70th Edinburgh Fringe to be ‘biggest platform on the planet for freeedom of expression’

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Organisers of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe have begun the countdown to its 70th anniversary by pledgling it will be “the biggest platform on the planet for freeedom of expression” this summer.

The first Fringe shows went on sale today, with a further five release dates planned before the official programme launch on 5 June.

The Edinburgh Festival celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Picture: Neil Hanna

The Edinburgh Festival celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Picture: Neil Hanna

A record 2,475,143 Fringe tickets were sold last year for more than 50,000 performances of 3269 shows in 294 venues, representing a 7.7 per cent increase in box office business.

But Ms McCarthy insisted the content of the Fringe programme was far more important than the number of tickets sold or the countries represented at the event.

She said: “It is about the eclectic mix of change-makers and risk-takers who make up the Fringe.

“Last year’s festival reached even more people to see wide-ranging content and enlightening work covering difficult subjects like dementia, suicide and mental health, and productions that looked at identity, conflict, gender and politics.

“The collective content of the Fringe is a spotlight on humanity. The quality and bravery in 2016 was outstanding.

“It’s going to be really fascinating to see how the promoters and performers present our world in 2017.”

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which is now the largest open-access event in the world, started life when

Ms McCarthy, who was appointed just over a year ago, started life in 1947 when a number of companies staged unofficial shows during the first Edinburgh International Festival.

She revealed plans to celebrate those origins with more than 200 fringe festivals which have since sprung up around the world.

Ms McCarthy added: “It is not only the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year but the 70th birthday of the whole concept of a ‘fringe.’

“That spark that was ignited in this city in this city in 1947 was the catalyst for now a global network of more than 200 fringe festivals spanning every continent. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the mothership.

“We are very proud that this worldwide network started here with eight companies - six Scottish and two English - who just wanted the chance to have their work seen by an audience. Because of their determine there are platforms around the world for performers to express their ideas.

“The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is quite simply the greatest platform for freedom of expression on the planet.

“When I came here I felt we really had got into a habit of talking only about the Fringe in terms of its scale, its ticket sales and its statistics.

“In the global context THAT we’re in right now we should be well minded that it is now so much more than that.

“It’s an incredible space where people can come and share difficult, challenging ideas through freedom of expression.
“It’s something to be valued, cared for, nurtured and celebrated across the world right now.”

Comics Rory Bremner, Mark Thomas and Susan Calman, theatre-maker Cora Bissett, American actress Annette O’Toole, singer Horse McDonald and broadcaster Nicholas Parsons are among the comics who have recorded special 70th birthday message for the Fringe.

also appearing in the three-minte promotional film are veteran arts impresario Richard Demarco, who has attended every festival, fellow Traverse Theatre founder Jim Haynes and Nica Burns, director of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.

Ms McCarthy added: “To kick off our 70th celebrations we asked some familiar faces to tell us what the Fringe means to them.

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“It’s great to hear from a broad range of performers, writers and producers, whose experiences at the Fringe have shaped, enhanced, or inspired their careers.”

In the short film, Smallville star O’Toole, who appeared at last year’s Fringe, said: “As a whole it’s just one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.”

Smith: “It’s the great playground of the imagination. Any conceivable thing is worth a try.”

Edinburgh-born Bremner: “There are just so many talented performers in one place, comedians, actors, buskers...even in telephone boxes and the back of cabs people are putting on shows.”

Edinburgh-based comic Craig Hill: “You really couldn’t find a city with a more exciting vibe.”

Calman said: “For a comedian, the Fringe is like Christmas. We plan our whole year around it.

Thomas said: “You will get to see some of the most exciting and thrilling performances. This is the biggest arts festival out there.”

Haynes said: “It’s wonderful. You never know what you’re going to see.”

Burns said: “It’s a place to discover and be discovered that can’t be beaten anywhere.”

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