Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2021: Dates, how to buy tickets and how organisers will make it safe

The world’s biggest arts festival will be returning this August but it’ll look a little different this year.

The pandemic ensured that the streets of Edinburgh remained empty throughout August last year – as the Capital’s festivals were cancelled for the first time since the Edinburgh International Festival was launched in 1947.

It was all a far cry from 2019, when the Edinburgh Festival Fringe alone saw almost 60,000 performances of 3,841 shows across the city.

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That was the largest Fringe to date, while this year’s looks likely to be the smallest for decades.

Here’s what we know so far.

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What will Edinburgh Fringe look like in 2021?

Is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on this year.

The Fringe will be returning this year, running from 6 August – 30 August, and will feature a mix of in-person and vitual shows.

Queues outside the Pleasance on a normal year.

The virtual shows will fall into one of two categories: scheduled shows that will be performed live online at a particular time, and on demand shows that will be available to watch any time throughout the festival by the ticket holder.

Can I buy tickets for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Tickets went on sale for the first batch of around 170 shows last week, including the programmes for Fringe-favourite venues the Traverse Theatre and Summerhall.

Last August, the Pleasance Courtyard remained empty due to coronavirus restrictions.

Some of the larger venues, including the Gilded Balloon and the Pleasance, have confirmed they will host a programme of events but have yet to confirm details and tickets sales.

Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society said: “After the year we’ve all had, it brings me an indescribable amount of joy to see Fringe shows going on sale.

“Things will, of course, look a little different this year. But embracing the unknown and turning it into something magical is what the Fringe does best. I’m excited to see the ways that digital platforms are being used to create exciting, accessible work, and I’m inspired by the way producers and artists have adapted to the ongoing restrictions to bring live performance back to our lives.”

Further tickets will go in sale in the coming weeks, while plans have also been announced for street entertainers to return to the Royal Mile.

During normal years much of Edinburgh's George Street is transformed into a beer garden for people attending shows.

Tickets for all shows will be sold at www.edfringe.com, but remember that if shows are sold out there it's worth checking the venue’s own website.

Will it be safe to attend?

Many of the performances will take place in custom-made outdoor venues ensuring extra ventilation, while indoor venues are limiting capacity to enable social distancing.

All shows will comply with City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Government Covid-related regulations and the Fringe Society have said they “will be updating audiences and artists regularly on what changing restrictions mean for in-person performances at the Fringe”.

To reduce contact all shows will use ticketless entry, while there will be no printed programme this year.

On the Royal Mile, the crowds of a normal year will be replaced by a number of open-air auditoriums with fixed audience numbers, one-way systems, and clearly-marked entrance and exit points.

What’s on?

There are already a number of intriguing shows on sale, including the Traverse taking audiences to Silverknowes Beach for the first time for immigration drama MOVE, and classic plays Much Ado About Nothing and Treasure Island being performed outdoors at Musselburgh Race Course.

Several big name standup comedians – including Jason Byrne, Andrew Maxwell and Daniel Sloss – will be playing shows at the Corn Exchange.

Meanwhile Summerhall’s outdoor courtyard will feature a series of music gigs with the likes of Sacred Paws, Carla J Easton, Hudson Hawk, Mersault and James Yorkston.

For the best coverage online of the Fringe and all of Edinburgh’s Festivals make sure to regularly visit The Scotsman’s Edinburgh Festivals section.

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