Brian Ferguson's Festival Diary: An endless array of online shows to be enjoyed

Edinburgh may seem a simpler, quieter place without the festival crowds, pop-up venues and traffic jams. But in the virtual world things are as mind-boggling as ever, thanks to the endless array of online shows, crowdfunding campaigns and even new festivals.

In 2013, Phoebe Waller-Bridge's hit TV show, Fleabag, was a low-budget one-woman play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
In 2013, Phoebe Waller-Bridge's hit TV show, Fleabag, was a low-budget one-woman play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

True to form, Underbelly has pulled a few headline-grabbing acts out of the bag to boost its fundraising efforts, securing signed Fringe show memorabilia from Golden Globe winner Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Oscar-winner Eddie

Redmayne, two of the biggest names to emerge from its cavernous Cowgate home.

But it’s the Pleasance campaign that has caught my eye, with a promo video and the launch of a range of “Lost Fringe” merchandise to mark the festival that never was.

Best of all is a “golden ticket” raffle prize. Instead of entering the hallowed gates of Willy Wonka’s factory, the winner of the Pleasance contest, which costs £5 a ticket, will get the chance to see every single show at its famous courtyard next August.

The winner will also have their own members of staff overseeing their reservations and adding recommendations for what to see in the Pleasance’s own world of imagination.

Assembly’s efforts are focused on helping the vast number of freelancers it usually works with in August when its year-round team of 12 expands to more than 900.


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The few staff working away to ensure it bounces back next year have embarked on individual challenges to help raise funds for its workers whose livelihoods have been left devastated.

These include Caroline Fraser, who is using her spare evenings in August to learn how to DJ, and head of ticketing Pete Patel, who is working as a Deliveroo driver to top up his crowdfunder.

However, general manager Dani Rae might have the best solution for laptop fatigue this month – she has pledged to go out hula-hooping in a different location in Edinburgh every day until the end of the month.

She says: “This would have been my 17th festival – I started as an usher at the Traverse and went on to work in pretty much every role possible across the Fringe.

“At Assembly, I’m so proud to be part of a team that feels like a family. Many are considering leaving the industry, which puts this incredible festival in real jeopardy. We want to do our bit to help persuade them to stay.”

One of the best new arrivals on Edinburgh’s grass-roots arts scenes in recent years has been the Monkey Barrel comedy club on Blair Street, with its “pay what you want” format.


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The ethos lives on in its own fundraising efforts, with tickets for its “marathon” event tonight available for a donation of £1 or more.

I counted more than 30 names on its poster, including last year’s Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Jordan Brookes, plus previous title-holders Sam Simmons and John Kearns.

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