Edinburgh fringe festival off to rainy start
Scotland's famous month-long arts festival kicked off to a small, rain-soaked crowd in Edinburgh yesterday. The cavalcade marked the beginning of three weeks of performing arts, which take place until August 25 in 247 venues.
Tens of thousands of spectators lined the streets of the Scottish capital for a huge parade to kick start the festival season.
Some 3,000 participants took part in the Edinburgh Festivals' Cavalcade, which traditionally heralds the start of the city's month-long arts bonanza.
Police estimated crowds of 50,000 turned out as heavy rain hit the city on Sunday afternoon - lower than previous years when up to 175,000 people have turned up.
This week sees the kick-off for the Edinburgh Fringe, swinging the national spotlight on thousands of small-scale theatre and comedy events. It's always a pleasure to see the performing arts crowd, many of whom are relentlessly London-centric, deserting the capital for a few weeks and trying to cram themselves into Scotland's most genteel city. But it does seem that this year there are some cracks in the Edinburgh Fringe facade, weaknesses that could spell the beginning of the end of its dominance of the summer fringe circuit. For years, young performers have risked bankruptcy by throwing themselves into the crowded talent pool of Edinburgh. Most emerge from the experience audience-free and penniless, with only a warm sense of having been part of a national event as reward for their troubles. This year, a new, trouble-prone centralised computer ticketing system seems to symbolise all that is wrong with the Fringe: it has become both monolithic and shambolic.
FRINGE FACTS 2008:
· Fringe 2008 features 31,320 performances of 2,088 shows in 247 venues
· Comedy makes up 32% of the programme followed closely by Theatre with 29% Music is next with 17%, Musicals & Opera are tied with Dance & Physical Theatre with 5% each. Children’s shows and Event listings are also tied and account for 4% each, Exhibitions make up the final 3%
· An estimated 18,792 performers will take to the stage at the Fringe in 2008. In 2007 there were 18,626 performers
· 350 shows at Fringe 2008 are absolutely free, an increase of 46 shows from last year
· Last year 1.7 million tickets (1,697,293) were sold at the Fringe. 2007 was second year and second consecutive year that the Fringe past the 1.5 million ticket mark
And now a David has emerged to challenge the Edinburgh Goliath. The Camden Fringe festival, though still in its infancy, is this summer hosting some 300 performances of theatre and comedy. And it has dared to run all this at the same time as its Scottish big brother, a brave stand when all eyes are traditionally turned on Edinburgh. I'm not suggesting that the Edinburgh Fringe is going to disappear. But its days of near-monopoly seem to be drawing to a close. Very soon, it's going to be just one of many festivals offering new performance work, as a whole new summer of fringe festivals explodes across the country. Pass me the Pimm's and the sunblock. It's showtime.