Fringe Review of the Year
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society has just published their Annual Review of the year 2023, outlining activities over the past 12 months. This includes the core services in support of the 2023 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, as well as the work they do year-round to give anyone a stage and everyone a seat.
The Fringe Society’s year-round services build towards the global phenomenon for Scotland that is the Fringe itself. This year our Artist Services team responded to over 25,000 enquiries from artists, and worked to attract 1,400 arts industry delegates, representing 50 countries, of whom 40% were entirely new to the Fringe. They came to the festival to discover talent and give onward life to shows, and employment for artists through touring and screen industry opportunities.
Some 840 media, representing over 400 outlets in the UK and abroad, accredited to cover the Fringe, while Fringe Central, the home from home for artists during the festival, saw nearly 2,000 artists through its doors. With the support of our honorary President Phoebe Waller-Bridge and donated profits from Edinburgh Gin sales, we were able to provide direct financial support to 50 artists through the Keep it Fringe fund. To support artists taking a show to the festival, we ran a series of events through the online Fringe Connect platform, with over 7,500 individual artists regularly using it. We also sourced some 750 rooms for our affordable accommodation portal and kept registration fees frozen for all artists for the 16th year.
This year-round work ensures the Fringe remains affordable, relevant and offers a vital opportunity to the creative sector across Scotland and the UK and to international participants. The quality of the work at this year’s Fringe was remarkable, and we aim to constantly evolve, improve and provide services at a level of excellence to do justice to the creativity on the stages and in venues.
Also among the 2023 review’s contents are details of our work with communities in and around Edinburgh. 2023 saw a record level of engagement with our flagship Fringe Days Out project, which has now helped provide 16,000 Fringe visits since its launch in 2017, many by communities and individuals who would have otherwise missed out on the festival.
‘We received many vouchers which we passed on directly to families of children and young people who access our services. We were frequently told through feedback that, were it not for the vouchers, the families would not have been able to see any shows, and we were overwhelmed by the positive feedback we received. [Robbie, Branch Out]
Fringe Days Out has also provided additional routes to engaging with local communities both during and outwith festival time, including ‘taste of the Fringe’ events with Sikh Sanjog, Stepping Stones North Edinburgh and the Broomhouse Street Party, spreading the magic of the festival beyond August and the city centre.
‘Fringe Days Out is a fantastic resource that allows us to be involved in something which is huge for the city – without adding any additional costs on to an already stretched budget! It was another fab year for our young people and families to enjoy lots of different shows!’ [Canongate Youth]
The review captures our efforts to increase the festival’s inclusivity of D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse artists and audiences. Our access ticketing service, which is open to anyone with an access requirement, experienced a 33% increase in bookings compared to 2022. More than 1,100 Fringe performances offered enhancements, such as relaxed, captioned, audio-described or BSL-interpreted shows, and our refreshed sensory resources project – which provides sensory tools for neurodiverse audiences visiting the Fringe – was used more than 300 times throughout August, while also providing resources for 300 artists as part of our relaxed Meet the Media session.
Woven throughout the review is a recognition of the need for collaboration to tackle the challenges faced by the Fringe and the wider arts landscape, as well as the urgent need for renewed funding and support. With the ongoing inflation impacts and the current cost-of-living crisis, continued and renewed support for the Fringe and the Fringe Society is key to ensuring that this great festival continues to support the thousands of residents and local communities who are able to participate in the festival through these projects.
Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, said:
The 2023 Fringe felt like a joyous return, and that wouldn’t have been possible without the combined efforts of a cast of thousands – of which the dedicated team at the Fringe Society is a small but vital part. I could not be prouder of our team’s phenomenal achievements this year. This incredible festival means so much to so many, which is why we strongly feel it deserves far greater public financial support than it currently receives. The Fringe not only enriches this country’s economy, which has been proven time and time again; it also enriches our souls. Discussions about the financial impact of the Fringe usually take precedence because it’s considered an approach that funders can more easily understand, but the fact is, the arts significantly improve lives, and that in itself needs to be sustained, as do the artists who make the work in the first place.