Bluffer’s Guide To The Fringe, 2017 Edition

You may have noticed I’ve gone a bit quiet on here, but you might also spot that it’s August, and there’s a certain large arts festival that’s rolled into Edinburgh. All that free time I said I’d spend writing is actually spent diving into culture and all that. So, I thought I’d put together a bluffer’s guide to all things Festival, for any of my pals visiting this month…

Without further ado… *drumroll* here’s my top ten tips to the Edinburgh Festivals!

1. Be brave. Don’t just see things you know you like. That all-female Titus Andronicus? Go for it. An opera in a toilet? Take a chance. It’s not often you’ll see these things down your local theatre.

2. Yes, that is a venue. My OH, memorably, once wandered into the Pleasance Courtyard and declared that he couldn’t find the venue for the sketch show we’d booked. Until I gently pointed out that the Portakabin was the venue. In years gone by, I’ve seen shows in lifts, taxis, tiny uni teaching rooms, and on top of Arthur’s Seat. And that has to be worth the ticket price alone.



3. Be a cheapskate. Big names and later August shows are steep, but early August means 2-for-1 and preview rates, plus the Half Price Hut does loads of bargainous tickets. And if you flutter your eyelashes, you can often get free tickets, as happened recently with an overly flirty lady trying to get me to see some random comedian. Oh, and there are two free Fringes as well. Sit in a pub all day and be entertained for nowt (but drop some money in the bucket if it was good. MONEY SHOULD FLOW TO THE ARTIST.)

4. Use local knowledge. I recommend Lunchquest for food and drink tips, and locals will also tell you where Fringe-free oases are for when you get Fringe Fatigue (it will happen). Which leads nicely to…

5. Go to the Book Festival. A little haven in Charlotte Square, there’s lots of free entertainment this year (including Story Shop, which I have some experience with). Sit in a deckchair, or grab the sofa in the Greenhouse on George Street, and soak up the chilled atmosphere. My top tip? The children’s programme is not only the most consistently entertaining, the tickets tend to be a mere £5. Can’t say fairer than that. (I can’t promise you won’t blow all the rest of your money in the bookshop, though. *coughs, looks at empty wallet*)

Me, every bloody year.

6. Learn how to do the ‘Fringe walk’. Elbows sharpened, face hardened, ready to stomp past slow-moving tourists and get in their pictures. Be prepared, too, for hellish bus journeys, where folk won’t understand how anything works and delay you for ages. (I know, this is a bitter top tip, but I’ve had decades of ‘does this bus go to GEORGIE ROAD’ and I’m allowed to be a local cynic sometimes. So there.)

7. Don’t overdo it. We once saw five shows in one day, all in different parts of town. Don’t do this. Find a trendy popup gin bar and just chill. Chances are you’ll either get a top show tip from a fellow festivalgoer, or you’ll be flyered. Speaking of which…

8. Take the flyer. Don’t shout at the (very badly paid) students giving them out. I know how hard it is to put your work out there and promote it. Hats off this year to the handsome chap at George Square who promoted his show with a sleight of hand card trick. Now that made me take the flyer.

9. Stay nourished. You can last a long time on a Fringe beer breakfast, but I don’t recommend it. My pro tip this year is the ‘we make dumplings’ stall on George Square, where for £3 you get a heap of meaty goodness. Oh yes.


Eat ALL the food stalls.


10. Enjoy it! If you just go with the flow, don’t overplan or overthink, and get into the spirit of things, then the Festivals will be totally awesome. Trust me.

And with that, I’m off to enjoy a few Fringe-free days before ploughing back into it. If you see a pallid, confused writerly type wandering round, say hi, or even head to Blackwell’s or the Fruitmarket and buy her book. Ahem.


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