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Edinburgh Festival Fringe to return with second-biggest programme ever after late flurry of bookings

Assembly is one of the biggest venue operators at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Picture: William Burdett-Coutts
Assembly is one of the biggest venue operators at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Picture: William Burdett-Coutts

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is set to return with the second biggest programme in its 76-year history - despite previous fears that artists and companies would be “priced out” of the event this year by the cost of accommodation.

More than 3600 shows are now registered for the event after a late flurry of interest in taking part since its official programme was launched in early June.

Cris Peploe, Claudia Cawthorne and Martha Haskins pose with a large-scale version of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023 programme cover in Anchor Close. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Cris Peploe, Claudia Cawthorne and Martha Haskins pose with a large-scale version of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023 programme cover in Anchor Close. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

More than 600 extra productions and 28 new venues have been added to the line-up since the official guide was published.

The run-up to the Fringe launch was dominated by concerns about whether the festival would see a decline in the size of its programme, which

Around 87 per cent of artists polled in the wake of last year’s event felt that the affordability of accomodation and living costs in Edinburgh in August would be a barrier to their future participation at the event.

However the extra availability of student housing for this year’s event and deals agreed with venue operators are said to have pegged back prices.

THe Pleasance Courtyard. (Photo: Lisa Ferguson)
THe Pleasance Courtyard. (Photo: Lisa Ferguson)

The return of the official Fringe app after its controversial absence in 2022 and less of a reliance on inclusion in the printed programme is said to have helped encourage late bookings.

It was announced last week that one of the biggest performing arts venues in the New Town would make a surprise comeback.

More than 50 concerts are to staged at the Rose Theatre on Rose Street, while the St James Quarter will be staging its own music festival across the centre and also playing host to dozens of street performers throughout August.

Last year’s Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Sam Campbell and Jordan Gray, who made the shortlist for the prize, are among those who have added last-minute shows.

Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy. (Photo: Lisa Ferguson)
Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy. (Photo: Lisa Ferguson)

Fringe Society chief executive Shona McCarthy said: “We always say that we don’t judge the success of the Fringe by the number of shows that are on.

“For us, that’s more about people actually seeing and supporting work, audiences connecting with shows, and artists having a positive experience in Edinburgh.”

The new Fringe app, which went live on 11 July, has already had more than 21,000 downloads ahead of the festival’s official launch on Friday.

Lyndsey Jackson, deputy chief executive of the Fringe Society, said: “It’s impossible to say where we will get to with ticket sales, but signs are positive and ticket sales are going well.

"They are definitely ahead of this time last year and people are seeing audiences from 2019. Venues are broadly indicating the same.”

Although leading hotel operators are charging upwards of £1000 for a two-night stay, some student accommodation is still available for this year’s Fringe for less than £100 a night.

Business chiefs said the room rates being charged reflected the level of demand to visit Edinburgh, which has already reached pre-Covid levels in the city over the summer.

Roddy Smith, chief executive of city centre business group Essential Edinburgh, said: “I have heard nothing but positivity about this August.

"I do know the hotels are well booked-up already. Accommodation is selling out and the room rates are pretty high, which means the demand is there.”

Douglas Robertson, the promoter of the Rose Theatre’s gigs, said: “We’ll present a showcase of the best of Scottish music at this year’s Fringe.

“We believe our series will be the best that the Fringe has seen in living memory.

Susan Hewlett, brand and marketing director at the St James Quarter, said: “We are excited to be bringing such a diverse line-up of amazing music performers to this year’s festival.

“We’re thrilled to be collaborating with the Fringe Society again after such a great 2022.

"Partnering with the Fringe goes beyond entertainment, as it is an incentive for tourism and a boost for the city of Edinburgh.”