Edinburgh Festival Fringe: The biggest changes on the cards this year

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe will look and feel very different when it returns next month – largely thanks to an expansion of its famous “street events” and the arrival of the new St James Quarter.

An official map highlighting new walking routes through the city has been produced as part of a drive to ease crowd congestion and ensure a greater spread of activity in the city centre.

Festival goers will be encouraged to walk between the Old and New Towns via either The Mound or Cockburn Street and Waverley Bridge, taking in free shows and performances at a mix of both traditional and new spots and stages.

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Sites at the High Street, The Mound, East Princes Street Gardens, St Andrew Square and Multrees Walk are all being highlighted in the new map, while the St James Quarter is expected to become a major new hub of festival activity.

It will include a new outdoor stage for showcasing groups and companies, a new Spiegeltent venue being created by shows and events programmed by the BBC and promoter Just The Tonic, and Fringe Central, the official hub for performers and arts industry workers.

Another new arrival will be the use of the old Royal High School, on Calton Hill, where performances will be staged in a 90-seater pop-up “Pianodrome” amphitheatre, constructed entirely from recycled pianos.

Sir Ian McKellen, one of the highest-profile Fringe performers this year, will launch a new venue in Stockbridge when he appears at the former St Stephen’s Church in Hamlet.

The 400-seater venue has been created by Danish ballet dancer, director and choreographer Peter Schaufuss, who is collaborating with the Lord of the Rings star on the production.

The Fringe will be celebrating its 75th anniversary next month. Picture: Neil Hanna

An expanded array of venues in Leith will be part of the Fringe, including Ocean Terminal, Leith Depot, Old Dr Bells Baths, Leith Arches and the bar Smoke and Mirrors.

Meanwhile the 19th-century King’s Hall in Newington will become an official “House of Oz”, hosting a major showcase of Australian culture, including drama, circus, film, poetry, comedy, cabaret and music.

Elsewhere in the south side, Just the Tonic will be staging shows in new venue Nucleus, near the Pleasance Courtyard.

Promoters Laughing Horse will be expanding its “Free Festival" programme to Murrayfield Hotel, where live music gigs will be held.

A map has been published by the Fringe Society showing new official walking routes for festivalgoers through the city centre.
Free Fringe entertainment will be expanded from its traditional home on the Royal Mile this year. Picture: Neil Hanna
Musicians Tim Vincent-Smith and Matt Wright are leading the programming of the Pianodrome venue at the Fringe this summer. Picture: Gary Cavanagh
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