Insiders Guide to Edinburgh Festival & Fringe 2013

If you’re heading to Edinburgh this year for the Festival or Fringe then allow me, a local yokel with many years (too many to admit to) living in the city and working in the Fringe/Festival as a writer/presenter/audience member to help you navigate the rather overwhelming information you can be bombarded with when heading to this lovely city.

Firstly. Don’t panic. It looks confusing but with a little help from your friend – me – all will become clear. It helps if you have a few quid – but if you are sitting reading that thinking, Oh dear I am no Warren Buffet (no relation to Jimmy or wedding) then fret not you don’t need a bottomless pit of cash to do the rounds.

First. There is the Edinburgh International Festival which runs concurrently with The Fringe. The former is the highbrow stuff. The operatic, international, cultural, wildly expensive and desperately hard to understand sort of stuff.  As a rule, apart from The Military Tattoo – this is the one event that the world knows and is a sell out every year. This is the elite end of the whole jing bang. Having said that if you do want to do the Tattoo don’t believe that sold out nonsense, keep hitting their website as they do sometimes release tickets on the run up if returned, unsold or suddenly available. Other than the Tattoo  the Festival as such, the conductors, orchestras, serious dancers, audience members who wear suits, long dresses and updos I honestly have no experience of at all.  Sorry I am a mere Fringe veteran not the high falootin’ sort of girl that goes to this wonderfully high brow stuff. SO move along if you are in a state of disapproval.

However if you want Fringe chat you are in the right place.  Here goes.

Planning ahead is all very well but it takes a few days for the jungle drums to beat to the tell the world at large what is the must see show for any given year.

So you arrive in Edinburgh… your marks, get set………go.

The Fringe 
Get into the habit of buying our local rag, The Scotsman every morning. Scotland on Sunday on a Sunday – the Sunday edition. To be honest their website is not exactly state of the art but this paper is the oracle of all things fringe and festival. You may be more of an internet reader and user and be out of the habit of buying a newspaper but the fact is performers, promoters, locals and visitors alike read this tome. It is great for the purpose of navigating this mayhemic event for minimum money and maximum information to get you to the right shows on the right days.

Weekly they give out Fringe Firsts – which are a great accolade and reliable as shows well worth seeing.

A couple of days before the fringe officially starts pick up your copy as it keeps abreast of previews, does great 2 tickets for the price of 1 deals, plus it is the oracle for daily reviews of all the shows. It will guide you through whats hot and whats not to see.  There are easy to read listings too. All on one page, by time not  venue – venues meaning nothing if you are not from this here Parish.

Whether comedy, drama, theatre, music, art they have a top notch platoon of reviewers swarming the city and reviews are printed with an easy to read star system in a daily supplement.

No I do not work for them. No I am not on commission. It’s just a fact.

The Free fringe is just what it says – free. It’s a hit or a miss. But this is how the fringe started as a side order to the festival and you might just find a gem or the next huge thing lurking in a warm bar in broad daylight where you least expect it, so open up your eyes to all possibilities.

Busking is rife and one place to be guaranteed some seriously good entertainment. At the foot of the mound beside The National Gallery on Princes St. our main thoroughfare. These guys are not giving you a flavour of their show -this is their show – and their living.  Chances are they are living out of and in some cases in an actually suitcase to follow their Edinburgh dream – so be generous before your swan off to your next port of call.

During the first couple of days a production is settling in and warming up often you can get tickets at bargain prices.
Head towards the top of the Royal Mile aka The High Street and grab a leaflet – well it’s hard not too – you will be inundated by Brazilian rainforest, but quite often you will find a deal there.

Performers pepper the streets giving a flavour of their show so you can try before you buy. You will see buskers as described earlier here but you will also see makeshift stages going up in a moment as a barber shop quartet or theatre group perform an extract to tempt you to buy tickets for their show.
The official box office is here too – but the myriad of performers, buskers and marketing dafties that wander the cobbled streets may just thrust you a leaflet with a deal that can’t be missed.
Brass neck required. If you have one then head to the production of choice – this will not work in the big venues* – but in a church hall, small room, bar, off the beaten track kind of space – barter. Why not? The production would rather have someone in there than no-one and when you think there are literally thousands of productions on in Edinburgh at this time, they want bums on seats – full price or not.

If there are 2 of you suggest 2 for 1. If there are more than that then go for a group discount.If not – look as though you might walk away – likelihood is they will call you back.

The large venues The Assembly Rooms, The Pleasance, The Gilded Balloon, The Underbelly are big business venues and likelihood is they’ll be non negotiable but if you do have some cash and want to see some of the big names then keep an eye out for the Best of The Fest days and nights – they are great. Essentially a showcase of names each perform a few minutes of their material – a taster of their individual show – it’s not a cheap ticket but you are getting a load of entertainment for your buck and i you like the household name/face chances are you will find them here. Also there is usually a night at The Playhouse for Amnesty and a night for Wavereley Care at The Pleasance- great causes.

Speak to people. You can see by the gait of an exiting audience whether they enjoyed it or not. If they did ask what they saw? Equally if they all look bored, grey faced and livid – ask them too – don’t waste you hard earned cash. It’s not cheap this arty farty nonsense.

Tell the world. Be their PR. The majority of performers lose money in Edinburgh. It is heart ruling head to come up here and compete with thousands of others but if you enjoyed it – tell anyone who will listen. Tweet. Facebook. Blog. Shout. Whisper. Cajole.  It takes balls to do what they have done and without them – what a dull world it would be.

Next priority in life – well if you’re me – is food and drink. Consider that being taken care of and appearing here within the next few days.