displaying their skills and an army of costumed performers thrusting flyers at anything that moves.

It’s only a matter of time before someone gets crushed.

The idea of moving some of the street entertainment to the George Street area to ease the pressure is a good one.

At the moment the Fringe is very much a beast of the Old Town and the Old Town was never designed for such a carnival.

With parts of George Street regularly closed of, it makes a lot of sense that the Council should explore opening more of it up for street entertainment - as has been done in the past.

Of course, one of the biggest loses to the Fringe in recent years was the decision to stop venues operating from St Andrew Square, taken by the Square’s owners.

In many ways that space had come to epitomise much of what the Fringe has come to be - shows in makeshift venues with bars and street food to be enjoyed on the odd occasion that the weather works in Edinburgh’s favour.

Certainly, on a good day it was arguably one of the most bohemian areas of the city.

With that gone, however, it’s time to look elsewhere.

It will be interesting to see how far the Fringe and Festival encroach on the new St James’ Quarter when it opens next year.

Presently, with the exception of The Stand Comedy Club venues in York Place, travel beyond St Andrew Square and you’d scarcely know there was a festival happening at all.

By the time you reach the top of Leith Walk, normal service has been resumed, but for the tailbacks of traffic and the odd wandering minstrel from the Greenside Venue on Royal Terrace, although I guess most of them will also be on the High Street or in Bristo Square with their flyers.

Even Holyrood Road can’t tempt festival-goers further than The Pleasance, as was discovered two years ago when the MacDonald Holyrood became a Fringe venue - I had a show there, the whole are shuts down early, even the local pub closed around 8pm.

So. it’s all very well saying let’s spread the Fringe over a larger area, the real question is: How do we encourage festival-goers to venture further afield?

Answers on a postcard...