Edinburgh Festival Fringe leader predicts 2022 will see ‘rebirth’ of 75th anniversary event

Shona McCarthy is Executive Director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.

Shona McCarthy said she was “more optimistic than ever about the future” ahead of the Fringe’s 75th anniversary season in August. , after its cancellation in 2020 and a reduced incarnation in 2021. However, Ms McCarthy insisted that the future is “to reimagine the Fringe as the best version of itself.”

The Fringe was increasingly watched over its annual expansion in the years up to 2019, when it first drew an audience of three million people, and a record 3,841 shows were organized in 323 locations.

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After the Fringe 2020 staged fully online due to the pandemic, plans to relaunch the event in 2021 were hampered by difficulties caused by uncertainty over which Covid restrictions would still be in place.

Sophie Douglas, Emmanuella Damptey, and Caitlin Anderson played aliens from planet Hanyana on the Fringe 2021 WeCameToDance show. Image: Ian Georgeson Photography

Physical distancing at live events in Scotland was not abandoned until the Fringe venues opened and the shows started.

In the end, 942 shows were recorded – 414 online and 528 in person – with over 400,000 tickets sold.

At the end of August, the Fringe Society launched a £ 7.5million fundraiser to help get the event back on track.

Scheduled to last between three and five years, the “Save the Fringe” campaign will lead to the creation of new funding pots to try to make it more affordable for artists, companies and venues to put on shows, help pay the roll. – “sustainable practices” across the festival, developing new audiences in Edinburgh and securing a new long-term home for the Fringe Society.

In a post on the Fringe Society’s website, Ms McCarthy said “pride” was her main feeling as she recalled how the Fringe had fought “against the toughest odds” to get there. ‘before last summer.

She added: “In January, I don’t think any of us could have imagined that we would be together again this summer, experiencing the joy of performing live in our streets and venues.

“Our first tickets went on sale in July, and even when our box office opened, we didn’t know what to expect.

“By the end of the Fringe, over 900 shows had chosen to participate – both in person and online. There was excitement again in our community. There was hope for the future. And after all the lessons learned in 2021, I feel more optimistic than ever for the future.

“2022 will be a great year for the Fringe. It’s our 75th anniversary and it will mark our rebirth as a festival.

“We will fight as hard as we can to make sure the larger Fringe recovers and the returning Fringe truly reflects the world we live in.

“Recovery is not about going back to the current situation. It’s about reimagining the Fringe as the best version of itself, and I’m excited to see that come to life.

“2021 has taught us about strength, resilience and community. And it is these values ​​that will guide us in our future.

Speaking at the Fringe Society’s annual meeting in August, its president, Benny Higgins, insisted that the scale of the event should no longer be seen as a measure of its success and that the event of 2002, its 75th birthday in 2022 should be seen as “the start of what will become of the Fringe”.

He said at the time: “Scale is not success. It’s what we do and how we do it that is success. Scale is sort of a by-product of that, but that’s not the goal.

“This is the time for reflection. We have to be part of the recovery. But we have to reinvent the Fringe and see it as the rebirth of the Fringe.

“Part of being reborn is getting back to the first principles of what you’re trying to accomplish.

“As we begin to envision the future and the importance of recovering our economies and societies, I don’t think we should even consider trying to get back to where we were.

“In any crisis, it is very important that you come back to your goal, that you do not lower your ambition and that you stick to the values ​​that are important.

“I think we can expect next year to be the start of a new future for the Fringe.”


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