Comment: Many in Edinburgh feel excluded by Fringe

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the Festival season has been fantastic so far – and with almost a week to go there is time for plenty more highlights yet.

Some of the leading Fringe venues have reporting early ticket sales up by as much as a third on last year. The earlier start for the International Festival seems to have helped attract more visitors to the Fringe rather than draw any away. A few sunny days has done no harm too.

But something has been missing over the last week or so – ever since the schools went back in fact. There have been far fewer local families enjoying the festivities as they return to the daily grind with two full weeks of the Festival still to run.

That has long been a bugbear for thousands who enjoy having the world’s biggest arts festival on their doorstep and would relish more chances to take part.

There are those that will say the Fringe has always run way beyond the school holidays and it has to finish on the English Bank Holiday weekend in order to attract the tourists who make the festivals such a success.

That is a perfectly reasonable point of view – but it is worth challenging the conventional wisdom.

It is only 18 years ago that the Fringe controversially changed to its current dates – from a later September finish – and it has gone from strength to strength ever since.

Of course the Fringe thrives on attracting as many visitors as possible in order to fund its artistic success.

But the risks of moving away from the English Bank Holiday are far less today than they were in the past. Many more people from Edinburgh, and the rest of Scotland, now go to the Fringe than they did 15 or 20 years ago.

Would a move to earlier in the summer attract enough new visitors to make up for the potential loss at the end of August?

There are still many people in the Capital who feel excluded from the annual arts jamboree and this could be the single most powerful move to bring the barriers that stop them taking part crashing down.

That is not likely to happen overnight, especially as the International Festival has just changed its dates to join up with the Fringe once again, but it is worth serious consideration.

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