Edinburgh Fringe a respite in tough times
Dancer Jordan Lombardi from Rock the Ballet performs for photographers with Edinburgh Castle in the background during a photocall for their shows at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland Aug. 18, 2011. (REUTERS/David Moir)
Comedy, drama, song and satire all combine in another record-breaking season in August for the Edinburgh Fringe festival, the world's biggest annual arts extravaganza which continues to expand despite economic hard times.
Fringe chief executive Kath Mainland told the official programme launch on Thursday that 2,695 shows were lined up this year, a six-percent increase over the record 2011 programme, and anticipated an influx of nearly 22,500 performers.
Edinburgh's population of 450,000 swells to around one million during the festival period with the Fringe alone generating around 142 million pounds annually for the city and Scottish economies.
The Fringe runs from August 3-27 in conjunction with the more high-brow International Festival, the Edinburgh Book Festival, jazz and television festivals and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo held on the esplanade of the castle that dominates the city centre.
The Edinburgh festivals have been coordinating with London to take advantage of the Olympic and Paralympic games and the London Arts Olympiad, where some of the Fringe shows will also perform.
"We have a programme that will capture the attention of people all over the world and demonstrate why over the last 66 years the Fringe has grown into the greatest show on earth," Mainland said.
The International Festival and its rambunctious Fringe offshoot were founded in 1947 as an antidote to the austerity of the years following World War Two.
Shows at the 2012 Fringe range through political satire and comment to the Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee, comedians vying for the prestigious comedy awards, serious theatre, cabaret, song, music and opera to dance and children's events.
Mainland told Reuters it was "extraordinary" the way the festival was bucking the economic recession.
But she noted the Fringe was a major talent market, with scouts, impresarios, theatrical bookers and critics attending all with an eye to the future.
"I think it's a very efficient way for a company to get an audience. or an industry or a media audience, even in these tough times, and Edinburgh still provides an enormous chance to get in front of the right people for future development -- also, it's just great fun."