Photography exhibition charts 50 Years of The Scotsman's Fringe First Awards
The Fringe Firsts are designed to encourage performers to bring new work to Edinburgh in the spirit of adventure and experiment. Each year they recognise outstanding new writing premiered at the Fringe, and winners are decided by a panel consisting of several of The Scotsman's highly experienced team of critics. The awards are now presented in partnership with the University of Edinburgh.
The Fringe Firsts were the brainchild of Allen Wright, The Scotsman's first and longest-serving arts editor. Following the 1972 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, when only 45 new plays were premiered, the need to encourage more new work was raised at the Fringe Society's annual general meeting. Wright subsequently met the then-administrator of the Fringe, John Milligan, and the Fringe Firsts were launched in August 1973.
Wright took the awards very seriously, and supervised them personally until ill health forced his premature retirement in 1993. Any reviewer who saw a piece of work which they considered deserving of a Fringe First notified him immediately so it could be seen by a second and third critic, and then a discussion of its merits would ensue – a system that continues today, guided by The Scotsman's chief theatre critic, Joyce McMillan.
By 1977 the number of new plays on the Fringe had jumped to 138, and that upward trajectory has continued ever since, just as the Fringe has continued to grow its reputation as a proving ground for talented writers.
The photographs on display around St Andrew Square record some of the more memorable moments in the history of the Fringe Firsts, from Billy Connolly winning in 1977, for his show When Hair Was Long and Time Was Short, to Phoebe Waller Bridge posing with her 2013 Fringe First plaque, awarded for the original version of Fleabag. And, of course, our critics will once again be on the lookout for the best new writing on this year's Fringe. We’ll be announcing our Week One Fringe First winners in The Scotsman and on scotsman.com on 11 August, our Week Two Winners on 18 August and our Week Three winners on 25 August. Our final awards ceremony takes place at 11am on the 25th at the Pleasance Beyond and is open to the public, with free tickets available via the Pleasance box office. We hope you can join us.
The Scotsman’s Fringe First Awards are sponsored by the University of Edinburgh. The Fringe Firsts at 50 exhibition was made possible with support from Essential Edinburgh and Tattu restaurant and bar